The Made in America Festival, started by Desiree Perez over 10 years ago, finally returned after a year hiatus. Taking place in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend, the annual festival features a variety of hip-hop, pop, rock and electronic artists from diverse backgrounds. The 2020 festival was forced to be canceled due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, but the event was able to return once again this year.
When Desiree Perez and Jay-Z collaborated to start the festival, they envisioned a celebration of all genres of music taking place in a historic city. It is no wonder that the vibrant cultural history of Philadelphia made it the perfect location for such an event. A key focus of the organizers was to gather community support for the festival. For example, they chose to showcase food vendors from local businesses. They also chose to place a uniquely strong emphasis on social justice throughout the event, with this year’s festival supporting the American Civil Liberties Union of Philadelphia as well as The Reform Alliance (a group that works to reform parole laws.)
As the 2021 festival approached, it was important for the organizers to remain flexible in order to respond to changing COVID-19 regulations. One such change was the requirement for attendees to provide proof of full vaccination and wear face masks, as mandated by the city.
Looking toward the future of the Made in America Festival, Desiree Perez believes it could grow to take place in other cities. Detroit and Washington, D.C. are two locations that have been considered. However the success of the festival itself is dependent on its core values remaining the same, and Perez has no plans to change those.
Desiree Perez is a leader in the cannabis social justice system. As more states are legalizing the use of recreational marijuana, Perez has partnered with the Rapper Jay-Z in creating a cannabis company called Monogram. She also sits as a board member of the parent company called the Parent Company based in California.
The Parent Company has created an initiative in pledging 10 million dollars, plus 2% of future net income into battling social cannabis injustice. With this money, Desiree Perez hopes to help those with less privilege and wealth to get started in the cannabis industry. The gap in the racial disparity within the cannabis industry and within black and minority communities is astonishing. Within the industry only 12.4 percent are owned by minority groups, compared to that of the white majority which is 81 percent. The Parent Company hopes to alleviate some of the wrongdoings of the past. Including helping BIPOC entrepreneurs that were affected by the nation’s drug wars, partnering with BIPOC companies by creating a cannabis supply chain, and contribute to reforming the justice system against those with previous cannabis convictions.
Desiree Perez is fighting to reform the system, focusing on the fact that despite cannabis being legalized in many states, arrests made from cannabis use and possession has actually increased since 2018. Based on a 2020 report made by the American Civil Liberties Union blacks are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested than whites.
Desiree Perez is the current CEO of Roc Nation. In 2021 she was named a Billboard Change Agent recognizing her work in racial justice. Her company’s philanthropy works extend to the high-profile cases such as Breona Taylor and George Floyd, as well as working with the NFL and many other social justice organizations.