For this week’s Playing Cincinnati, we traveled 20 miles north to Dave Chappelle’s Gem City Shine Benefit Concert in Dayton, Ohio.
Chappelle, who lives in the neighboring Ohio town of Yellow Springs, threw the enormous block party to commemorate the nine lives lost in a recent mass shooting at a local bar that left nine people dead. Over 20,000 people attended the star-studded event to see Stevie Wonder, Chance the Rapper, Teyana Taylor, Jon Stewart, and more.
Throughout Gem City Shine, Chappelle preached unity and resilience.
“We’re not just doing this for our city,” Chappelle said. “We’re doing this for every victim of every mass shooting in our country.”
For his efforts, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley also took the stage to deem August 25 as Dave Chappelle Day.
The day began with a Sunday Service lead by Kanye West in Dayton’s RiverScape MetroPark. Rumors had been circulating about what A-listers would attend the evening benefit, including Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, John Legend, and Barack Obama. There were some murmurings about Gaga working the funnel cake booth – however, she did not perform.
DJ Trauma kicked off the event, with performances followed by Thundercat, Talib Kweli, and Teyana Taylor.
Taylor, who brought her daughter Junie onstage, broke down while a video montage of the shooting victims played on the screen behind her.
Jon Stewart arrived to lead the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to Chappelle, who turned 46 on Saturday, and to introduce Chance the Rapper.
“Dayton, Ohio, you have reclaimed this area with love, with hope, and with resilience,” Stewart said.
Chance turned up with old favorites and new songs off his latest album, The Big Day.
“I appreciate ya’ll so much for showing up as a city, for representing love, to represent healing and to represent community,” Chance said. “I pray that we get some type of protection from this and grow from it.”
Stevie Wonder emerged as Gem City Shine’s headliner, performing hits like “Higher Ground,” “Superstition,” and even singing another round of “Happy Birthday” for Chappelle.
“This is how we really will honor them,” Wonder said of the Dayton victims. “By making sure we change the gun laws of this nation.”
Throughout the event, attendees were encouraged to donate to the victims’ families through the Dayton Oregon District Tragedy Fund and to sign the petition in support of gun control laws in Ohio. Donations are still being accepted online here.