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The suicide of her son led Donnetta Bishop-Johnson to renew her commitment to the celebration of life in music, and find special purpose in the Hillsborough Music Festival, which she founded a year before Jonah Johnson died at the age of 17.
On Saturday, Miss Donnetta, as she is known to her students at the Allegra School of Music and Arts, and her allies will stage the ninth annual festival, which this year will feature fireworks in addition to food, prizes, vendors, and of course, music.
As the main fundraising event for My Son, Your Daughter, the Jonah Johnson Scholarship Fund, a (501(c)3 tax exempt organization, the festival aims to shine a light on mental health by promoting “mental health resiliency, removing the stigma associated with mental illness, and funding various youth outreach programs across the community to actively work towards youth suicide prevention.”
Determined to bring more cultural integrity to the Hillsborough area and create an enriching environment similar to the one in which she grew up in Brooklyn, Bishop-Johnson in the aftermath of her son’s death made youth mental health the centerpiece of the joyful musical event.
Saturday, she promised, will be a “party with a purpose.”
A celebration of youth creativity and the vital sounds of bands from all over New Jersey (see the full list of musical acts below), the festival at its core will remind people that society must confront depression in a more robust and responsible way. Life in the Central Jersey suburbs can be alienating. The lifestyle – with an emphasis on privacy – can too easily separate people from one another.
“It’s a beautiful community, Hillsborough, but at the end of the day people go off and live in their family units,” Bishop-Johnson told InsiderNJ. “We are endeavoring to create a cohesive community. We want people to come out and support the mental health of the children in this community.”
Bishop-Johnson wants the festival to be an oasis of beautiful music, but also to be that place where friends can educate themselves and interact – and see and be with one another.
“We want to create an environment where people can talk about things and exchange information and always know that help should be readily available,” she said. “We are treating mental illness like an acceptable behavior. We are not treating it like the illness it actually is.”
As long as we do not take it seriously, until we insist on fully resourced institutions, we will not see among us those people – those friends, and members of our own families – with depression.
“One in five people will at some time in their lives have a mental health crisis, and we’re still treating it like it’s trivial,” Bishop-Johnson said. “We’re failing our kids because we’re not getting the proper resources to them.”
Jonah Johnson of Hillsborough was a beloved young man, that person who drew others to him with his charisma, intelligence and sense of humor, but he suffered, and almost no one knew.
“I knew my kid had a problem, but I didn’t understand I was dealing with a deadly disease,” his mother said. “I would have behaved differently if I knew; if I had more information. What happened to Jonah was entirely preventable. With better resources I could have understood what he was going through.”
For Donetta Bishop-Johnson, the streets of Brooklyn are now the streets of Hillsborough, the tight-knit diversity of one place now the transposed energy of the other.
The toughness endures.
Another son, Jordan Johnson, teaches piano and saxophone at Allegra, his mother’s school.
In the end, the goal is the same: a community that cares for itself, is alert to that precious and vulnerable chord in children, creates something meaningful out of sadness – and dares to play and sing and celebrate.
The Hillsborough Music Festival
Auten Road School Field
281 Auten Road. Hillsborough NJ 08844
Date: June 29, 2019, Saturday
Time: 5 – 10 pm
(Exclusive Fun-Hour promotions: 5 – 6 pm. See below for AMAZING PRIZES and GIVEAWAYS)
Parking: Hillsborough High School Parking Lot.
Free shuttle service* starts at 4:30 pm
*Strictly No Public Parking at Event Location
Click here to RSVP for your FREE tickets and a chance to win attractive prizes.
=== EVENT SCHEDULE ===
05:00 PM Bryan Hansen Band
05:20 PM Lara Grant
05:40 PM The Foxfires
06:05 PM Interactive Dance Segment by Arthur Murray Dance Center of Hillsborough
06:20 PM The Green Planet Band
06:40 PM Eric Brunman
07:00 PM Ito
07:35 PM Sunday Brave
08:15 PM – Interlude –
- Address by Sergeant Lynnette Shaw on personal trauma and Mental Health First Aid
- Township Address by Mayor Frank Delcore
- Presentation of Recognition Award to top sponsor by Mayor Delcore
- Festival Contest Winner(s) Announcement
08:35 PM HOLDN
09:00 PM Dayne Carter
09:30 PM Finale Sing Along: Lean on Me
09:40 PM Fireworks!!
Join us to Party with a Purpose, click here to help us achieve our fundraising goal.
=== CONTESTS & GIVEAWAYS ===
Follow @hillsboroughmusicfestival on Facebook & Instagram for contest details
INSTAGRAM CAPTION CONTEST
One set of Apple Airpods worth $159 to be given away.
GOODY BAG GIVEAWAY
Be one of the first 500 attendees to show your Eventbrite tickets at the Jonah Johnson Scholarship Fund booth to collect your exclusive Festival Goodie Bag between 5 – 6pm only
RSVP now for your FREE tickets
#hborofest SELFIE HASHTAG GIVEAWAY
Post & Share festival photos of you and your friends on Instagram with the hashtag #hborofest, or on Hillsborough Music Festival Facebook Page with #hborofest and a shout-out to SHINE A LIGHT on MENTAL HEALTH between 5 – 7.30pm.
Winners with the most EPIC festival photo and the most number of likes will walk home with gift hampers worth over $250 each.
Total of 5 gift hampers to be given away.
FACEBOOK ONLINE SILENT AUCTION
- Nintendo Switch worth $299
- David John New York Luxury Leather Backpack worth $295
- Allegra School of Music & Arts Summer Camp worth $995
- Play Station Game Bundle: 10 sets (5 games per set)
Follow @hillsboroughmusicfestival on Facebook for Auction details.