‘The Sound of Sunshine’ Spreads across Campus

Franti connects with his USF community by joining the crowd during his performance.  PHOTO BY ELISE EMARD/SF FOGHORN

For the first time in USF history, the Benedetti Diamond baseball Field was converted into a concert venue covered with colorful balloon decorations to host reggae fusion artist and USF alum Michael Franti and his band. Attendees enjoyed free boba, tacos, mini sliders, and green and yellow sprinkled donuts — a perfect way to celebrate the end of a heatwave and a successful first three weeks back on the Hilltop. 

The turf was filled with free blankets handed out to the first 1,000 people to arrive at the field. A DJ played blissful tunes and the crowd danced along, preparing for USF graduate student Khalil Shabazz’s opening performance. Shabazz’s music style is funky and upbeat, just like his performance. He goes by his stage name “Lil Bazzy” when he is performing his music. “Basketball is my main thing, but in terms of music it’s more of a therapy and outlet for me and I love making music and performing,” Shabazz said. 

Shabazz’s teammates came out to support him, cheering him on at the front of the the crowd. Shabazz said he was extremely grateful for the opportunity to perform. “It meant a lot, it was for sure an honor to perform in front of the school and open for Michael. He’s a cool guy for sure and a talented artist.” 

Shabazz left the crowd on a high, and they  began to buzz watching Franti come on stage barefoot and grinning.  “I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive!,” Franti cheered from his song “I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like.)” USF students, alumni, and community members joined together in harmony as they sang along. Franti brought a strong sense of unity to his performance. From students joining Franti on stage as they all sang one of Frantis top billboard songs “The Sound Of Sunshine” to the artist jumping around in the crowd with his fans. Hands in the air, smiles on faces — and even tears in some eyes — as Franti showed a sense of vulnerability to his crowd that resonated with them. 

Michael Franti shares a sentimental moment on stage with his wife and son, on his son’s birthday. PHOTO BY ELISE EMARD/SF FOGHORN

Franti began pursuing a music career in 1986. Influenced by his time at USF and at KUSF, USF’s student radio station, Franti went on to start his first band, “Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.” Looking back on his time as a student, Franti described how his education involved more than just going to class. Haight Street, counter culture, and social justice led Franti to tell the truth in his music even when it was hard. 

During a 1998 San Francisco Chronicle roundtable moderated by Teresa Moore (now a USF media studies professor and the Foghorn’s advisor), Franti said that his identity as a Black artist “requires an incredible amount of craft to make something out of something people don’t want to hear.” 

Franti’s impact on social justice issues was seen, and appreciated by Darby Berry, a first-year psychology major. “I honestly feel empowered as I leave this concert, and like Michael says, ‘I gotta do what I love,’” she said.

There is something to be said about the strong sense of connection Franti gives to the people surrounding him. In a time and society where things can feel divided — it is even more crucial for USF students to hear Franti’s message to follow your heart. As the concert came to a close, the audience came together for one last song, singing out, “I love you, I love you, I love you!” 

9 thoughts on “‘The Sound of Sunshine’ Spreads across Campus

  1. This is such an amazing story! How wonderful for the USF community to experience Michael Franti & Spearhead on campus!

  2. Props to Michael Franti for returning to USF to inspire the next gen to leverage their time at USF to also pursue education beyond the classroom!

    And, to the author Serena Finney for crafting an engaging and vivid article regarding this inspiring and momentous experience with our beloved Soul Rocker!

  3. What an amazing day and so clearly captured by author Serena Finney! How great of Michael Franti to give back to USF!

  4. Serena Finney what a great article &
    Your performance along with Franti
    was amazing.
    I wish I was there to witness it😍
    For a freshman you are a wonderful

  5. I could feel the “sunshine” while reading your article Serena:). So great to see you’re already making an impact on the USF campus!!!!

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