Photo: Paul Citone/Kabik Group

The inaugural edition kicked off in Las Vegas with a blended program of musicians and speakers dedicated to owning your voice.

Las Vegas—Spotlit on an empty stage, A Beautiful Perspective founder and CEO Rehan Choudhry explained his reasoning for launching Emerge Impact + Music during the opening showcase of the inaugural event.

“Every major social movement was lead by people who we didn’t recognize,” Choudhry said. “Names that we weren’t familiar with. And they led those movements to a soundtrack of music that we never heard before.”

Hosted by FavyFav and Babelito—artists, curators, and hosts of the podcast Latinos Who Lunch—Owning Your Voice was dedicated to exploring the intersection of technology, unrest, and impatience that inspires artists and thinkers to grab the microphone for themselves and take control of their own narratives. The soundtrack to the movement was led off by Moroccan singer Abir, whose sidereal set included the debut of “Pretenders” and a rending cover of Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam.”

Saudi Arabian artist Rotana performed an expository set which interlaced ebullient, powerful pop with her own narrative, detailing the extreme conservatism of her homeland, her joy at being able to express herself, the headlines and death threats she inspired on her rise, and her eventual freedom not from a nation or a religion, but herself and her narrative, the one which reduces her to the Saudi-girl-who-escaped whose tale needed to be constantly told.

“It is not human to only struggle,” Rotana said. “It is not human to only protest.”

A sawtoothed set from Austin rockers Residual Kid—drumsticks flying, pickups flaring like a floodlight, culminating in a javelin heave of a guitar—stuffed with new cuts closed out the show.

U.K. based poet Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan performed a poem detailing the struggle of writing about the subjects she feels like are expected of her, the unfair burden of having to humanize people through art. “If you need me to prove my humanity,” Manzoor-Khan said, “I’m not the one whose not human.”

Comedian, actor, writer, and filmmaker Jena Friedman–current correspondent for National Geographic Explorer and formerly of The Daily Show–was interviewed by Texas Monthly music columnist and Austin radio DJ Andy Langer in a halting exchange that touched on the difficulties of finding humor in the constant absurdity of the current political climate, comics’ complaints of political correctness gone too far—Friedman considers that an excuse from comics whose material no longer reaches the current generation—and which feminine hygiene product best represented which 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.

Dylan Marron, writer, performer, video maker, and the voice of Carlos in Welcome to Nightvale traced the discovery of his voice through his love of acting. Shunted aside due to his race when he went out for the lead in Home Alone 3, Marron put together supercuts of lines spoken by actors of color in popular films which went viral. Inspired by this success, Marron began making unpacking videos which unpacked difficult concepts like police brutality. When the voice he found was challenged by vitriol online, Marron launched Conversations with People Who Hate Me. By confronting people who attempted to shout down his voice, Marron said, he sometimes helped them find their own.

“The future is going to be defined by people we don’t know,” Choudhry said. Tonight was his chance to make their introduction.