Neo Fleurimond c_o Neo Fleurimond

c/o Neo Fleurimond

This is an installment of the Artgus Artist Spotlight, an ongoing series presented by the Arts & Culture section intended to highlight the artistic talents of the wider Wesleyan community. In this installment, Arts and Culture Editor Kat Struhar ’25 spoke with Neo Fleurimond ’24. Fleurimond is a musician, popularly known for starting Wesleyan’s only all-Black band, Black Raspberry. Struhar and Fleurimond met to discuss the origins of Black Raspberry and the future of the group.

The Argus: Can you introduce yourself?

Neo Fleurimond: Hi, I’m Neo Fleurimond. I’m a junior at Wesleyan. [I use] he/him pronouns. I’m pretty musically invested, but I’m not a music major—I’m an African American studies major and East Asian studies minor. I do play the saxophone, and I have dabbled in arranging and directing this semester [with] Black Raspberry. 

Pertaining to my musical background, I’ve been playing since middle school. I always loved the idea of playing instruments, but [when] I actually got my first saxophone, which I found in school storage, that’s when I got my affinity for the instrument. And from there on, music started coming together like a puzzle. I started finding ways that I can create music, not necessarily just in the realm of saxophone.

A: Can you tell me a little bit more about your musical background, and about the history of Black Raspberry?

NF: I started playing the saxophone when I was in middle school, but we didn’t have any music teachers or music programs. So when I found my instrument, it was just chilling in some storage room. I had to look over YouTube videos [to learn the] necessary pieces. The instrument itself was completely totaled, but it was just good enough to get by.

High school started, which is when we had our first official music program. It was called Sounds of Brotherhood, [and] I went to an all-boys school, so the focus was obviously men of color. I had a lot of opportunities to perform [at] churches, high schools, hospitals, and fundraisers for disability [and] a local orphanage. So it was very [easy] to see what music was doing for our community.

I definitely wanted to continue with music walking into college. So freshman year, I ended up taking [MUSC455: “Jazz Ensemble”] so I could familiarize myself with the intricacies that come with music. But I never learned how to formally read sheet music. 

Around this time last year, [Spring 2022], was the first time I performed on campus in a live setting. It got me more comfortable soloing and playing with people. But something that really did stick with me was that even though I was a musician, I felt like I was sort of just different. Obviously, being in a predominantly white setting was really different from being an all-Black music group in high school. Coming into Wesleyan and joining Burlesque, it was like, “I’m the only Black person.” [I was] sitting here like, “Do I just conform, just be complacent and wait for next year?” I didn’t really feel content with that, but I thought it was gonna be my life.

Until Dachelle [Washington ’22]. Dachelle was a Black singer, and she had this campus in a chokehold with how good her music was. But something I also think contributed to her music is that she had a lot of musicians in her group that helped support her. A lot of [them] were people of color, some of whom are even in my band now. And I [was] like, “It’d be lovely if I can join this,” but she was graduating. So I [was] like, “What do I do?”

And that led me to start trying to find musicians on campus, specifically [musicians] who were Black, so we could try to at least have a small band. I remember scouting around campus, trying to go to musical events. There were so many Black talents on this campus, but I didn’t think that any of them really had the opportunity to showcase their abilities because of concerns such as mine. Those apprehensions and that uncomfortability [with] being in white settings, musically, also inclined them not to perform. 

We started [in] October 2022. I remember sitting down in front of like 15 people. Because this was definitely my first time in a leadership position, the early stages of Black Raspberry were a little tumultuous. Attendance was few and far between. But performing, or even in rehearsals, you could see how much of an impact it was making on the people who were coming, and how much [they] wanted to perform. 

I personally never really had the opportunity to dream [because], I guess, my background is very limited. But I was able to turn zero into one, and then turn one into 10. And then turn 10 into, like, 100. I love turning that energy into something that’s bigger than myself, and something that I can [use] [to] leave a legacy at Wesleyan. It changed my life, and I’m so grateful for all the people who’ve helped me reach this point. And as long as I keep on working hard, and  continue to love what I’m doing and the people who I’m doing it with, then it doesn’t seem like there are limits anymore.

A: What inspired you to start Black Raspberry?

NF: There’s so many Black artists who literally, like, changed my world. I remember being asleep, and my mom was watching the “Homecoming” Beyoncé performance, live, blasting from her room. And I [was] like, “What is this music? Who is this? This is Beyoncé? Say my name!” Obviously, there were so many more. Lauryn Hill—I idolize her, romanticize her. She’s a goddess to me. Mary J. Blige, Keyshia Cole, Alicia Keys. If you watch their live performances, you will see: [it’s] just so different, what they release on Spotify versus what they’re performing in front of audiences. Credit to them, because I’m still unable to release consistently and be confident.

I think I put on a facade that I am confident, because I have to perform and I have to be in front of Black Raspberry, but I think people who know me know that I’m scared. Seeing so many Black talents around the world, through media and Sounds of Brotherhood—so many outlets and executions and examples of Black performances—that just didn’t seem real, because I have so much doubt. I guess I second-guess myself in terms of, just, “Could these things work out?” Maybe there’s a reality where it didn’t work out, but I’m glad I live in the reality where Black Raspberry is working out.

A: What does the space Black Raspberry provides mean to you and to other members?

NF: This space changed my life. I don’t imagine myself being in a successful position in college, had it not been the route I’m taking through Black Raspberry. And I owe it all to the people who believed in me, and my members who trusted me. If you ask any of my members, or at least our founding members, I personally went out and I had a conversation with them before we started. It took that establishment of trust for them to actually be on board with this organization. Because, like I said, even in the band, there are some people who’ve never actually been in live performances before. There’s some people who have never sung before.

[It’s important to be] reassuring, [to ensure] that my members are comfortable and safe—[that in] all aspects of performance, whether it’s rehearsals, whether it’s performing, whether it’s doing photoshoots and other things outside of music, they always feel supported. Whether that’s musically or just [in terms of] personal interests. I always try and find ways to incorporate people’s tricks and talents into the space.

That space, and the ability to create a space for people who didn’t really have it, honestly, it’s beautiful to see. 

A: What impact do you see that Black Raspberry has had on the music culture on campus?

NF: Outside even just the musical aspect of Black Raspberry, I feel like we’ve had an essential impact on the Black community. Something that I noticed was that, specifically pertaining to Black music culture, before Black Raspberry, it felt like we were all competing for validation for our audiences. [Black musicians] were trying to make good music to get away from the Black community. I didn’t really think that was a good approach, because even if one person wins, did we really win? What about the people who are just as talented, but don’t necessarily have a platform? 

Something that I do love about Black Raspberry is that you might not always hear your favorite song, or you won’t always hear your favorite instrument being highlighted, but you will get the opportunity to hear something that will resonate with you.

Something that will always make Black Raspberry Black Raspberry is that there are definitely musicians on campus, and there are definitely Black people on campus. But to be in Black Raspberry, you have to be a Black musician. Being a musician, but not being a Black musician, those are two different things. And I think now, especially in the end, everyone is able to see the difference between Black music and music.

A: How has Black Raspberry developed since it first began? What are your plans for Black Raspberry in the future? How do you see the legacy of this group unfolding?

NF: We started with 15 people and I thought, “We’re gonna leave it like that. And maybe we’re gonna get more instrumentalists over time, and a few singers.” It was hard, telling people we were at capacity. But I kept on making exceptions, like, “Okay, all right, we’re gonna bring in everyone who got a talent here.” It was definitely a hit or miss because some people [were] like, “Oh, we’re lowkey getting too big.” But as we’re getting big, [so is] our impact. The more people that we have, [the] easier [it is] to bring audience members. 

[In terms of] development, we have our brand and apparel department, which I want to [direct] more funding towards. We have an upcoming fundraising event to help a Middletown refugee family, and we think that it would be great to have students be able to purchase not only tickets, but also merchandise. We also have our choreography and dance department. Contrary to popular opinion, I’m very bad at dancing, so that’s why Black Raspberry is very stationary—because I can’t dance. Thankfully, we have Danae [Williams ’25], who’s a phenomenal dancer. She’s gonna lead our choreography and dance department. We have our production composition department. Assuming that we receive our funding within the next few weeks, we’re going to put a lot of [it] into opening up a studio. The goal is to turn the workshop into our primary HQ for SOC creatives on campus, including Black Raspberry, FXT, Mic Check, The Fray, and any other SOC student-run creative groups. That way, instead of [thing being] kind of scattered, this will be a place where you can find some way, shape or form to express yourself. 

And there’s obviously going to be more for Black Raspberry. We have performances every weekend, so you guys are gonna hear a lot of us.

My senior year, I do want to submit a legacy for this organization. That way, I wouldn’t necessarily have to be here in order for it to have its foundation. There’s so much talent [that] I’m in no way doubtful that that’s gonna happen.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Kat Struhar can be reached at

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