“At the Festival, We’re All Family”: Reflections on the Ninth Annual African American Cultural Festival in Raleigh

Glen Parson

(Posted Indyweek.com, Sept. 5, 2018)

This past Labor Day weekend marked an opportunity to experience Black Raleigh in full force at the ninth annual African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County. Though the numbers aren’t in yet, an estimated forty thousand people participated in the festival this year. Artists came from as far as Denver and New Jersey, as well as from down the road in Greensboro and Goldsboro.

Kyma Lassiter, festival coordinator for the last six years, says the activities and programs were designed to cultivate a sense of community and provide a ‘family-friendly event.” And from accounts, tweets, Instagram, and FB postings, they succeeded.

Irma McClaurin

Lending a helping hand were over 240 volunteers of diverse backgrounds, including Drea from Durham. She struck funny poses for my camera as she sold festival t-shirts and waited for her boyfriend to return from scoping out the various food vendors. This was Drea’s second year as a volunteer and her boyfriend’s first time attending. I asked her the obvious question: What would she say to non-African Americans like herself who might think this event is not for them?

“I would tell them that there’s all types of people here, and it’s a way to soak up some culture and really learn about other people, and just be part of the community,” she replied.

The idea of community is what drew me out—and my own personal need to connect with a critical mass of African Americans. Since coming to Raleigh in 2010, I have found the black presence elusive and scattered. Although African Americans comprise 29.3 percent of the city’s population, their presence is rarely visible.

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