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Since 2015, Black August in the Park has been dedicated to creating a space to inspire people of African descent to come together, assert their worth, and engage in social and cultural change.
The Black Wall Street Times spoke with co-founders Crystal Taylor and Moses Ochol about this weekend’s annual event in Durham, North Carolina.
In its eighth year, Moses says though the annual festival has grown, the goal has remained solid for the start.
“Our mission has been to provide a creative space for people of African descent to come together, recognizing their worth and engage in social and cultural change.” He continued, “I think we’re continuing to do that.”
What started as a group of five friends wanting to resist Black gentrification and celebrate their Blackness in a public way has grown into an annual event that uses joy as a form of resistance to honor the legacy of “Black August” by re-envisioning it.
“When people come for the first time, they’re hooked to continuously come back and share that space with other people that they end up bringing along,” Taylor said. “People are like, ‘I didn’t even expect this! I didn’t even know what to expect, but this is this is something I’ve never experienced before.'”
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Durham’s Black Wall Street housed a vibrant and successful variety of Black-owned businesses.
A set of four blocks on Parrish Street, Black Wall Street served as a hub for Black Americans and was a thriving commercial area with tailors, barbers, drugstores and plenty more.
Sadly, Durham is like many once-Black thriving American cities and neighborhoods that have been uprooted, gentrified, and repurposed for commercial greed across the United States.
Yet, Black August In The Park is not only an idea, but an ecosystem where our culture, community, and creativity thrives in celebration of who we simply are.
Thinking back on their start eight years ago, Crystal stated, “We all knew that gentrification was happening, but we wanted to be able to create something culturally enriching for the community that gave us an opportunity to celebrate each other based on what Durham once was.”
Black August is a month-long observance that honors the lives and legacies of Black political prisoners, freedom fighters, and martyrs of the Black liberation struggle.
“It feels perfectly right to be in Durham, considering Wall Street and all the historical things that happened here. It’s a place of liberation and freedom, we give people that space to recharge with a new sense of hope, joy, and love.”
“You can gentrify if you want but Durham is still very a vibrant and culturally sound Black community,” affirmed Crystal.
“We will continue to live here, show up and advocate to continue to hold space for us to grow and thrive,” she concluded.
Catered to those of the African diaspora, Black August in the Park features not only enriching experiences, but tunes for the whole fam, grown folks, city boys, and rich or broke aunties to enjoy together.
Keeping the party rockin’ for eight consecutive years, both founders gave their top five hip hop artists in honor of the 50th anniversary of the genre that has shifted everything.
Moses’s Top 5: Kool Herc, Lauryn Hill, Nas, Andre 3000, Jay-Z
“Oftentimes when we talk about top five, we talked about our time,” said Moses. “I’m going to pay homage to Kool Herc because I want to give respect to the culture [he ushered in].”
Crystal’s Top 5: Wu-Tang Clan, Tupac, J. Cole, Jay-Z, Joey Badass
Moses says while the event is meant to unify, it doesn’t stop there.
“Unfortunately, the legacy and tradition of Black August is not that well known, particularly in younger circles.” He continued, “So it’s our responsibility to create the space which is the event but also to teach people about the tradition and to make the distinction between the two.”
Black August was initiated by the Black Guerilla Family in San Quentin State Prison in 1979 when a group of incarcerated people came together to commemorate the deaths of brothers Jonathan Jackson and George Jackson.
Moses added, “It’s important for us that we continue to not only honor the legacy of Black August, but to bring it into a new phase in which other people can take it and make it their own, continuing the legacy of what people like George Jackson started in the 70s.”
Crystal reflected on Black August, “I think people have more desire to create spaces that are specifically for us. We’re not apologetic about being Black and growing and building community together.”
Black August in the Park takes place on Saturday, August 26, 2023 at Durham Central Park (501 Foster St Durham, NC).
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