One year after Black Lives Matter protests swept the nation, public interest in social injustice and awareness has significantly waned like a fad. It’s as if white allyship ran in tandem with the short but highly saturated news cycle of Black tragedy positioned across television screens and the front pages of newspapers.
However, that hasn’t stop organizers like Dammit Wesley, one of the co-founders of the Durag Fest in North Carolina, from curating Black events to keep the proverbial torch burning.
In a report by Blavity, Dammit shares his struggles of bringing the annual festival to life in Charlotte, where it has traditionally white-washed the presence of a “very Black city.” The event commemorates Juneteenth, as it has continued since its inception in 2018.
“We’ve always tried to create events and Black experiences that not only speak to our culture, but make us feel comfortable and highlight us in positive ways. So when it came to Juneteenth, I figured what’s blacker than a durag, right?” Dammit said. “What’s the one cultural artifact that the pilgrims have tried to take for themselves time and time again, and have failed? A durag.”
While fickle support from performative allies has left a jaded feeling of abandonment on Dammit and his event co-founder Lica Mishelle, the festival pushed on as scheduled. The Durag Fest is about “framing us and our culture as art” in hopes of refocusing the day on celebrating African-American culture, something Dammit has felt was historically focused on African history as he recalled from his personal childhood experiences.
“With any other holiday, there are behaviors and costumes attached to it, so other people can participate in it. And Juneteenth always kind of had that missing,” he told Blavity. “Going to Juneteenth festivals as a kid, I always felt there was a disconnect because those Juneteenth festivals were more rooted in African history and literature than African American history and culture.”
Also known as the met gala of durags, Dammit hopes the event carries on decades into the future with a legacy that allows Black culture to thrive on in one of its purest forms of self-expression as it was intended.
“Throughout time, artists have always preserved history in the way that it happened. Because everybody couldn’t read — hell, even now, people still can’t read all that good — so pictures are important. It’s good that we’re remembered in a light that is not only positive, but regal,” the artist told Blavity. “With these avant garde, artistic images and interpretation of Blackness comes a story. We are always pushing the envelope of what’s acceptable, of what’s cool, of what is America. That’s why it’s important for us to document these things. That’s why it’s important for us to encourage our guests to go all out.”
Read the full story here.