The Durag Festival, an annual celebration of everything Black with a particular focus on hair and style, is back on this year.
The outdoor festival, which started in 2018, will be held on Juneteenth with events at Camp North End and various locations around Charlotte.
What to expect: This year organizers are promising the largest festival yet. The 2020 event was cancelled and later rescheduled as part of a protest.
- This year the festival will start at Victoria Yards for the Deep Wave Day Party from noon-6. There will be vendors and food trucks.
- Starting at 2, day party-goers can go by the NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza to watch a live art installation titled “Durag Hall of Fame,” dance performances, and a cypher.
- From 7-11 the festivities will move to Camp North End for “DU After Dark” also called “Adult Swim.” There will be an outdoor street fashion show and live performers.
Tickets are free, but donations are being accepted. Vendors can apply through the Durag Fest app.
Plan to wear your most creative fits. Durag Fest will be a time to show out with off-the-wall fashion. “Think Afro-punk, but ghetto. We’re not elitist, we’re DIY,” BLKMRKT co-owner and event organizer Dammit Wesley tells me.
Why it matters: Remember when a high school wrestler had to cut off his dreads to compete, or when these charter school students where punished for wearing braids or just this spring when a Durham softball player had to remove her hair beads in order to compete? In a country that often restricts Black hair, any celebration of the beauty and traditions borne from Black hairstyles is a big deal.
- “I want Black people to feel loved. I want them to feel appreciated. I want my people to be art,” Wesley tells me.
Yes, but: The event is “deeper than durags,” he says. And it can provide a form of healing after a tumultuous year. “I do know that when we come together every Juneteenth I can create at least six to eight hours of unapologetic Black space where we’re free to be us.”
Background: After a racial reckoning last summer, many companies pledged to support the Black community, but just last month organizers told me they were still struggling to secure funding.
Eventually that funding came through. Blumenthal Theater, Foundation of the Carolinas and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority are all supporting the festival.
About durags: If you’re lost, I’ll catch you up. Durags are a usually silk or satin scarf used to preserve textured hairstyles overnight (or anytime). Some folks use creams and mouses to mold their hair and create waves. The durag is a big part of that hair wave creation.
Durags double as fashion pieces and art in the Black community. But, they’re functional fashion, because when removed the hair underneath is molded down into the wearer’s style of choice. And the longer you wear one, the better your style will turn out.
Of note: While Durag fest and durags themselves are rooted in Black traditions and style, Wesley says he hopes other communities come out to celebrate as well.
- “I want non-Black people to show up to our events, participate and celebrate us the same way we celebrate them at every other turn and every other holiday,” he says. “I know that art can be used to change the perception of people and I want this festival to do the same thing.”
Editor’s note: This article was last updated on June 7, 2021 with more information on the event’s schedule.