The Black Mecca festival gathers an impressive lineup of entertainment and experiences

 By Shirley Griffith

Cover photo: @afrohaus

September 19, 2018

This weekend brings the inaugural installation of The Black Mecca, a new festival experience bringing a unique collection of music, distinctive art exhibitions, and virtual reality tech activations to Camp North End on Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22. The term “mecca” holds deep spiritual roots, a once in a lifetime pilgrimage, but primarily translates to a place that attracts people of a particular group or with a particular interest. The interest concerning The Black Mecca is the celebration of black culture within the community.

Sekona Washington, founder of Synergy and The Black Mecca

Greensboro, NC native and mastermind behind the festival is Sekona Washington and her entertainment group, Synergy. Elaborating on the weekend’s mission, Washington states, “Synergy is a concept that I came up with that is exactly what the term states, being able to bring together individual parts that are amazing on their own, but when they come together, the sum of those parts creates something even greater. The mission of The Black Mecca is to unite a great cause with various artists, businesses and experiences to create a space where everyone works together in celebrating black culture.” Attuned to the neighborhood, charitable donations from the festival will go to local non-profit, Behailu Academy. “Behailu is something that hits close to home, personally. I came in contact with Behailu a couple years ago and loved how they pour into the younger generation through the arts. Since this is an arts, tech, and music festival, this non-profit partnership just made sense.”

Washington is passionate about the black community and contributing to pushing the culture and progressing the community forward. The Black Mecca is an opportunity for her to partner a great cause with various artists, businesses, and experiences to create a space where everyone works together, everyone thrives, and everyone wins. The initial concept of The Black Mecca originated when Washington realized a need within the area to create an experience where, regardless of demographic, people can enjoy all aspects of the culture together as a celebration of who we are as a people. “The Black Mecca is all-inclusive. We strategically selected acts based on the different demographics that are represented in our culture. Everybody is impacted in some way and [the festival] allows artists to showcase their talent to the everyday person who may find hidden gems from artists they wouldn’t normally come across in a local art gallery or museum.”

Deniro Farrar photo by Carter Short for CLTure

Friday’s portion of The Black Mecca will be a pre-party hosted by Everyday People, from 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. which will also include food trucks, vendors, and live music to get everyone pumped up for the following night’s bash. Saturday’s music lineup includes Top Dawg Entertainment recording artist SiR as a headliner, rapper/singer Kari Faux, the Queen City’s own R&B singer Cyanca and rapper Deniro Farrar along with trill violinist/soul singer Bri Blvck. The Black Mecca will also have special experiences featuring hilarious host Watch Jazzy, Grits & Biscuits, Poet Jasmine Mans, DJ Violet Waters, AfroPop Nation, DMFN featuring DJ Fannie Mae, BLA/ALT Fest (featuring a set by Leanna Eden & The Garden Of), and Simon Smthng. The mysteriously unique tech aspect of this event includes engaging augmented and virtual reality experiences curated by Petie Parker, Odd Gatsby and the premier tech sponsor, Durham’s own Spokehub. The festival will have its own Black Mecca “hub” within the Spokehub social media app for folks to follow festival topics. The highly anticipated art exhibition will feature popular visual artists featuring BAMR, Murjoni, Marcus Kiser, Dooga Art and more.

On top of a brilliant, multi-faceted lineup, The Black Mecca will have food trucks, vendors, and lifestyle pop-up activations. The diverse group of vendors include ButtaBeans Vegan Burritos & More, A Unique Taste, JESLN’s Caribbean SweetPot, JessKakes, Streetz Gourmet, Oak City Fish & Chips, East Coast Catering, and Polo’s Homemade Italian Water Ice. Sponsors for the event include the aforementioned Spokehub, Black Businesses of Charlotte, Limebike, Three Spirits Brewery, Tito’s Vodka, Jack Daniels, and 1800 Silver Tequila.

Supporting the nuances of black culture and spotlighting the black community is an important proponent in advancing compassion, justice, and equality starting in our own backyards. When asked about how the Charlotte music and arts community could improve, Washington says, “By continuing to have more events like this that spread across a broad spectrum for people to have different experiences outside of their norm. The Black Mecca concept/event platform leads to peoples’ minds being open to the different aspects of our culture.”

Tickets for Friday’s pre-party are $15. Tickets for Saturday’s main event are $25 with $75 for VIP which includes exclusive bar access, front access to stage and entry to the pre-party event.

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