Western North Carolina – The owners of GRIND Coffee Shop, J. Hackett and Bruce Waller, at 349 Depot Street organized a new festival to celebrate Black businesses and entrepreneurs in the area: GRINDfest. Black entrepreneurs will fill Depot Street in the River Arts District area with a wide array of wares from their businesses and many fun-filled activities. It’s a full weekend of action, June 18, 19 and 20.
Friday morning, at 8:00 am, MAHEC is hosting a live Webinar on The Role of the Black Church in Healthcare. The riveting social justice activist, Dr. James Bryant, is the keynote speaker. Throughout the weekend, one can join groups with Xtreme Hip Hop Aerobics, card game tournaments, the play “Savagery” at the Magnetic Theater, have DNA testing done to reveal one’s ancestral roots, yoga classes, a Poetry Slam and even a COVID vaccine with a $35 incentive by MAHEC. If you’re hungry, munch on the Pink Dog Breakfast of Champions at 9:00 am on Saturday. Or you can try some delicious food dishes throughout the day— West African and Jamaican Island cuisine as well as a seafood boil/fish fry. A Community Awards Presentation ends the festival on Sunday afternoon.
As J. Hackett said: “Let’s come together and celebrate each other.” All cultures are invited to this weekend of fun, food, learning and connection. A Depot Street Dance Party will close the night out on Saturday with local DJs. For specific times and information on events, go to www.BlackWallStreetAvl.com
This fun-filled GRINDfest is happening all weekend long to bring people together to celebrate the contributions of Black Businesses and Black Entrepreneurs in the area. Striking jewelry, couture chocolates, colorful t-shirts, beauty-enhancing skincare and helpful hair products will be available to purchase in the many booths lined up on Depot Street. This festival aims to highlight the progress made by Black people since the hate-filled massacre in Oklahoma 100 years ago. This is a three-day weekend full of fun, food and learning to honor them.
Juneteenth and Black Wall Street History
This year, the Buncombe County Commissioners voted to make Juneteenth an official holiday and allocated $2.1 million toward funding reparations efforts.
As Mayor Esther Manheimer said, “We must collectively strive to close gaps of immeasurable distance between us and affirm the promise of the Declaration of Independence that all people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
There will be amazing events held throughout the area. Local communities will come together for multiple events: on Tuesday, June 15th from 5:00 to 7:00, Pack Memorial Library on Haywood Street in downtown Asheville will have documents for viewing related to enslavement and emancipation in the Buncombe County Special Collection. There will be storytelling, music and light refreshments for all ages. At Martin Luther King Park on Saturday, June 19, Juneteenth will also be celebrated with vendors, speakers and free food for kids.
In Hendersonville, Mayor Barbara Volk declared June 19 “Juneteenth Day” in the city, which she read at City Council’s June 3 meeting. The proclamation encourages people to observe Juneteenth as “an opportunity to reflect, rejoice, and plan for a brighter future as we continue to address racial injustices in our society today.” An education exhibit “Juneteenth; Celebrating 156 Years of Freedom” by Crystal Cauley is taking place June 1 – 30 at Henderson County Public Library, 301 N. Washington St, as well as a Cultural Exhibit – “The African Dream on an Emancipated Descendent” by Crystal Cauley, June 1 – 30 at Jackson Park, Monday – Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Crystal Cauley is a native of Henderson County. In 2016, she founded the Black Business Network of Western North Carolina to offer African-American entrepreneurs a Facebook group, which now includes over 800 members. In 2020, she helped establish the Black History Collective of Henderson County to empower Black artists to celebrate Black history through art, song, dance and spoke-work poetry. She serves on the Arts Council Board of Henderson County and on the advisory board for The People’s Museum. Two examples of her creative writing have appeared in The Urban News as part of the Wilma Dykeman Legacy’s Writers of Color project.
Juneteenth celebrates the timeframe when slavery was abolished. It took time for word to spread to regions further afield, so this period of time is simply recognized as “Juneteenth.” Across the nation, June 19 is recognized as a holiday to celebrate and uplift African-Americans everywhere.
As communities around the United States wrestle with racial inequality and the history of slavery, Black Wall Street AVL wants to honor the lives of those who were killed during the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921.
On their website, they state, “They tried to remove it from the history books. But it didn’t work. The newspaper article that sparked the riot that killed 300 Black people and burned 8000 of their homes was deleted from the archives.”
This violent uprising, fueled by hatred and jealousy and encouraged by the Ku Klux Klan, destroyed the thriving business district of one of the wealthiest all-Black communities in the nation.
J. Hackett and Bruce Waller, by organizing GRINDfest 2021, are declaring that Black Wall Street still lives; it is alive and well. Black entrepreneurial energy is thriving here in Asheville and Hendersonville.