Inside Durag Fest: The Festival We Never Knew We Needed
By DeAnna Taylor
Durags have been culturally relevant for as long as I can remember. You can choose to rock one with the cape out or for a more polished appeal, you can opt for the no cape durag. Either way, Black people have been rocking the hair accessory for years to ensure that their waves stay on swim and their edges stay laid.
In 2018, three creatives in Charlotte, North Carolina teamed up to put together a festival to celebrate all that is durag culture and then some.
Lica Mishelle, Dammit Wesley, and DJ Fannie Mae are the faces behind this one-of-a-kind event. As an art curator, Wesley wanted to put together an exhibition for Juneteenth and highlight durags in the process. He reached out to Lica Mishelle, after seeing a creative project she did go viral, in hopes that they could bring their creative minds together.
They came together, with DJ Fannie Mae overseeing all things music, to create Durag Fest. We had a chance to speak to them about what’s in store for this year’s event and their vision for Durag Fest in the years to come.
TN: How was Durag Fest born?
Lica: Durag Fest was born out of a necessity to own our narrative in a way that uplifts the community economically, and honestly Black Twitter. #DuragHistoryWeek was one of the few memes on Twitter that couldn’t be appropriated for other cultures to use. It was just so black. Plus, wave culture was on the rise with college durag days and the like. There was already a durag culture on the internet. We just applied it to create an experience.
TN: What is the vision for this event?
Lica: We envision it as the rebranding of Juneteenth. Not to diminish the holiday or its historical significance, but to build upon it. Every successful American Holiday has three things: a visual identifier, traditions/activities, and businesses built around the holiday. We want Juneteenth to benefit from the same capitalism that other holidays benefit from. We want black bars and restaurants to see an increase in white patrons. We want to see African & African-American apparel being bought in higher numbers for Juneteenth events, not just Durag Fest. Durag Festival is a vehicle for change. To integrating a stimulated economy into a holiday that needs the attention it deserves.
TN: How did people react to the first installment of the event?
Lica: We’d never seen attendees so engaged in our lives. It was obvious that this was one of the few opportunities for our culture to be unapologetically Black and proud of it. We all have a background in events, nightlife or entertainment. Usually you can see people’s level of investment in their body language. Durag Fest was the opposite of what we experienced in clubs and concerts. People were 100% invested in the experience. The guests at Durag Festival were just as much a part of the art as the paintings were. We could see the time people put into their outfits, designing their Durags, doing their hair. Everyone was a walking masterpiece. When we finally wrapped at 11pm many of our guests volunteered to stay and clean up. We didn’t ask, they literally started cleaning because the sense of community and ownership was that strong. We knew at that moment we had tapped into a sincere black experience.
TN: What can we expect to see this year?
Lica: It’s not about what you’re seeing. It’s about what you’re experiencing. Durag Festival is about the creativity of the people and that’s something we don’t have control over. We are the Met Gala of Durags and we’re excited to see what surprises are in store.
TN: Where can we find out more or get tickets?
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel writer. The Charlotte native recently completed one year abroad working as an English teacher in South Korea. Her hobbies include fitness, traveling to new countries, and trying new foods.