Black cultural festivals and events around the world every year celebrate black heritage, art, history, and community. Read on for information on popular black festival events in the U.S. and abroad. You will find these top choices worth your attendance and participation.
Embracing, celebrating, and remembering Black culture and heritage is the key to the future and attention events and festivals like these make it easier to hold on to the past and look towards the future- together!
Black Heritage and Arts Celebrations in the U.S.
- Essence Festival of Culture (New Orleans, LA): Sponsored by Essence Magazine, this popular event kicks off annually over the Fourth of July weekend at Caesars Superdome. It is a three-day festival bringing performances by big names in popular Black entertainment. These include top music artists, inspirational speakers, and a vendor marketplace with Black-owned businesses selling African-American-inspired clothing, jewelry, fine art, and crafts.
- National Black Arts Festival (Atlanta, GA): As one of the largest black cultural festivals in the country, this event showcases “a legacy of artistic excellence” (according to the NBAF website). It includes contributions from the African diaspora, including music, dance, visual arts, theater, and film productions all celebrating Black Art and Culture. It is a 10-day festival held all around the metropolitan area of Atlanta and always draws huge crowds every year.
- Chicago Gospel Music Festival (Chicago, IL): Chicago’s Mayor’s office sponsors this African-American history-inspired event held yearly on the first weekend in June. Its focus is on highlighting the cultural significance of gospel music. Thousands of locals and non-locals make it out to attend this outdoor gospel music celebration with both local and international music artists. Gospel music lovers will enjoy every second of this celebration of Black Music.
Black Heritage and Cultural Events Outside the U.S.
- Durban International Film Festival (Durban, South Africa): This long-standing South African film festival, founded in 1979, takes place every July and highlights films reflecting the diversity and richness of African and international cinema. Presented by the University of Kwazulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, the event showcases over 100 screenings exploring black heritage and culture.
- Reggae Sumfest (Montego Bay, Jamaica): This is one of the largest reggae music festivals worldwide, celebrating Jamaica's musical heritage and global impact. Top attractions include industry-relevant reggae and dancehall artists. Held yearly in mid-July in Montego Bay, the Reggae Sumfest is a week-long festival and party event attracting diverse audiences from around the globe.
- Gnaoua World Music Festival (Essaouira, Morocco): As descendants of African slaves in Morocco, the Gnaoua people celebrate their musical and cultural heritage yearly in Essaouira, Morocco. Up to 500,000 people attend this four-day festival each June in anticipation of watching performances by pop, jazz, rock, and contemporary world musicians.
Why Attend Black Cultural Festivals?
Exploring Black heritage and arts festivals is far more than just entertainment. It promises an immersion of cultural experience, creates connections, sparks conversations, and redefines perspectives about African-American significance. Attending these festivals is about making good memories, yes. But it is also about embracing the unique narratives of black culture, the arts it influences, and celebrating everything that Black history and heritage can offer.
These festivals create welcoming spaces that attract Black people and provide educational opportunities about local cultural history, building strong networks in the Black community, supporting the development and growth of Black-owned businesses, and increasing retention of Black individuals in local communities.
Attendees can gain a better understanding of the nation’s past, build connections, strengthen bonds, and expand cultural understandings, ultimately contributing to positive social change. People can easily celebrate Black people's impact while surrounded by other members of the Black community. This goes a long way in fostering a sense of pride and joy and a commitment to honoring and preserving the rich and diverse world of Black Entertainment and culture.