The annual Harambee Festival with several events recognizing jazz legend Thelonious Monk will kick off this year’s Downtown Alive Series of summer activities.
On Friday, after an open house and series of seminars from Douglas Block businesses from 1 to 5 p.m., officials will dedicate an N.C. Highway Historical Marker to Monk along with the naming of Thelonious Monk Plaza at 5 p.m. The Four Seasons’s Restaurant will have a reception from 6 to 7 p.m. A documentary on Monk’s life will be shown at 7 p.m. in the Booker T. Theatre.
The jazz concert will follow the documentary with local musicians, Coco Rouzier and The Winstons.
Officials said seating for the concert is limited to 230 people.
“This year, we are focusing on local talent,” said Joyce Dickens, president and CEO of the Rocky Mount/Edgecombe Community Development Corp. “The Winstons have performed at every festival, but Coco just came back from New York, and we want to help her re-establish her career here.”
Five bands will be performing Saturday during the Harambee Festival as vendors sell arts, crafts and food. Free activities for youth also will be available during the event, which coincides with National Historic Preservation Month.
“Also on Saturday are three presentations in the Booker T. Theatre from a historian who will talk about the history of the Douglas Block,” Dickens said. The presentations will be at 1, 1:30 and 2 p.m. “We encourage people to come in, bring their children, listen and learn about the Douglas Block and how important it is to the culture of the community.”
Dickens said highlighting the first year of the Douglas Block is an important aspect to this year’s Harambee Festival with all of the tenants open for business Saturday.
“For us, this is a chance to highlight the first anniversary of the restoration of the Douglas Block,” she said. “We want to celebrate the fact that we’ve been successful leasing up the building, which is very important in these economic times.
“We are trying to set the model because we’ve got a lot of buildings downtown that need to be leased,” she said. “We want to show that it is a possibility (to lease these properties) and that downtown is the place to be.”
The weekend’s events are sponsored by the city of Rocky Mount, the Rocky Mount/Edgecombe Community Development Corp. and the Phoenix Historical Society, which did the research to get the historical marker.
“Harambee is Swahili for working together for the betterment of everyone,” Dickens said. “This festival celebrates the African-American culture and everyone is invited to take part.”