Black culture festival highlights Black-owned businesses, positive role models in fourth year running

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The fourth annual Black Culture Festival wrapped up this weekend at Parcel Five. In between the DJ and colorful clothes for sale, festival-goers also got to celebrate unity and positivity.

“The Black Culture Festival celebrates the things that black people have accomplished in America right now,” founder and organizer Will Powers said.

Powers and the rest of the team behind the event said they’ve worked hard to bring something uplifting and peaceful to Rochester.

“So that’s what we love about this, right, they can come see positivity and unity,” he said.

Co-founder Mike Love has been helping organize the festival since it started in summer 2020. 

“First year we had kid vendors that had a lemonade stand,” he said. “And they made a killing, you know? And that was one of my highlights of what we’ve done so far, so we’ve just been able to grow and grow and grow, and we’ve been able to give back to the community.”

For vendor Nana Ahmed, part of what they’re giving to the community is a history lesson.

“So others can know, how far we’ve come from, as far as like, having to be creative and [for example] exclusively having our own negro league baseball team because we weren’t included,” she said.

While important, the focus for organizers is on celebrating and uplifting Black culture today. Part of that is trying to dispel stereotypes.

One misconception for festival support member Zonaia is that Black people can’t have a large gathering and keep the peace themselves.

“[The misconception is] whenever Black people gather, there needs to be a strong police presence to avoid violence,” she said. “It’s been four years running. We have the one cop down here, one cop down there, and all four years have been successful and peaceful within.” 

Love said he hopes the festival (and the goods for sale) help highlight Black entrepreneurs, and in turn, bring money to the Black community. 

“I think often the media portrays black culture completely negative,” he said. “Even when in movies and tv shows, they always portray us as something negative. So, it’s good to have positive imagery to look up to. And say, ‘You know what, I can excel, I can be a business owner and my options aren’t drug dealer or athlete.”