The 1Love Festival returns to Winston-Salem this weekend following a two-year pandemic-related hiatus. The two-day immersive event will celebrate African diasporic culture through music, visual art, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Live performances and artist conversations shared by a host of local and national musicians, authors, deejays will take place throughout the city. 

1Love came about years ago as Co-Founders Melva Sampson and Darrick Young reflected on their shared love for culture and community, how it took shape in their lives and marriage, and fueled their personal growth. Sampson says they decided to present the revolutionary role of culture to Winston-Salem.

“The reparative work that culture does for groups of people who need to be reminded of their greatness, who need to be reminded of their sacred value and their wealth in terms of spirit,” says Sampson. “And so that's where it came from: to honor and acknowledge and celebrate the African diaspora and ingenuity.”

The celebration this weekend will take on many forms: Artistic Soul Conversations with visual artist Elahi Stewart, Hustle Winston-Salem Co-Founder Daryl Shaw, and poets Ely B, Phonsarelli, LB The Poet, and others. Panel discussions titled Black Man Lab We Need You!, Defining Ourselves for Ourselves: Innovation and Entrepreneurship, The Artist's Way, and Telling Our Stories As We Know Them.

“The arts provide for us agency,” says Sampson. “And that agency is to be able to stand and to tell and to share from our perspective, from a perspective where we have had front row seats. It is a way to honor lived experiences and that is extremely important.”

Without that perspective, she says that shared history is often told through a distorted lens. Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County President Chase Law says her organization is a sponsor of the event and that their visions for the future align nicely.

“Community expansion, responding to needs throughout our community, and using the arts as a tool to make real change,” says Law. “We're excited that 1Love is partnering with many of our arts partners as well as individual artists, so we're looking forward to seeing this come to fruition.”

Civil rights advocate and author John Mendez is one of the panelists. He grew up in Harlem, followed the speeches of Malcom X, and he came of age during the Black Power movement.

“What Melva and Darrick are bringing to Winston-Salem now is part of that continuity,” says Mendez. “And it says to me, ‘It's still alive.' And being prophetic in this sense, I'm predicting that we're gonna see a lot of transformations taking place.”

Mendez calls 1Love Festival one of the most positive initiatives he's seen in Winston-Salem since the emergence of the National Black Theatre Festival founded in 1989. The former pastor who is also a psychoanalyst will talk about the importance of mental and spiritual health of Black people, particularly among the city's youth.

“We talk about the violence and what's happening in our cities,” he says. “I'm of the belief that culture is one of the ways to not only address it, but to raise consciousness which results in transforming how people think and if you transform their thinking, you also transform their behavior.”

1Love Co-Founder Darrick Young agrees. He grew up in St. Louis, and eventually attended Howard University.

“Pre-eighteen — my pre-eighteen years — we were making some interesting decisions,” says Young. “But it was consciousness, and culture that caused me to begin to make better decisions and begin to understand my history, my DNA, the kinds of folks in the diaspora that we come from.”

He points to the ancient Egyptians and their ability to build the pyramids, and their contribution to modern medicine. He hopes sharing this culture will move hearts and minds, especially as he sees cultural backlash against Black history.

“Why is it a problem?” he asks. “Because many other ethnic groups are able to study and experience and learn and celebrate and amplify their culture. But when folks of the African diaspora begin to learn and begin to love and begin to embrace their culture, it's a problem.”

All panel discussions and artists talks at the 1Love Festival in downtown Winston-Salem will be free and open to the public. There are ticketed evening performances by Soultriii, Untitled, Toronto hip-hop artist Tara Lord, Grammy-nominated violinist Chelsey Green, and headliner Mausiki Scales and Common Ground Collective.

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