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Doing the work at GRINDfest

The festival is bringing the community together and elevating Black businesses through music, food, education, and fun.

A large crowd of people all look at the camera at Grindfest

The three-day event will be filled with fun and fellowship.

Photo by Tony Shivers

When GRINDfest launched in 2021, it was supposed to be a block party. J. Hackett and Bruce Waller, founders of Black Wall Street AVL, got together and jotted down their ideas on sticky notes. More than anything, it was meant to celebrate Black business and entrepreneurship.

It turns out that when AVLtoday heard about it, we called it a “festival” and Hackett got a call from the City of Asheville about permits. Even after resolving all the details though, word about a “festival” had already gotten out — and the first event had ~4,000 people turn up.

A group of dancers are led by an instructor in a dance class

Don’t forget your dancing shoes.

Photo by Tony Shivers

Join the community

Even so, the block party atmosphere has persisted. This Friday, May 24 to Sunday, May 26, the event will take over the A-B Tech Conference Center with food trucks, carnival rides, ax throwing, a bike park, and performances. There’s also a kick-off party on Thursday, Harlem Nights Casino on Friday, and a Slick Rick + Doug E Fresh concert on Saturday.

Amid the revelry, local vendors will showcase their work + wares and there will be educational, employment, and networking opportunities.

Most of the event is free and open to the public, but make sure to register. Harlem Nights Casino and the Slick Rick + Doug E Fresh concert are ticketed.

A group of people in chairs pose for a selfie

Education and networking are on the agenda, too.

Photo by Tony Shivers

Make a connection

GRINDfest has made some changes since its first year, finding what works best and expanding its reach, but its heart of community connection has carried through. “There are so many forces that try to keep people apart,” says Hackett. “We want to be one of those forces that brings people together.”

Simultaneously, though, its purpose is to elevate Black businesses and highlight their work to the public in a tangible, actionable way. “Asheville has a really big heart, and we talk a lot, but this is the time for us actually come out and play together and grow together,” says Hackett. “And if you’re gonna spend money on items and if you’re going to have deep-fried foolishness, let’s do it together with people of color.”