Summer might be almost over, but for one special weekend, Harrisburg’s best had a moment in the sun | Anwar Curtis

Nadjah Nicole performs at the annual Weekender Festival in Reservoir Park in Harrisburg, Pa. Photo courtesy of Anwar Curtis

There’s a social media hashtag that I love —#AllRoadsLeadToHBG. And there was no greater demonstration of that than this year’s Weekender Festival, which ran from Aug. 15 to Aug. 18. It was super-vibrant, and full of activities for residents from across Pennsylvania’s capital city.

If you’re unfamiliar with this four-day event, let me introduce you to the curators.

First, you have Oche Bridgeford, who is the communications director with the Harrisburg Housing Authority, you have Airis Smallwood and Jennifer Smallwood who are the founders of The Singer’s Lounge

Next up, on this seven-entity powerhouse is Harrisburg City Council President Wanda Williams; Councilmember Danielle Bowers; Dimitri Diggs, owner of the Urban Snob clothing store; Chad Scott, who owns both Denim Inc., and District Restaurant and Lounge, and Star City Community Center founder Sharina Johnson.

Finally there’s Jonathan Williams and myself, who own the music promotions company, Levels Ready Entertainment.

The Weekender was established in 2018 for the simple purpose of providing a safe environment for the residents of Harrisburg’s Hall Manor housing project to gather and celebrate before the start of a new school year. It’s held at Hall Manor and Reservoir Park, in Harrisburg’s Allison Hill neighborhood.

While the first year was a success, this year was truly something special — especially for the children of Harrisburg.

I’d like to think it had everything to do with all of us, as committee members, understanding the big picture. And that’s acknowledging who we are as a city, one full of creative, motivated, intelligent, African-Americans who can accomplish anything we set out to do.

And for the second summer in a row the Weekender was confirmation that, that is more than just a possibility.

For decades now, cities across the nation have been split, divided between cities and suburbs. And that’s led to all kinds of unfair and incorrect stereotypes and false equivalences.

Not least of them is the false narrative that Black and Brown citizens, particularly those in public housing, are entirely dependent on government handouts.

How do I know that’s false? I don’t have to look any further than such local and national entrepreneurs as Leland Nelson, Juan Pablo, Kezia Williams, and Anne Hughes.

They gave back to their community by teaching city residents about such important topics as home ownership and the best ways to clean up and protect their credit on during day one’s Networth Summit.

On the festival’s second day, attendees, braving the rain, packed Hall Manor for the Harrisburg Housing Authority’s Community Day event. The crowd moved between the vendor stands; kids played in the bounce house, and attendees enjoyed a performance by Johnny Bliss, who appeared on NBC’s The Voice, as well as a set by and DJ Beauty and the Beatz.

It was nice to hear one woman tell her friend how much she loved those involved for always caring about Hall Manor.

The festival’s final two days at Reservoir Park were, well, just lit, with crowds enjoying such local, regional and national acts as World Wide LAU, Lady Shakespeare, Tha Maniacz Dance Group, Alonda Rich, Maschine Life Empire, Entellekt, Dj Beauty and the Beatz, Nadjah Nicole, jazz sensation Laurin Talese, Gillian Sumpter, and D.C.L. 

The Urban Snob was also there on both days and set up shop, introducing the Snobchella section that was full of great vibes — thanks to Grown Folk Business vlogcast. Rob the Plug and Talk with Moms podcast also graced the Levels Ready Media corner.

On Sunday, Airis Smallwood and her TSL Alumni, Dexter Kendrick, Jamelle “Nova” Noon, Janisha Adams, Jaren Tucker, and more packed the park as The Singer’s Lounge every month.

This year the family cookout continued, full, as ever, of performances and laughter. It was a reminder of why I’ll never give up on the city that raised me and gave me so much.

Capital-Star Opinion Contributor Anwar Curtis tells the stories of the people of Pennsylvania’s capital city. His work appears biweekly. Readers may email him at [email protected].

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