Biz Markie, Da Brat among the headliners at tomorrow's Bimbé Festival in Durham


To the hip-hop faithful, Biz Markie is the legendary emcee behind “Nobody Beats The Biz” and someone who’s evolved into such a high-caliber DJ and music aficionado that Technics gifted him with the world’s only pair of 7” turntables. To others, Biz is just the sucker behind the karaoke favorite “Just a Friend” and the guy who tours with Yo Gabba Gabba. Those perceptions unite this weekend for Durham’s 45th Annual Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival,  where Biz Markie and fellow rap veterans Da Brat and Nice & Smooth lead the Bull City’s celebration of African-American culture. 

The festival’s history reaches back toward the end of the country’s Civil Rights era and was partly conceptualized as a reaction to the city’s unsettling racial climate. On the morning before Valentine’s Day in 1969, 50 student-members of Duke University’s Afro-American Society and a few former students occupied Duke’s Allen Administration Building, issuing the statement: "We seized the building because we have been negotiating with Duke administration and faculty concerning different issues that affect black students for two-and-a-half years and we have no meaningful results. We have exhausted the so-called 'proper' channels." Later that evening—after being joined by more than 100 white students—the protesters encountered a brigade of Durham police officers and tear gas. Several students were arrested and more were injured, but the protest eventually led to the university establishing an Afro-American Studies program.

That summer, some of those Duke students collaborated with students from N.C. Central University and other area schools to create Bimbé, a way to honor some of West Africa’s harvest festivals. Since then, it has become a family-friendly Durham tradition, an event where Pan-Africanism is celebrated. The festival officially began on Wednesday in Lyon Park with the Old School Block Party. Its grand finale takes place throughout the day tomorrow, starting at noon with a “Salute to the Elders,” followed by dance performances, band showcases and DJ sets before the evenings three hip-hop headliners take the stage.

For more information about the festival, including the full schedule, visit the website by clicking here. 

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