10 Black Summer Festivals You Must Check Out

by Makeda Vaughn

Summer is around the corner, and with its arrival comes many summer festivals that are sure to cater to our inner artist. We’ve gathered a quick and dirty list of festivals that primarily feature Black art, music, and culture.  If you're a fan of music, film, food, and theatre, then check out the festival list below—including dates, prices, and locations. You have no reason not to go!

1. Essence Festival 

This is the ultimate summer festival for Black women. Thus, every Black woman should experience this festival at least once in their lifetime, which takes place during Fourth of July weekend every year. The line-up is usually insane—not only can you enjoy shows by big time artists on the main stage, but they have smaller venues for indie artists, motivational seminars, and Sunday worships.

Dates: July 2 – 5, 2015
Location: New Orleans
Ticket Price: $50 - $1,000 (VIP)
Black Women Headliners: Mary J. Blige and Missy Elliott

2. The Roots Picnic 

This one is definitely on my personal bucket list! I have heard about this festival for a while now, hosted by everyone’s favorite soul hip-hop band, The Roots, and sponsored by OkayPlayer. This concert usually contains a lot of non-mainstream artists (yay!) along with a few familiar names.

Dates: May 30, 2015
Location: Philadelphia
Ticket Price: Around $100
Featured Black Women Performers: Erykah Badu, Donn T, and Brianna Cash

3. AfroPunk 

I first heard about this festival last year when D’Angelo was featured in the line-up. This festival is pretty diverse—offering punk, alternative rock, neo-soul, and many other music genres. It’s also well-known for being a Black festival and street style fashion hotspot. If you’re curious about what to expect, check out their YouTube channel with clips from past festivals. The 2015 festival information isn’t available yet, but check back regularly for updates. The website also features lots of great blogs about Black news, lifestyle, and culture year-round.

Dates: August 2015 (Specific dates not available yet)
Location: Brooklyn
Ticket Price: Check the website
Featured Black Women Performers: Check the website

4. American Black Film Festival 

If you’re an aspiring actor, screenwriter, director, or producer, then this is festival is for you. The festival offers film screenings, master classes, discussion series, and networking events. It provides a chance to see and hear from your favorite Black TV and film stars in an intimate setting. I definitely may need to check this one out this year, and you should too.

Dates: June 11 – 14, 2015
Location: New York City
Ticket Price: $95 Master Class, $150 Day Pass
Featured Black Women Participants: Taraji P. Henson, Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Ross, and more

5. National Black Theatre Festival 

After attending a local black theatre festival, one of the directors put me on to this much larger theatre festival held in North Carolina. This is a great event for aspiring stage actors and directors. If you have your own production, you can submit it to be featured in the festival. NBTF is also great for learning more about the theatre business and offers resources for improving craft and skills. There isn’t much information for the 2015 festival online yet, but the website does have some basic 411.

Dates: August 3 – 8, 2015
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Ticket Price: Check the website
Featured Black Women Participants: Check the website

6. DC Jazz Festival 

I attend this festival every year and I swear it just keeps getting better. Even if you don’t live near D.C., this is definitely worth the trip to witness some of today’s finest jazz artists. Not only do they have shows on the main stage, but they also have smaller events like the Jazz in the Hoods and Capitalbop Loft Series located throughout D.C. This year I’m even more excited because the Afro Jazz Queen herself—Esperanza Spalding—is gracing the stage this year.

Dates: June 6 – 16, 2015
Location: Washington, D.C.
Ticket Prices: $15 - $150 (Premium Plus)
Black Women Headliners: Esperanza Spalding and Gretchen Parlato

7. Taste of Chicago 

I have been hearing about this festival for years now. Taste of Chicago is for the food lovers. (Aren’t we all food lovers?) But on top of delicious food, you also get to enjoy great music too. Performers like Janelle Monae and Aloe Blacc have been featured at this event in the past. 

Dates: July 8 – 12, 2015
Location: Chicago
Ticket Price: FREE!
Featured Black Women Performers: Erykah Badu

8. African American Festival 

If you’re trying to find a reason to visit Baltimore, this is the event for you. Hosted by Black Enterprise, the festival is intended to celebrate all aspects of African American life, music, and culture. I definitely plan on attending this year and can’t wait for them to release the 2015 line-up.

Dates: June 20 – 21, 2015
Location: Baltimore
Ticket Price: FREE!
Featured Black Women Performers: Check the website

9. Hot 97 Summer Jam 

For my hip-hop heads, this one is for you. This popular event is hosted by Hot 97, NYC’s definitive hip-hop radio station. Expect great hip-hop and R&B music from both established and up-and-coming artists.

Dates: June 7, 2015
Location: East Rutherford, NJ
Ticket Price: $35 -$100
Black Women Headliners: Dej Loaf and Teyanna Taylor

10. Neighborhood Awards 

This final listing was not intended to be a festival, but has turned into one unofficially. I hear about this event every year when black-owned businesses across the country reach out via social media and ask for people to vote for them. The Neighborhood Awards gives off a festival vibe due to the many music and comedy performances, film screenings, choir competitions, and so much more. If you’re a fan of Steve Harvey or a fan of this year’s line-up, you may want to check it out.

Date: August 6 – 9, 2015
Location: Atlanta, GA
Ticket Price: $35
Black Women Headliners: Jazmine Sullivan, Avery Sunshine, and K.Michelle

Whew, what a list! And there are plenty of other Black festivals that happen year-round. Let us know what other local black festivals you enjoy by sharing them in the comments.

Photo: Essence

Makeda Vaughn is a blogger and regular contributor to For Harriet. You can find her on her website SkinnyGotCurves.com. She can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.