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Black History Month seems like it’s just not enough. Just one month? Shouldn’t diversity be celebrated year-round? That’s why I thought it would be great if I let you all know about a really fantastic festival smack at the end of summer. I realize we’re not even quite out of winter yet, but you should plan for this one.

Where is it, you ask? Raleigh, North Carolina. For the past six years, something wonderful has been happening there every Labor Day Weekend. No, it’s not a giant barbecue or triathlon (although, there is some pretty incredible food served). You probably wouldn’t have ever guessed that the mellow city of Raleigh is host to one of the coolest events on the eastern seaboard — the African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County.

Celebrating the history of African Americans and the incredibly strong, rich culture that was built blending the traditions of Africa and the Americas, this two-day event draws people from across the country and around the world. When you stop to think about it, culture and history become one and the same, as you begin to see where the different strands that intertwine meld into one another. So it’s no wonder that this has to be one of the most peaceful, joyous celebrations of cultural identity — a culture shaped and sculpted from the good and bad that history always manages to mete out in varying doses.

With music, art, dance, food and people of every age, the experience is overwhelming and wonderful. You get lost in the sea of smiling faces and dancing bodies. This is the first thing you’ll notice. Everyone is smiling. Where else can you go to spend the day (or two!) and see people being so comfortable in their own skins, accepted and celebrated for who they are?

It’s important that we foster these sort of gatherings and celebrations, regardless of race. Joyous occasions, acknowledging our unique set of genes and ancestral experiences. When you strip away the societal pressures of conforming to a homogenous culture, you can really see someone’s true inner being. And they’re beautiful, inside and out.

That’s a pretty special gift, don’t you think?

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Devin C. Hughes is currently Chief Inspiration Officer of ITLN. He’s the author of four books including Contrast: A Biracial Man’s Journey To Desegregate His Past, Self Talk, Moon Patrol & Agents of Change. Devin shares enchanting stuff on the topics of happiness, motivation, diversity/inclusion, change and productivity.

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