Charlottesville’s upcoming Unity Days will include at least one established festival.
During a meeting of the Unity Days Action Committee, members voted unanimously to include the Festival of Cultures in the event calendar and also integrate it into the planning work for Unity Days. The Festival of Cultures, which will mark its 15th anniversary on May 11, would receive advertising, inclusion on the Unity Days website and fee waivers from the city.
Unity Days events preempt any other requests for venues around downtown Charlottesville. Some of them were the locations of the white supremacist events from May to August 2017 that culminated in the deadly Unite the Right rally on Aug. 12 of that year.
The city is proposing the Downtown Mall; Fourth Street Northeast and Southeast; and McGuffey, Market Street and Court Square parks as sites for events. Any other locations will need a special event application, an application fee — unless waived by the city — and a submission of the request at least 30 days in advance if no street closures are needed. If an event needs street closures, the request must be made 60 days in advance.
The Festival of Cultures is set to be held in Washington Park. It moved from what is now Market Street Park after white supremacists converged on the festival on May 13, 2017. The incident, followed by a torch-lit rally that night in the park, marked “the beginning of what has been dubbed the ‘Summer of Hate,’” a 2018 flier from Solidarity Cville states.
It was announced at Wednesday’s Unity Days meeting at First United Methodist Church that the African Cultural Arts Festival also would like to be included in Unity Days planning. No vote was taken on this event, which is set to be held July 18-20, because the city still is processing its application.
Additionally, there are plans for a musical event in August to coincide with the Unity Days events on Aug. 10 and 11. The first planning meeting for this event is scheduled for 4 p.m. April 7 at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church on Lankford Avenue, announced Brian Wheeler, the city’s director of communications.
The Charlottesville Police Department also plans to move its National Night Out activities from Aug. 6 to Sept. 7 to avoid potential conflicts with Unity Days events.
Unity Days is centered on Aug. 11 and 12, but there will be several activities from May to August for what is being called the Summer of Unity. Each month has a general theme: May is designated for a look at the area’s history of race relations; June will focus on addressing institutional oppression; community and neighborhood leaders is planned for July; and August is reserved for remembrance, education and inspiration.
The city is smoothing the path for these events but has said that the planning will be in the hands of citizens. The Action Committee is made up of about 20 people, including business and nonprofit representatives, activists and clergy.
The next Unity Days meeting is set for 6 p.m. April 10 at CitySpace on the Downtown Mall. For more information on Unity Days or the meetings, contact the city staff facilitators at UnityDays@charlottesville.org. Community members interested in helping with planning should email UnityDaysPlanning@charlottesvi