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Honoring Black History Month at The Forest at Duke

Throughout the month of February, The Forest at Duke proudly celebrated Black History Month, dedicating a series of events to honor the rich heritage and remarkable achievements of African Americans, both in history and within Durham’s vibrant Black community. From captivating performances to enriching cultural tours, residents were immersed in a diverse array of experiences that paid homage to the enduring legacy of Black culture.

Master storyteller Mitch Capel, also known as “Gran’daddy Junebug,” presents a skit to residents on February 7, 2024. (Photo by Michelle Burger, Community Life Manager)

Master Storyteller: Mitch Capel

The festivities commenced with the mesmerizing storytelling prowess of Mitch Capel, also known as “Gran’daddy Junebug.” Capel, a master storyteller, poet, and recording artist, enraptured the audience with his heartfelt narratives, skillfully weaving together tales that resonated with the essence of the human spirit. His performances, infused with the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, left an indelible mark on all who had the privilege of experiencing his artistry.

Exploring Durham’s Rich Heritage

Delving into Durham’s storied past, residents embarked on a captivating journey through the city’s historic landscape. A guided shopping trip through downtown Durham provided insight into the entrepreneurial spirit of Black Wall Street, once a bustling hub of Black-owned businesses during the early 1900s. Today, Durhamites continue to honor this legacy through a new generation of successful enterprises, showcasing the resilience and innovation of the local community.

Image by Larry Coleman Photography (, copyright © 2019 Dianne McIntyre

Cultural Enrichment Through Music and Dance

The celebration continued with a captivating performance by the Dianne McIntyre Group, renowned for their innovative choreography and exploration of cultural narratives. Through dynamic movement and evocative music, McIntyre and her ensemble brought to life the vibrant tapestry of Black expression, highlighting the interconnectedness of dance, music, and language in conveying profound stories of resilience and joy.

Inspirational Reflections on Civil Rights Icons

As part of the month-long commemoration, residents were treated to thought-provoking reflections on civil rights icons. Duke staff member Ira Knight’s compelling portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr. offered a nuanced perspective on the revered leader, inviting audiences to delve beyond the mythos and embrace King’s humanity and profound impact on the struggle for justice and equality.

International Civil Rights Center and Museum (Image copyright © 2024 Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina)

Journey Through Civil Rights History

In a poignant exploration of America’s quest for equality, residents embarked on enlightening tours of both the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro and key sites of Durham’s civil rights movement. These immersive experiences provided a deeper understanding of the challenges and triumphs of the Civil Rights era, inspiring reflection on the ongoing pursuit of social justice.

Lula & Sadie’s Owner and Executive Chef, Harry S. Monds (Image copyright © 2023 William Morton)

Savoring Southern Cuisine and Community

The month concluded with a culinary excursion to Lula & Sadie’s, a beloved Black-owned restaurant in Durham’s Lakewood neighborhood. Founded by Harry S. Monds, Lula & Sadie’s offers soulful southern cuisine steeped in tradition and community spirit, providing residents with a delicious taste of local hospitality and culture.

As February drew to a close, the Black History Month celebrations at The Forest at Duke served as a poignant reminder of the enduring legacy of resilience, creativity, and community that continues to shape the fabric of American society. Through storytelling, music, dance, and reflection, residents came together to honor the past, celebrate the present, and inspire hope for a more inclusive and equitable future.

Lauren Young, Communications & Engagement Coordinator

Header image: The North Carolina Mutual building on Parrish Street in Durham. Copyright ©
Archives, Records, and History Center / North Carolina Central University.
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