RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The sound of a marching band drumline from Shaw University filled the atrium inside North Carolina's History Museum at the start of the 23rd Annual African American Cultural Festival in Raleigh.
Festival supporter Judith Burrell smiled while listening to musical performances and remarks delivered by organizers.
"This is one of my favorite celebrations of the year, and I have lived all up and down the mid-Atlantic area. I grew up in Boston, New York, D.C. This is the largest and the best celebration to kick off Black History Month," she said. "I celebrate Black History every day, but this has always been amazing to me. And I've been coming for 10 years ever since I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina."
The organizers received enthusiastic responses when they asked people affiliated with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to shout out when they heard their school's name announced. One of those HBCUs, North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, is a sponsor of the festival. The university also sent students from Greensboro to Raleigh with video equipment to document the day's activities.
NC A&T student Kayla Hare told ABC11 about one lesson learned while she shot video footage.
"How far back in history things go," she said. "There's a man doing pottery and he's 91 years old, still able to use his talent to form his art with and tell the story of history. I thought that was really beautiful."
Walking through the museum's halls and galleries can make history come alive for those who pause to read or use interactive options.
"That's what makes it so heartwarming and so impressive because we have to share the history every day and every minute," said Burrell. "And I want to let you know, the North Carolina Museum of History is here to tell the truth about black history in North Carolina as American history and North Carolina history. I see every table and I peek into different workshops and music presentations."
Adrienne Nirde of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission is pleased with the enthusiastic turnout.
"It's a wonderful occasion for folks to come and celebrate the best of African American history, art, and culture in our state. We consider it to be the kickoff to Black History Month, and we're really excited," she said. "I'll be curious to see how many folks we have out. I know last year we had just about 6,000 people, and I think we're shaping up to have a good crowd. So we've got performances, we've got dancers, we've got a DJ, we've got bands. We also have artisans who are showing off how they're they're doing their craft."
Nirde also mentioned a new addition that acknowledges African-American history, located a short walk from the museum.
"North Carolina Freedom Park is again just down Wilmington Street here. It is the first park in North Carolina commemorating the African-American struggle for freedom. And it had its grand opening just this past August. So we are in the midst of planning all kinds of programming, preparing for school visits, and inviting people downtown to learn about our history."
Nirde encourages everyone to explore those options, after hearing about what many consider the early start of Black History Month in Raleigh.