On St. Patrick’s Day, much of the culture was on display as people of all ages spread out their picnic blankets and lawn chairs to bear witness to history.
“Dia Days” played for two hours at Bo Diddley Plaza on March 17. Gainesville-based record label Dion Dia hosted the event with live performances by Florida artists and an eclectic fashion show; as well as a culmination of art and expression.
About 100 people attended the “Dia Days”, providing an electrifying audience for the artists. Waves of people danced and applauded Dion Dia signed artists like Israel Jones, FARO and Rakhu. At center stage, a live studio session was broadcast between the Dion Dia signatories in the comfortable setting of a living room. The performers were playwrights in a musical revolving around the process of creating music.
On both sides of the room there were displays of great artistry – sculpting, braiding hair, live painting, designing clothes and tufting a rug in Dion Dia’s trademark face design for n to name a few.
The founders of Dion Dia – Khary Khalfani, Jahi Khalfani and Laila Fakhoury – organized the event to present a melting pot of art through different mediums. Revisiting the first company “Dia Days” in 2021 which moved to Samurai Skateshop due to rain, Fakhoury wanted to push the boundaries and use a piece of music as a model to build an artistic world around her.
“It was really important for us to include as many people as possible,” Fakhoury said. “We wanted to have more appeal and more reason for people to come.”
As part of the city’s “Live and Local Concert Series” initiative led by MusicGnv, Brandon Telg, co-founder and member of the board of directors of MusicGnv, recruited Fakhoury to organize a show. In talks since August 2021, Fakhoury, also a member of MusicGnv’s board of directors, took the initiative head-on.
“We’re looking to try and change live music and the way it’s presented and how live music experiences can be,” Jahi said. “It’s the heart of ‘Dia Days’.”
Midway through the event, a fashion show showcasing the culmination of popular clothing across the decades walked through each catwalk at the sides of the plaza stage.
More than 60 models – including River Webb, a 19-year-old experimental petrologist whose pronouns are they/them, showcased brightly colored ski goggles, 60s fringed suede jackets, original Nike exotic swoosh colors and revamped streetwear with collage-like modeling.
“It’s a time of healing and soothing for the soul,” they said.
As one of the first models to take part in How Bazar’s grand opening fashion show, Webb was happy to be a part of this auspicious display of culture and art.
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Among the designers and creative minds behind the fashion show was chief stylist Jordie Ortiz, a 22-year-old artist.
“It was just amazing to see it all come to life,” Ortiz said.
About two years ago, Ortiz’s drive to keep fashion led him to the opportunity to be part of Dion Dia’s community outreach efforts. Inspired by fellow creatives at Dion Dia, Ortiz plans to push boundaries and set the stage for people who feel marginalized through his work.
Although Jordie struggles with the scruples of mental illness, he aims to inspire more people to embrace their insecurities.
“It makes you unique; it’s a gift from God,” Ortiz said.
Among those admiring the musical and the fashion show was Kristen McDaniel, the 49-year-old granddaughter of the late Bo Diddley, the square’s namesake. McDaniel respected the toughness of the models, which she said served the fashion show well.
“Tyra Banks would have been proud of the way she walked,” Kristen said.
As someone immersed in the art world due to his grandfather’s legacy as one of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll, McDaniel had great admiration for musical artists showing their art.
Creator of the signature “Bo Diddley Beat” found in countless rock and pop songs over the years, Ellas McDaniel, better known as Bo Diddley, knew how to give the show. The strumming of his guitar and the brutality of his artistry attracted thousands of people from all walks of life each time he performed.
Renamed Bo Diddley Community Plaza in 2009, the outdoor stage was built on the foundation of community outreach and freedom of expression; all the things Bo Diddley firmly believed in.
“He loved taking care of children; he loved caring for people in need,” McDaniel said. “That was the kind of person he was.”
After Bo Diddley’s son Ellas Anthony McDaniel was arrested in 2011 at the square for occupying the space in support of a protest, the idea of free speech served as the backdrop for ‘Dia Days for McDaniel.
“I want to get our brown and aboriginal kids to know Bo Diddley so they can understand that everything they listen to comes from his beat,” McDaniel said.
Contact Dazion at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DazionProsser
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