Photo Credit: 10'000 Hours
How A Swanky Weekend In Las Vegas Reconnected Me To My Black Roots
Traveling to Sin City wasn’t on my bucket list for the year, but when I saw the list of Black artists performing at Day N Vegas, I knew I had to spend that weekend in Las Vegas.
Following a bleak year without experiencing the electricity of live musical performances, I wanted to make this past weekend in November about reflection. Instead of forgetting the past months in quarantine, I wanted to mentally prepare myself for what being in a large crowd will feel like again. Anxiousness and excitement were my initial emotional responses, so I decided to get my COVID-19 booster (3rd) shot and push forward with a long weekend getaway.
I landed in Nevada from Los Angeles on Friday afternoon, the first day of the music festival. My Black Uber driver, Nicole, gave me a rundown of how living in Las Vegas has been for her. She moved to Sin City a few years ago, and she has had some trouble acclimating to the fast-paced nature of the sleepless desert city life.
“I am originally from the Mid-West and didn’t come to Vegas by choice,” Nicole said while peeking through the rearview mirror. “I naturally love the Black suburbs, and I am looking to relocate to Arizona to find a familiar environment.”
She goes on to discuss the financial limitations that make her want to move out of Las Vegas even faster, as well as the surging tourist culture. Then, Nicole mentions her stay at the Conrad hotel because she sees that is where my dropoff location was set to.
“You are better off walking to the festival grounds from the Conrad,” she warned me. “It is a walk away from the festival set up, and Uber drivers can’t reach your hotel during this weekend because of certain streets being blocked off from being pick-up destinations.”
I booked my stay at the newest hotel away from the Las Vegas strip, the Conrad Hotel at Resorts World. I didn’t know how close the hotel was to the Las Vegas Festival Grounds on Sahara Avenue.
When I entered the space, I saw Black art on the walls, and these symbols reminded me of how thrilled I was to see Black artists performing their art in real-time. The 3-day festival was in full effect at this point, with the grand hotel lobby being full of concert-goers and hotel guests waiting to get their hotel keys to secure their booked rooms.
I rushed into Day N Vegas to catch the last minutes of Isaiah Rashad‘s performance. He is a prolific American rapper who talks about his complicated existence of being a struggling Black man in the US. When he raps about racial struggles, he talks directly towards infrastructures in society that hinder the Black community such as police brutality, poverty, and addiction. The mixture of hip hop and R&B music that played at all 3 stages in the festival’s vicinity created this vibrant community of dance and Black celebration.
The following day, I grabbed breakfast at the Conrad’s newest restaurant, Wally’s. This fine-dining eatery is stocked with wine and hearty starters that will surely energize you for another day dancing away to Black music. I scarfed down a much-needed steak & eggs meal and was ready to see Kendrick Lamar, who rarely performs live. He was headlining the second day of the festival, and after I watched his musical performance, I left inspired.
Kendrick Lamar’s nearly two-hour set featured Black ballet dancers, contemporary artists, and kids who all were woven into his animated rap ballads. Most background and forefront performers’ faces were covered in tribal white paint. This African-inspired traditional art form has been practiced for centuries as a way to distinguish tribes of cultural status and spiritually connect Africans to their ancestors. The visual storytelling of the lyricist’s performance highlighted Lamar as a leader of consciousness who uses musically-driven rhetoric about racism, Black unity, and his own upbringing.
On day 3 of my weekend in Las Vegas, I enjoyed the Black-owned market orchestrated by Black-owned platform, EatOkra. The creators and New York couple, Anthony and Janique Edwards, launched the digital directory together and now have partnered with major brands and festivals like Day N Vegas. Food selections at the music festival included local Black vendors such as Soul Food Café, Philly Freeze, Fry Days Fish And Wings, DoMazing, and more.
The hundreds of Black travelers who came to Las Vegas this weekend to live out their Black luxurious getaways were also inspiring. To see Black art, music, and food bring so many people together and be reminded of my honorable culture throughout my Vegas excursion is rare at times but was certainly refreshing.
I have never seen Las Vegas as a place for me to reflect in the past, but this time was a little different, and I chose to celebrate all of me.