Cultural Development


2013 Festival Flyer - May 31 - June 1, 2013 - Click Here

The RMECDC annually entertains the community with a cultural celebration known as the Harambee Festival and Thelonious Monk Evening of Jazz Concert. The event brings families, friends, and communities together for a celebration of cultural and arts. The Harambee has been going on for 20 years. The Harambee Festival consist of culturally-mixed activities including musical performances by local and national gospel artists, rhythm and blues, African dance, jazz, food, arts and crafts, rides, and exhibits. Over 100 food and arts and crafts vendors from the east coast attend the Festival annually. The Harambee Festival is a two-day free to the public event.



Thelonious Sphere Monk And Son

Thelonious Sphere Monk was born in the former Red Row area, currently Heritage Park Subdivision in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Heritage Park Subdivision is RMECDC’s first development of single-family housing.

Thelonious S. Monk was one of the most influential figures in the history of Jazz. He was one of the architects of bebop and his impact as a composer and pianist has had a profound influence on every genre of music.

Thelonious S. Monk passed away in 1982. His more than 70 compositions are classics, which continue to inspire artists in all forms of music. In his lifetime, he received numerous awards and continues to be honored posthumously. The Smithsonian Institution has immortalized his work with an archive of his music. The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz was founded to honor Monk by preserving the music he loved most. Monk’s integrity, originality and unique approach will be remembered as a pinnacle in the history of music.

Thelonious Monk III, son of the notorious Thelonious S. Monk, is creating his own musical legacy out of his famous father. For more than two decades of recording his own music, Monk who plays drums, has grown into an artist.

Thelonious Monk III has performed at the Harambee Festival Jazz Concert
for the past several years. Due to RMECDC reserving the heritage of
Thelonious Sphere Monk’s legacy, in 2002 the City of Rocky Mount
dedicated a park located near the birthplace of Thelonious Sphere Monk.


South Washington Street Revitalization Project
Harambee Square Public Arts

The Rocky Mount/Edgecombe Community Development Corporation’s Harambe Square project consists of 3 components: housing for the elderly, human resource development, and public arts.

In 1992, the Rocky Mount/Edgecombe Community Development Corporation, Artists James Biggers, Kwabena Ampofo-Ant, Thomas Sayre, Carle Robinson (now deceased), and architect Steve Schuster created the South Washington Street Revitalization Project – Harambee Square Arts Master Plan. The Arts Master Plan has the unique opportunity to insure that the meaning of the overall South Washington Street Revitalization Project – Harambee Square is told: that its meaning is sufficiently investigated, expressed, recorded, magnified, and celebrated. The Masters Arts Plan compliments Harambee Square’s development in a Visual Art Gallery and three pieces of artwork:

Thelonious Sphere Monk’s Wall Mural
Monk’s Corner

The public arts facility displays a highly visible wall mural on the north side of the public arts building. The work of art consists of a theme honoring legendary jazz musician Thelonious Sphere Monk.

Thelonious Monk’s idiosyncratic jazz style provides the richest metaphor of ambiguity available to the project’s public art component. Imagery based on depicting water (river), track, and piano keyboard sequence, which is identified by the artists Carle Robinson (now deceased) and James Biggers as a “Tri-unison pathway”. These three “pathways” do run parallel along each other to form a united theme yet each one retains its own purpose and identity while winding through life’s causeways towards unknown destinations. The theme reflects on Monk’s journey as well as on us all. The artwork begins in the courtyard, encompassing the entire courtyard (except concrete and foliage), running the length of the courtyard to the wall and continuing on the wall appearing as continuous pathway, which traverse up the wall into infinity. As the pathway “enters” onto the wall, it appears to break through brick wall barriers that attempted to impede its progress, and continues on.

The installation of the wall mural is the first piece of public art work on the Edgecombe County side of Rocky Mount and in the predominantly black neighborhood of Rocky Mount.

The Pylon

The Pylon marks the northern terminus of Harambee Square. It grows out of the swirling river sandblasted in the concrete paving which, in turn flows out of the cultural richness depicted on the north wall formerly called “Monk’s Wall”.

The Pylon was built from the twisting of vertical steel beams, which are artifacts of the 1994 fire that destroyed much of the new construction to date of Harambee

Square, and came close to destroying the entire project. Ironically, out of the violence of that fire came gratefully twisted beams that bound together and vertically installed, form the strength of the current-resisting Pylon.

Visible as a beacon to traffic coming from the north, the Pylon represents redressing historical divide begun at the time of the civil war, the bridging back across the Tar River, and weaving together of community armed with the rich tradition of cultural strength from the African-American community.

The Banner System

Artist Kwabena Ampofo-Anti designed and executed four attractive colorful banners made of painted galvanized steel, approximately 4’x 4’ in dimension. The exterior artwork is positioned to the sides of the already existing Harambee Square sign. The design utilized a number of African (Akan) Adrindra motifs/symbols that illustrates further “The Story of Rocky Mount”. The Adinkra symbols is used for the design are Gye Nyame (Power if God or the Omnipotence of God), Funtumirekku Denkyemireku (Unity in diversity or democracy), Sankofa (Cherish you past or learn from the past to build for the future), and Birbi Wosoro (Hope and Inspiration). The artistic transformation of the philosophical graphic symbols is the basis for the banner system.


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