When you think of homeownership, in most cases, a community block party isn’t the first thing one thinks of, but for one Charlotte native both have an important purpose for coming together.
When Winston Robinson found himself taking on the role of president for the Lockwood area, a predominately Black community, it soon came with an unexpected awakening. After he purchased a home there with his wife, he says, “I went to this neighborhood meeting, and I left as the president of the neighborhood organization. Black elders have a way of filling you with false confidence that will make you feel capable of doing anything, and that is exactly how I got trapped into doing this thing.” Laughing, he continues, “They made me feel so smart, strong and special and when I accepted the job, I quickly realized that this is a tough task. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life.”
Working to make a difference for individuals and families living in the community as well as those looking to one day own there, it would be fun times from his bachelor days with his buddies that would inspire this new chapter in his life and also the same great memories for others as he prepares to host Charlotte’s hottest block party, A Vibe Outside on July 15.
The five-hour event aims to bridge the homeownership gap in the Black community by providing important trajectory resources, information and connections while celebrating Black excellence through various art forms.
The Bachelor Days
The story of how A Vibe Outside came to be is just as fun as the event itself. “I’ve always had a fun reputation, and I’ve always known how to throw a good party. And I graduated college in 2004. Why that matters is, that was the cusp of the world changing. The was the last innocent part of the world before we were inundated with social media,” the Winston-Salem University alum shares.
Back then, it was about working and kicking it with his friends as they didn’t have “real” responsibilities but to take care of themselves. Together they decided to celebrate the end a great summer with a cookout. Looking back, he shares. “Now back then in 2004, if you wanted to meet girls, you actually had to talk to girls or women, I should say. There was no sliding in the DMs or things that could remove you from the awkwardness of the situation. We had this plan; we’ll meet girls, we’ll have this cookout and have a good time. Well, that cookout was very successful.”
The following year, they did it again. Success. So the next year and the years after that, they kept it going until Robinson got a call out of the blue in 2015 from a county official who he does not know how he got his mobile number. “They said if you ever throw this event again, we will ban you from the parks and recs facilities for your life.” Stunned and a little shaken, he says, “So I gave it up without a fight. Chopping it up to being Black in America. The man shutting us down. There were never any issues, never any problems, [it was] very HBCU-centric.”
Years later, he learned that the popularity of the annual events was causing unintentional issues around the park they held it at (Sugar Creek Park) with blocked entrances, traffic build-ups, and unauthorized parking on private property as word got out that this was the cookout to be at. “I understood much later,” he says.
By this time, the bachelor days were far behind Robinson and some of his friends, marking the end of an era. So he thought.
The Road to Homeownership
A married man now growing a family and representing the community of Lockwood, Robinson knew from his own experience growing up as a Black man in Charlotte that he was in a position where he could really make a difference now that all eyes were on him.
“This led me to reading two books that literally shifted the course of my life,” he says. One was “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Tackling racism through the standpoint of inequitable housing policies, the information it armed Robinson with was life changing.
“My entire life made sense. My parents’ lives made sense…Everything made sense and it made me realize I am not a product of my own decisions, rather systemic engineering. When you are Black, you can kind of get tough on yourself, but this is just a response to the systemic conditions that we were placed under,” he says.
Informing and helping people move closer to owning a home was now an important part of his work and existence. He began organizing events and workshops, collaborating with various organizations throughout the city, one of which was Camp Creek End, the revitalized industrial area now housing businesses, events and more.
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In 2021, when Robinson shared bits from his cookout days, facilitators offered the space for free to recreate such a joyful time without hesitation. “A lightbulb went off in my head, and I got the whole gang back together. I said, ‘Hey we can bring the cookout back. I want it to feel the same way, heavy bass music, the same free cookout plates, but this time since I am neighborhood president and I have a few resources on tap, I want to have an intention to broadcast messages of the importance of homeownership.”
As a passionate man who knows how to bring people together, the cookout gang was back and that year, the event was a success. And 2022 was another success, and with the goal to touch as many lives with these important messages, this year’s event is slated to be the biggest and most impactful yet.
We Outside at A Vibe Outside
A Vibe Outside will take place from 3 – 8 pm and is the city’s hottest outdoor block party of the year, offering free activities for the entire family. “We are authentically Black and we are loud about who we are and the programming we have and the activities we have within the programming nurtures and nourishes the idea of a good Black space,” shares Robinson.
With more than 30 community organizations on deck, plus enjoyable activities for all ages and an opportunity to taste and indulge in dishes by some of Charlotte’s top culinary talent, it’s sure to be a come when it opens and stay all day kind of day.
With food being a creative outlet for so many culinarians, the curated food experiences fit right in with this year’s theme, Art Out Loud.”
The marketing professional says, “The food portion of this festival is so intentional. I wanted to showcase Black culinary talent in the city. We have Johnson & Wales here, and it has produced so many Black culinarians in the space, I wanted them to have an opportunity to step out of the kitchens of white-led and white-centric restaurants and do their own thing and create something they wanted to for a community of people that reflect who they are as well.”
With so much goodness in store, be sure to pace yourself as you walk around gathering homeownership information and participate in activities that only Robinson and his crew could think of that celebrate and appreciate Black people and culture.
So you think you can sing? Sign up for Gas Money Karaoke, where you’ll have a chance to sing with a live band. Yes, a live band and if the crowd agrees, you’ll walk away with some coins for that tank.
Bring your skates or enjoy the complimentary rental and rink provided by Screamin’ Wheels and Blades, a Black-owned mobile roller rink. But most importantly, brush up on your skills for the Battle for Sweetness skating contest, inspired by the movie ”Roll Bounce.” Putting all chatter to rest, Robinson says, “It’s time to crown the Sweetness of Charlotte.”
Get a chance to keep your Black card by playing the trivia game I Know Black Folks. Go back to your childhood as women from the 40+ Double Dutch Club, a national organization, will be there, so be sure to come actively dressed to impress with your skills.
Heart of the Paint brings the whole sip and paint phenomenon to the event (sans the alcohol) with a Black-centric drawing created as attendees listen to music.
The Westside Hula Hoop contest will be something the entire family can do together. Canvas Collision will offer an excellent creative outlet for digital artists. This event highlight gives artists 20 minutes to create their interpretation of musical artists from North and South Carolina as a DJ plays their songs.
A block party is not a party without dancing, especially line dancing. Another debate that Robinson hopes to put to rest is which team of individuals does the Tamia Shuffle the best. If that is you and our crew, be sure to sign up.
Finally, after you’ve talked, eaten, jumped, painted and skated, sit back and enjoy a free Frank Ocean tribute concert for an artist that Robinson says “will never come to Charlotte,” arranged by Harvey Cummings.
“I know a lot of Black people who are encouraged to marginalize their creativity, ‘It’s not a real job, or it’s just this thing you do,’ so you suppress it, you grow up suppressing it and that hinders and stifles the way you navigate life. Creativity is important,” says Robinson.
Indeed A Vibe Outside is about nourishing the creativity in us to live the life we want, whether through a career, pastime hobby or even homeownership.
Make plans to pull us this yea’s A Vibe Outside, held at 1600 W. Trade Street in Charlotte on Saturday, July 15, from 3 – 8 pm. Can’t make it this year, follow the event on Instagram to be the first to know about 2024 happenings.