As summer approaches, thousands of people in Black Greek-letter organizations will travel nationwide to participate in annual Greek picnics. This year, one will be hosted in Charlotte.
Carolina’s Greek Picnic, scheduled for May 26-28, will consist of several parties and events surrounding the picnic held at Johnson C. Smith University that Saturday. There will also be a stroll-off held at school for a cash prize of $1,000.
Cities like Atlanta, Nashville, Tenn., Philadelphia and Houston have hosted Greek picnics in recent years, but local organizers have decided to bring an annual Divine 9 event to Queen City.
“I felt like we needed something to take pride in and have for ourselves and not have to travel to all these other Greek picnics when we have something right at home,” co-organizer Jonah Gilyard Jr. told QCity Metro.
Why It Matters: North Carolina and South Carolina have the most HBCUs of any state but did not previously have a Greek picnic. There are more than twenty HBCUs between North and South Carolina. And according to the United Negro College Fund, North Carolina educates more Black students than any other state.
Gilyard, 25, is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi. He said he has participated in Atlanta Greek Picnic since he joined the organization at South Carolina State University in the spring of 2020.
He said he thought of the idea of creating a picnic for the Carolinas in 2021 and shared the idea with his fraternity brother Mustafia Love and his friend Emmanuel Fields, a college DJ and member of Omega Psi Phi.
The trio planned the event and has been saving money in preparation for its debut this year.
They have formed a committee with Greeks across Virginia and North Carolina and South Carolina.
So far, they’ve sold over 750 tickets for the weekend, Gilyard said.
Gilyard said he doesn’t want to compete with the other Greek Picnics but instead wanted to create a new experience in the Carolinas.
In a Q&A with QCity Metro, Gilyard discussed his goals for the event and what attendees should expect that weekend.
Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity
Why did you choose Charlotte?
Charlotte is right at the state line of North Carolina and South Carolina. It’s easy to access for people to come from Florida, Georgia and Virginia. It was the perfect central location.
How do you plan to compete with other Greek Picnics that have already established themselves?
If anything, AGP is an example of what to do right when it comes to organizing events and bringing a crowd together. I want Carolina’s Greek Picnic to be its own entity for people to have their own experience.
We don’t want to try and jump the gun and outshine anyone else, but be the event that kicks off the summer ahead of the other Greek Picnic events.
There are Greek Picnics across the country. How will Carolina’s Greek Picnic differ from the others?
It’s right after probate season, so [new members] are looking for something to do. It is also during Memorial Day Weekend.
I’m a party promoter, and Emmanuel is a DJ, so we are taking our knowledge about our experience from other college events to make it a good experience not just for Greeks but non–D9 members to have a good time as well.
What is going to happen throughout the weekend?
Outside of the picnic, we [have] a number of events going on. There is something for everybody, no matter the age. We have a big party Friday night to kick off the weekend. The capacity is 25,000, so we are expecting it to be a good turnout.
We have [rapper] K-Camp performing live at the picnic. There will be three after-parties following the picnic. Sunday, there will be a day party and night party, but also a community service project that morning.
At the picnic, will there be food available?
Yes, we will have a number of vendors and food trucks available during the picnic.
Why K-Camp? Will there be any other special guest appearances?
It was a decision made by the team. We know the ladies love K-Camp, so we decided to book him. We do have other special guests, but they will be announced in the weeks leading up to the weekend.
Why was it important to include Sunday’s community service event in the schedule?
It was very important as community service is one thing that all organizations have in common. The weekend isn’t just about socializing but [it’s also about] leaving a positive impact on the Charlotte community.
We are going to provide food for people to bag up and donate to homeless people across Charlotte.
We will also do a campus clean-up at Johnson C. Smith University to show our appreciation for the school allowing us to use their campus.
How have you been marketing and what can people do to support you leading up to the event?
We’ve just focused on pubbing our event through social media. We plan to get some radio advertisements soon. People can support through a simple repost and tell a friend to tell a friend. That’s all we ask for.
For more information and update, follow the event’s Instagram page.