On St. Patrick’s Day, a swath of culture was on display as people from all ages rolled out their picnic blankets and lawn chairs to witness history.
“Dia Days” played on for two hours at Bo Diddley Plaza on March 17. Dion Dia, a Gainesville-based record label, hosted the event featuring live performances by Florida artists and an eclectic fashion show; as well as a culmination of art and expression.
About 100 people attended “Dia Days,” providing an electrifying audience for the artists. Waves of people danced and cheered on Dion Dia-signed artists like Israel Jones, FARO and Rakhu. At center stage, a live studio session was displayed among Dion Dia signees in the comfortable setting of a living room. The artists were playwrights in a musical revolving around the music-making process.
On both sides of the play were displays of great artistry — sculpting, hair braiding, live painting, clothing design and tufting a rug in the design of Dion Dia’s trademark visage to name a few.
The founders of Dion Dia — Khary Khalfani, Jahi Khalfani and Laila Fakhoury — curated the event to showcase a melting pot of artistry through different mediums. Revisiting the first “Dia Days” venture in 2021 that relocated to Samurai Skateshop due to rain, Fakhoury wanted to push the limits and use a musical play as a template to build a world of artistry around it.
“It was really important to us to include as many people as possible,” Fakhoury said. “We wanted to have more of a lure and more of a reason for people to come.”
As part of the city’s initiative “Live and Local” Concert Series spearheaded by MusicGnv, Brandon Telg, the co-founder and board member of MusicGnv, recruited Fakhoury to curate a show. In talks since August 2021, Fakhoury, also a board member of MusicGnv, took the initiative head on.
“We’re looking to try to alter live music and how it’s presented and how live music experiences can be,” Jahi said. “That’s the core of ‘Dia Days’.”
Halfway through the event, a fashion show displaying the culmination of popular wears from across the decades poured through each walkway located on 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 vibrant-colored ski masks, 60s-era fringe suede leather jackets, exotic Nike original swoosh colors and revamped streetwear with collage-like patterning.
“It’s such a healing, soul-soothing moment,” they said.
As one of the first models to walk the How Bazar grand opening fashion show, Webb was happy to be a part of this auspicious showing of culture and art.
Among the designers and creative minds behind the fashion show was head stylist Jordie Ortiz, a 22-year-old artist.
“It was just amazing to see everything come to life,” Ortiz said.
About two years ago, Ortiz’s drive for curating fashion led him to the opportunity to be part of Dion Dia’s community outreach efforts. Inspired by the other creatives at Dion Dia, Ortiz plans to push boundaries and set the stage for people that feel marginalized through his work.
Though Jordie battles with the qualms of mental illness, he aims to inspire more people to embrace their insecurities.
“It makes you unique; it’s God given,” Ortiz said.
Among those in the crowd admiring the musical and fashion show was Kristen McDaniel, the 49-year-old granddaughter of the late Bo Diddley, the namesake of the plaza. McDaniel respected the tenacity of the models, who she thought served the fashion show well.
“Tyra Banks would’ve been proud of the way they walked that,” Kristen said.
As someone who was immersed in the world of the arts due to her grandfather’s legacy as one of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll, McDaniel had great admiration for the musical artists showing off their craft.
The creator of the inescapable signature “Bo Diddley Beat” found in countless rock and pop songs throughout the years, Ellas McDaniel, better known as Bo Diddley, knew how to put on a spectacle. The strumming of his guitar and the rawness of his artistry ushered in thousands of people from all walks of life every time he performed.
Renamed the Bo Diddley Community Plaza in 2009, the outdoor stage was built on the foundation of community outreach and freedom of expression; all things that Bo Diddley strongly believed in.
“He loved to take care of children; he loved to take care of people in need,” McDaniel said. “That was the type of person he was.”
After Bo Diddley’s son, Ellas Anthony McDaniel was arrested in 2011 at the plaza for occupying the space in support of a protest, the idea of freedom of speech served as a backdrop of “Dia Days” for McDaniel.
“I want to bring our brown and Aboriginal children to the knowledge of Bo Diddley so they can understand that everything that they’re listening to comes from his beat,” McDaniel said.
Contact Dazion at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DazionProsser