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Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival 2023

Source: Paige Boyd / Paige Boyd

The City of Durham are looking for answers after a major snafu occurred at last Saturday’s Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival.

As you know, Grammy-winning singer Monica was publicized as this year’s headliner, and she was featured in advertisements and previews for the event.

However, the singer shared on social media that she would not be in attendance. In fact… she was never even contacted.

“Unfortunately, they are sharing that I was booked to perform today, which is absolutely untrue and impossible,” she said. “I am about to perform here in Rochester and tomorrow I’ll be in Baltimore.”

She apologized for the confusion, saying she would’ve loved the opportunity. However, simply put, she wasn’t booked.

“I want to personally apologize to anyone attending the Bimbé Festival, assuming I would be there or reading that I would be there,” she said. “I never like to cancel, [but] that’s not what this is.”


Durham Mayor Leonardo Williams told WRAL News on Monday (May 20) that the city is looking into the matter.

“We just wanted to get through the weekend,” he said. “I’ve requested an investigation to find out what actually happened. I’m unsure of that timeline as of right now.”

Durham Parks and Recreation, the agency that organized the festival, issued a statement on Saturday. The agency said that they had been working with a trusted booking agent who gave them the impression since January 19 – and reaffirmed on Feb. 9 – that Monica’s appearance was confirmed and secured.

“We are deeply disappointed with this turn of events and are working fervently to determine how this happened. We sincerely apologize to guests who attend Bimbe and enjoy our festival. Despite this setback, Bimbe will still proceed as planned today, with a lineup filled with exceptionally talented regional performers. We also look forward to honoring two special individuals with the Homegrown Hero award as part of today’s festivities and hope that you will join us in embracing the spirit of Bimbe.”

Indeed, Bimbé did proceed as planned, with several local artists and presentations taking center stage at Rock Quarry Park, supported by the Bull City community.

Mayor Williams said that this was the first time in its 50+ years of existence that a situation like this occurred.

Mayor Pro Tem Mark Anthony Middleton says that the city is still “chasing down the facts.”

“Folks should know, first of all, we’re a city. We’ve got a lot of smart people who work for us,” he said. “We’re not out a bunch of money [and] we’re going to get any money we’ve spent back.”

Mayor Williams is working with city staff to get to the bottom of the situation.

In a statement, Williams said, “Evidently there are two representatives speaking on behalf of Monica. The City of Durham has a contract with her team and the staff are working these matters out.”