10th Annual Afrikan American Fest

Rae-L Sealy, bass player for the Judah Sealy Band performs at the 10th annual Afrikan American Festival. Credit: Monet Collins

Rae-L Sealy, bass player for the Judah Sealy Band performs at the 10th annual Afrikan American Festival. Credit: Criscienda Ownens

The tenth annual Afrikan American Festival was held this weekend. The family-oriented event, hosted by the ABOVE (Achieving and Bringing Our Vision to Excellence) Organization aims to promote education, unity, self-esteem and pride.

“I wanted to give the community something to celebrate us,” stated Sonya Kittles President and CEO of the event. This year marked the 10th Anniversary of the event and the theme was “We Are ONE!” The health tents theme for the year was “Taking Care of our Health” – focusing on all aspects of health-related issues in the African American Community, which is a part of their Healthy Community Project.

The year’s event was held at Highland Bowl Park and featured live music, healthy food and snacks, as well activities to promote physical activity among many other things. Mercedees Boutte Owner of BMercedees Wigs was an event volunteer that was there helping her aunt set up the VIP section of the festival. She was happy to help out and be on board for the festival and said,“I came out to the festival because I wanted to support a local festival with a great cause. Especially bringing African American brothers and sisters together in fellowship. I also came for the live music, when I tell you I enjoyed the music so much. I was able to hear my gospel music and praise the Lord, and then some jazz music to relax to. The fest was essential for me, knowing there was an event embracing my culture, I knew I had to be there to support and I am so glad I did. I definitely had a great time.”

One of the Jazz groups that performed at the festival was the Judah Sealy Band. They are a returning participant and played at the festival five years ago. I got the chance to speak with the groups bass player Rae-L Sealy who said:

“It was cool to come back and celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Afrikan American Fest. It’s important to celebrate our culture and to see the city come together in a positive way with music, dance and local vendors. It’s something I was glad to be a part of!”

This year was the first year that the event was held for two days and charged an admission fee.

“The event is not only to celebrate and educate our people but also to educate others about our history and culture,” said Kittles. “Once you have an understanding it makes a difference in the treatment of our people and is beneficial to the community as a whole. It is also a platform for local artists to showcase their talent.”

One concern that a lot of people did mention and that she wanted to address is the $5 entry. This year’s event was larger than before, being held for 2 days and for nine years prior all costs of the festival were paid for out of her pocket. She would like for people to focus on the fact that it was the 10th anniversary and really value the event for what it is.

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