Nashville was privy to celebrate the 40th African Street Festival taking place September 16-18 at Hadley Park. This celebratory and joyous event was well attended and praised by all those committed to learning and exploring more about our African American culture and heritage.
Mother nature graced us with beautiful weather and the camaraderie that Nashvillians share was abundant. Participants were inundated with exceptional entertainment, good food, and an array of African art, clothing, and products. The event was an entertaining, uplifting, and informative experience for those interested in learning more about African American history, culture, and traditions.
There was no shortage of vendors, especially Black entrepreneurs displaying and selling their wares. There were vendors from many states who have participated in the festival for many years, eagerly expressing that they were looking forward to coming back next year.
Big selling items included African attire, African art, jewelry, soaps and oils, etc. But judging from those in the food lines, some would argue that the food alone was worth the journey to the festival. There was a large array of Caribbean, African and soul food, including: fried fish, shrimp, jerk chicken, jumbo chicken wings, Polish sausage, ox tails, and curry goat just to name a few.
Informational booths addressing Black health in our communities as well as community self help organizations were also present. In fact, COVID-19 vaccine shots and boosters were available. Empowering the Black community was definitely emphasized.
Many people found it more than welcoming and rewarding, to have their children exposed to African culture—a culture not taught and explored in so many of our public institutions of learning. It was extraordinary how so many young people effortlessly embraced their culture through the drums and dance. There was no shortage of performers of all ages.
The festival highlighted the history, culture, resilience, and beauty of a proud and spiritual people. Entertainment took the form of dance, music, and spoken word. It was, frankly, phenomenal. Many viewers attested to feeling the presence of our ancestors during many of the performances.
A special shout out to Charniece Ralonda who hosted the entertainment, and kudos to the drummers who united us with the ancestors and schooled a younger generation in carrying on our African culture. The energy and excitement generated by the young children participating was contagious and inspiring.
Black (as well as non-Black participants) received a greater appreciation of African Americans and what they bring to the table. This is very important when we live in a society that too often promotes Eurocentric assimilation over diversity. The festival helped to break racial barriers, thus uniting us as Americans who respect different cultures.
I can only say, if you missed the festival this year, you did yourself an injustice. You should make it a priority to go next year. In fact, bring a friend and embrace the experience of African American culture.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge Kwame Lillard (may he rest in heaven) as one of the original founders of this event. Also, a special thanks go to the African American Culture Alliance (Jeneene Blackman, CEO and event chair) for making this event possible this year.