People gather for fun, entertainment at African Street Festival

Art on display at African Street Festival photo: Darren B. Rankins

Art on display at African Street Festival
photo: Darren B. Rankins

Thousands of people from the mid-state gathered at a neighborhood park for a day of fun, arts and crafts, and a celebration of culture and history along with musical entertainment on September 18-21.

The annual African Street Festival, held at Hadley Park in Nashville with the theme ‘Sung and Unsung Sheroes: The Black Woman,’ celebrated the contributions of African American women. The festival featured artwork from international and national artists, and also featured music ranging from Reggae, Haitian, Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, and Gospel along with Spoken Word poetry.

One of the Spoken Word artists, Alicia Marshall, recited a poem called ‘Respect’ dealt with women being disrespected over the years by men, children, and the community and finding ways to get back their self-esteem. Marshall said she was influenced by her interaction with women while working for the Metro Nashville Development and Housing. She said the poem allowed her to connect with the women who live in Nashville public housing.

“They see that it doesn’t only happen in public housing. It’s not based on income or where you live,” said Marshall. “It happens to all of us at some point in time and it was actually positive for them because they are not alone.”

The opening day of the festival started off with an invocation followed by a world music block party and other types of African dance such as Chakaba Stilt dancing. It concluded with a performance by the Reggae music group Cobalt Blue and Haitian music artist Jo’shua Odine. Olugbola Gubasabi, a festival worker, said that the festival turned out to be successful due to bringing in new things and music, such as a ‘spelling bee’ where children learned how to spell African words. There was also a teen pavilion, which included a poetry slam, yoga, and dancing. Gubasabi also said there was more Reggae music this year than last year because of the international musical performances by bands from countries such as Jamaica.

Gubasabi said the street festival, in addition to the music, had a women’s panel where women came together and discussed issues affecting women and ways to improve the community. There was also a men’s panel where men came together and discussed issues affecting men. She also said that people who attended the street festival panels can learn how the Black family is formed and how they can communicate with each other.

“One is the bond between brotherhood and sisterhood, which is important because that’s our foundation for the Black family. We often don’t know how to communicate with one another,” said Gubasabi.

Jeneene Blackman, spokesperson for the African American Cultural Alliance, said the response from people who attended the festival was very encouraging. She said that the 2015 festival had more vendors and participation from local organizations and schools such as Fisk University.

Blackman said the festival’s success is due to advertising on social media along with help from schools such as Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University. Blackman said that preparing for the street festival each year is a long process.

“We end one year and start planning for the next year and people are so excited about it that we don’t have any trouble getting people to come and help support it,” said Blackman.

Blackman said the music performed at the street festival is always diverse. She said the musical talent was so diverse it was difficult to decide who would perform at the festival and the length of time they would have. She said that the response was overwhelming.