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African-American Cultural Arts Festival Brings Community Together

By: Bianca Spinosa Email
By: Bianca Spinosa Email

July 26, 2008

The 19th annual African-American Cultural Arts Festival was held Saturday in Charlottesville.

Vendors from around the world packed Washington Park for the African-American Cultural Arts Festival, and hundreds of people came out to enjoy the sunshine and entertainment. Overall it was a time to celebrate the richness of African-American culture.

Lillie Williams, Co-Chair of the African-American Cultural Arts Festival said, "Like they say: stay young, gifted, and black. Keep care of your family, and keep them close."

Love and family were the focuses of the African-American Cultural Arts Festival.

Kids coming to Charlottesville from as far as Georgia to meet up with grandparents:

"My grandmother is here, and my sister," said L'lori Holland, "And we're having a great time."

Layla Holland, L'lori's little sister said, "It's a lot of fun. We go around, and buy slushees and stuff."

And enjoy the entertainment, like performances by storyteller, Baba Jamal Koram, and the Kuson Ensemble, a group of musicians and dancers from Ghana.

Dozens of vendors from Richmond, Northern Virginia, and Virginia Beach sold sunglasses, body oil, and traditional African garb.

But, organizers say high gas prices means fewer vendors are at the festival than usual. Typically there are at least 32 vendors, but this year there were less.

Anthony Max-Yeboah, a community activist, and chair-person on the committee said, "There are a lot of people, but normally we get more than this. The whole park is usually almost full."

Despite high gas costs, vendors from out of town say gas expenses won't stop them from coming to Charlottesville for the festival next year, for the 20th anniversary.

"No, that wouldn't stop us. Not this year, and not next year. It was definitely worth it," said Ayesha Aniba, a vendor from Richmond.

Organizers say the focus of the festival is on staying strong as a community despite recent violence.

One of the performers scheduled for Saturday had to cancel, because he was attending the funeral of Joshua Magruder, the young man who was shot last week.

"Everybody's a little on edge today," said Williams, "But, you know, we pray, and we pray for his family and just hope that some of this can stop."

Health volunteers from UVA also attended the African-American Cultural Arts Festival, offering free sports physicals, and health screenings.

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the festival, and organizers say they are planning to extend the festival to Sunday, and have gospel in the park.

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