After humoring my interest in all of the handmade jewelry, dresses, and artwork, my heart was too tickled by the youth dancers from Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative that took the stage in Bronson Park. They had a younger and older group with separate routines that were thoughtfully put together.
This year’s Black Arts Festival (BAF) was full of excitement. The event started with a casual welcome of people perusing the vendors and their merchandise. There were some pretty good R&B selections playing that got us in the mood for the start of entertainment. It honestly was just a chill, semi-sunny day in Kalamazoo that was made even brighter by the FLASH MOB STEP TEAM from the Douglas Center in Kalamazoo. Shortly after an exciting African stilt dance, we witnessed an African fashion show. Models from countries like Tanzania and Nigeria showed off their casual and impressive outfits that gave us a glimpse of different fashions in African countries.
As the day passed, Wrinkle was able to get some awesome photos of the beautiful people that came out for the event and shook a tail feather to the wobble a couple of times.
Personally, I was excited to see a community festival flourish like this. Jamaican music and local TALENTED R&B artists were so refreshing to see on stage representing themselves! Looking back, I can hear the happy laughter and cheers from the kids playing in the fountain area, smell the sweet almond of the shea butter and the soft breeze keeping the temperature just right, while the relaxing rendition of “If Love is So Nice” by Junior Kelly plays in the background.
Boy will I tell you! I have seen a few Black Arts Festivals in my day. Every year it is different and has a different vibe. One of the best aspects of the Black Arts Festival is MUSIC - this year in particular, every single performance was on point and very impressive; a diverse spectrum of talent from whimsical indie pop r&b to the true essence of philosophical hip hop was obviously thoughtfully selected. The music gives both younger and older generations a chance to represent themselves. The BAF every year has always been phenomenal at blending the generational interests in both music and events. This is particularly important to me because the merging of generations is a vital part of preserving the respect for our elders and their wisdom while also encouraging and guiding the energy of our youth so that they can live great lives!
The best part of these festivals in particular, other than the music, are the vendors because usually they are locally owned businesses that are run by people I know, and I love buying things, especially from people/businesses I know! In the past, I have experienced the minor letdown of several “nomadic” vendors who sold shea butter or those sunglasses that are two-for-ten if you ask nicely, who just did not have time to come out for the festival the following year.
And I know what you are thinking: Why don’t I just go to the store and get the things I am looking for at the festival?
Well, my answer to you is this:
Finding a treasure
Is to look in a rare place
Sometimes that is time
Luckily, it was the community of Kalamazoo that actually caught me on the rebound when things like that happened. This year was particularly special in my eyes because friends and family I grew up knowing had a Jamaican band perform (and I have only seen them perform at the Island fest). I also felt that the emphasis on poetry as an introduction the the BLACK ARTS festival was very metaphorical and deeply impacted the audience.
You all know how The Samarai gets when she goes to her home town: nothing but love and excitement!