AFRICAN CULTURE FEST Event aims to enrich, enlighten, empower
People can still sign up for booths, flags and spots in the festival's parade.
By AMBER HYLAND
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Rev. Sylvia Jennings gladly accepted a failing grade in history after debating with her teacher about Columbus discovering America.
"How can someone knock on my door and then tell me they 'discovered' my home?" asked the Rev. Ms. Jennings, president and founder of the Marcus Garvey Empowerment and Enrichment Association, an association named after Garvey, who founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association. He worked for several publications and gave speeches about racial equality across the world.
The association "aims to implement the tools that Garvey gave to people," Jennings said.
The history books might have distorted the founding of the Americas, but now the Ms. Jennings focuses on the facts that are often left out: the history and culture of African people.
Although she accepted a failing grade in high school, she won't accept people's failure to learn from African heritage.
Learning about heritage
"The Africans had their heritage taken away from them. All throughout history they were not allowed to practice their religions or keep their names and languages," Jennings said.
"Jewish people can speak a prayer in their language, or they have their name. Hispanic children are bilingual by the age of 21/2. Everyone who came here on their own free will has held on to their culture, but we did not come here on our own free wills. And we were stripped of our heritage."
To enlighten the community about African cultures, the Marcus Garvey Empowerment and Enrichment Association and the Youngstown State University Africana Studies Program, in conjunction with The Buckeye Review, will host the second annual African Culture Fest from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 20 at the Mill Creek Community Center, 496 Glenwood Ave.
The event will feature a parade from 9 to 10 a.m. at Hillman and Dewey avenues, and speakers, youth presentations, music, African dancing and drumming, vendors and cultural information throughout the rest of the day.
This year's theme is "Preserving Our Youth for Challenges of the Future."
"With things as they are across the country, not just in Youngstown, young black men are being murdered by the hundreds daily. In order to persevere, we have to instruct and empower them, and give them the tools they need so they can use their given talents to be productive and successful," Jennings said, stressing that success is not measured in terms of wealth but by the ways in which people use their talents.
"It seems funny that we have everything around us. We have the ability to send people to another universe, yet we can't change what's going on our street corners," she added.
To remember the young men who have been murdered in the area, she said the association is encouraging everyone to buy a Pan African flag. These can be placed on cars, on porches or in yards. Flags will also be placed at memorial sites for the victims.
In addition to educating youths through the festival, the association is working on getting nonprofit status. This would enable the association to teach African languages, dances and cultures to younger children and troubled youths.
The association operates on funds from members and donations.
"We're looking for community support, not just African support," Jennings said, adding that people who came to last year's festival were from many backgrounds.
Those interested in setting up a booth at the event can contact Laverne Muhammad at (330) 480-9444 or (330) 747-8833. Each booth costs $25 and can be any number of tables that can fit under one canopy or tent. If the booth is uncovered, three tables can be set up in a U-shape.
Pan African flags can be bought by contacting Holistic Healing, 260 Tod Lane, (330) 747-9323; going to the Unity Building on McGuffey Road; or calling Caple Breedlove, (330) 747-5676.
For more information about participating in the parade, contact Breedlove.