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Date posted7/16/02:

by Kim Campbell
photos by Shadai Payne


If ever there was a doubt in someone's mind as to how profound, exciting, and diverse black culture is in N.Y.C., then they have never been to the annual International African Arts Festival. It is at this festival where the beauty of blackness is displayed through display shops, dance, visual arts and so much more. When I arrived at Boys and Girls High School, the first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful array of colored clothing that surrounded me. Deep purples and royal blues trimmed in gold. Symmetric patterns of black and green against bold yellows and bright oranges. The African clothing was simply lovely. It immediately forced me to reflect on the history of my ancestors, strong brilliant Africans.

The African art was just as impressive. Beautiful wooden facemasks and statues of animals adorned several tents. These admirable pieces of art were complemented by paintings which portray powerful African-American figures in history. These pieces showed how black culture is enriched with the gifts and beauty of visual arts. These art pieces however are not the limit as to how creative the people who contributed to the festival were. I was delighted by several performances from the Marie Brooks Pan-Caribbean Dance Company. This company consists of thirteen beautifully diverse women who represent countries such as Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Ghana and Jamaica. These girls' passionate dances were complimented by their vibrant personalities and positive attitudes. This company, which is directed and organized by Marie Brooks, truly understands the significance and power of dance. As one dancer put it, "in order to be a true dancer one must be physically and spiritually intertwined". The dancers of the Marie Brooks' company believe that dancing involves much more than the use of someone's body but also utilizes a person's mind and spirit. One particular piece called Hope depicted the struggle of slaves coming on the boat to America. The dancers' facial expressions, exaggerated movements of the body and the rhythmic music, my mind is immediately transported to the painful days of slavery. Through dance these girls hope to make changes in their community, the communities of others, and possibly the world. When exposed to a group of remarkably insightful and powerful women such as these, one can only stare in awe.

Don't think for a moment that this festival was all fun and games. There were several organizations who were there to present several important social issues. Al-Awda is an organization dedicated to supporting the rights of Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestine conflict. This is NOT an anti Semitic group since the representative of the group Anne Rettenburg is Jewish. Al-Awda feels that that U.S puts a skewed view on the conflict in the Middle East which makes Palestine look like the enemy, Al Awda wants to educate the public on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a Palestinian perspective. I also met Roger Wareham, a man who is recruiting people for a National Rally to demand reparations at Washington D.C. He feels that African Americans were never paid for the centuries of pain and abuse that this country gave them. Not only that, but he pointed out that several other groups were given reparations such as Native Americans, Japanese Americans and Jewish Holocaust victims.

There were also representatives from the popular non-profit organization called Truth.com. Their purpose is to discourage people from smoking cigarettes by letting them know all the negative repercussions and long term effects of smoking. I even got a glimpse of an international magazine called Diaspora.This is a magazine that has plenty of information on issues concerning blacks globally. This event was more than just a festival. It was a place where blacks demonstrated that they were creative, smart, beautiful, and powerful people. I strongly advise people of all colors, nationalities and religions to explore black culture by going to the annual International African Arts Festival.


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