Photo courtesy Afrifest
This weekend, the sixth-annual Afrifest
will host three days of culture, music, and fellowship. Festivities start tonight with a gala at the Ritz featuring art, music, and fashion. Events continue on Saturday and Sunday in Brooklyn Park with soccer, a health and wellness fair, and other happenings.
Afrifest began when a group of community members wanted to create a festival in the spirit of Cedar Fest and Chicago's African Festival of the Arts.
The event's inaugural year was 2007, the same year the 35W bridge collapsed about six blocks from where the festival was to take place. It rained the whole weekend, so the festivities ended up taking place inside the Brian Coyle Communty Center.
Despite those difficulties, the first year drew in over 1,500 people, says board member Nathan White. Since then, crowds have varied from 500 to 1,000 attendees. Originally produced by Nextainment, Afrifest formed its own nonprofit organization in 2009. There have been ups and downs; the headline act canceled the second year, and when they held the festival in the Powderhorn neighborhood, many people couldn't find the event. The last several years it has been held in Brooklyn Park.
This year, Afrifest is expanding back to a three-day festival, with a benefit at Ritz Theatre that include a fashion show, lots of music, food, and more. "After five years of doing things on a low-key basis, just trying to survive, we're trying to get back to the core and roots of what this is supposed to be," White says.
GiGi Bisong from LiveALAStyle
The Festival Gala at the Ritz on Friday night is produced in association with Vanbrabson Gallery, with proceeds going to the American Refugee Committee's programs in Africa. The evening includes a happy hour with food sampling, and a showcase by artists such as Adetomiwa Adekaumbi Gbadebo, Gregory J. Rose, and Rabi Sanfo. The evening will also host a live auction and a cultural dance and fashion show.
Beatrice Adenodi is coordinating the fashion segment, which includes African styles by Dahil Republic of Couture and designer boutique LiveALAStyle. The show will be interspersed with two different bands, and two performances by Voices of Culture, the African drumming and dance troupe run by Kenna Cottman.
Later on, there will be live musical performances. Headlining at the Ritz will be Dubtonic Kru, with other performances by Incognito.
Besides the gala on Friday night, there will be two days of activities in Brooklyn Park, including a soccer tournement, a health and wellness fair, food vendors, and games for kids. The closing takes place on Sunday starting at 10 p.m. with Roc Citi Djs playing African, reggae, hip-hop, and old school hits.
Afrifest Festival Gala
The Ritz Theater
343 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612.436.1129
Saturday and Sunday:
Northview Junior High School
5869 69th Ave. N., Brooklyn Park
Noon to 9 p.m.
Oak City Sports Tavern
2590 Freeway Blvd., Brooklyn Center