The 34th annual Africa in April Cultural Awareness Festival continued Saturday for its third day at Robert R. Church Park in Downtown Memphis. Day 3 focused on the theme of health, wellness and community.
After being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa in April returned in August for another celebration of the African diaspora in Memphis.
This year’s festival features the United Republic of Botswana as the honored country. The festival explored different themes through various media as they relate to Botswana. Themes include education, economics, culture, fashions, arts/crafts, music, history and cuisines.
Although Botswana was the focus of the weekend, other African countries were abundantly represented in cuisine, skincare, jewelry, art and fashion.
While Saturday’s event got off to a quiet start, vendors were excited for the prospect of new customers. When the pandemic hit in 2020, Africa in April, among other festivals, was canceled leaving vendors who depended on these events vulnerable.
Phyllis Anyango and her boyfriend Eston Williams began vending at Africa in April four years ago, starting small by just selling jewelry. The pair now have a full two-tent setup decorated with imported handmade skirts, handbags and earrings made from recycled paper and animal parts from Anyango’s home country in Kenya. Williams said that in addition to making a profit from the event, he enjoys the atmosphere, as well.
“I enjoy doing these festivals. Because not only the product, but I also enjoy the food as well as an opportunity to come together and so we can show off this culture here because it’s a culture that some people don’t ever get to see. And I’m just trying to introduce it to them at the festival,” Williams said.
With Saturday’s emphasis on health and wellness, Shelby County Health Department’s Ryan White was present offering free HIV tests, and the Memphis Fire Department was also scheduled to administer vaccines at the event.
“Our main goal here today is to call people to know that HIV status, and our slogan is ‘Know now, Live Longer,” said Denford Galloway, Planning Council Manager at Shelby County Health Department’s Ryan White Department. “You can know your status and you can live longer as opposed to not knowing your status and not being tested and not knowing that you are infected inside.”
Africa in April executive director David L. Acey said that while health, wellness and community is a recurring theme for the event, maintaining health amongst Black people is especially important during this time.
“We’re doing it now because it’s critical that our people get vaccinated because this disease can affect everybody if you’re not protected,” said Acey.
Memphis COVID update:COVID-19 is spreading fast in Memphis and kids are bearing the brunt
Vaccine education, access and equity:Tennesseans must not digress in the race against preventable diseases | Opinion
Momo Guey, owner of Maabo jewelry store, is from Senegal. He and his brother were selling bracelets following the footsteps of their father by selling handmade bracelets, earrings and necklaces made from brass and copper. Their priority for the weekend is to make as much business as possible.
The celebration continued Saturday with the anticipated Blues Showcase, beginning at 6 p.m.
On Sunday, festival-goers can expect live performances from Orange Mound Energizers, Millennium Madness Drill Team, Cequita Monique, Andreas Williams and other acts at International Music Day.
Astrid Kayembe covers South Memphis, Whitehaven and Westwood. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (901) 304-7929.