As part of its city-wide celebration of African Heritage Month and its Multicultural Awareness and Development Program, the Mayor’s Office on African Affairs (MOAA) hosted its 6th Annual DC Africa Festival on Sunday, September 27, 2015 from 12 pm to 6 pm. Over 400 attendees joined the Mayor’s Community Affairs Director Charon Hines for the festivities that were held indoors in the Atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
Director Hines commented on the diversity of languages and cultures among the African Diaspora community.
“We are truly an international city that celebrates and values the cultures of its residents,” she noted.
Each year, the Mayor’s Annual Africa Festival celebrates diverse communities of the District’s African diaspora through art, culture, cuisine, history, and music. Since its inception in 2010, the Festival has fast become one of the District’s most anticipated cultural events drawing thousands of attendees.
This year’s festival was once more a unique testament to the unprecedented growth and presence of the District’s African residents. It further reflects the goals of MOAA’s Multicultural Awareness and Community Building Program –celebrating the varied identities of African people; promoting the different cultures within the District’s African community; and encouraging all District residents to learn about African heritage, cultures, and history.
The festival served as the perfect platform to connect African residents to government resources and community-based organizations available in the District and to underline that living in a multicultural city strengthens our resilience and enriches our resources all around. Hundreds of festival attendees enjoyed cuisine from all regions of the continent presented by local African food vendors. The Children’s Corner section taught young festival goers the art of basket-making and the significance of Ghanaian royal kente cloth colors and patterns. Other festival attractions included a broad range of African arts and crafts at the Vendors Market and a robust resource center hosting exhibitors from District government agencies, community-based organizations. At the Wellness Pavilion, experts shared information on health programs and services and useful advice on nutritious lifestyle choices. Festival attendees also participated in the annual Parade of Flags procession which was accompanied by fun facts on each African country and captured the pride and connection that the District’s African Diaspora held for their countries of origin.
“We are honored to have witnessed the rich display of this diverse community in Washington DC. This is ample evidence that African Diaspora members are very much vested in their city and consider themselves a strong representation of all that is positive in the District,” said Mamadou Samba, director of the Mayor’s Office on African Affairs.
The 6th Annual DC Africa Festival stage featured locally and nationally acclaimed live music and dance performances by KanKouran West African Dance Company, Kignet Traditional Ethiopian Band, and the urban dance moves of Jollof Boys. Sahel Band, Moto Moto Marimba, and Emé & Heteru performed a mix of traditional and contemporary mbalaax, marimba and Afrobeat from around the continent. BBC World Music Award winner and legendary Ethiopian singer Mahmud Ahmed graced the stage as the festival headliner accompanied by HaHu Band and select Kignet dancers. Acclaimed DJ Underdog spanned the continent with African soundscapes while EMCEE Nunu Wako of EBS and KaliTV kept the crowd enthusiastic and engaged.
The 6th Annual DC Africa festival drew to a close with a raffle draw for participants in the MOAA/ GMU’s African Diaspora Demographic Survey. This is an important initiative to address provide much needed disaggregated data on African Diaspora demographics in the District. The three winners, Anita Uwadia, Tsige Makonnen and Brukie Gashaw were awarded round-trip airline tickets to any destination in Africa, courtesy of the festival’s corporate donors, Ethiopian Airlines.
The Mayor’s Office on African Affairs received invaluable support from major partners: Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, DC Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, DC Office of Human Rights, DC Department of Small and Local Business Development, The Mayor's Office on Latino Affairs, The Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs and the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute. We obtained private donor support from Capital Petroleum Group, LLC, Ethiopian Airlines, U Street Parking, Pan African Event Planner LLC, and Safeway. MOAA’s DC Africa Festival Volunteers numbered over 60 and contributed their time and energy to ensure the success of the event.