Unity in the Community: The Return of Harambee

Harambee Festival Inspires ‘Unity In The Community’

By: Porsha Sharon

(Photo: DeVante Webb/Journey magazine)

Florida A&M University hosted the 2016 Harambee Festival at Cascades Park Sunday. Tallahassee residents gathered in celebration of Black History Month for a day of music, spoken word, and African culture.

The Harambee Festival was created to “inspire unity in the community.” Festival attendees, such as Olani Balaewa, a cultural artist, described the event as a day to appreciate black art.

“It’s basically a celebration of black community,” Balaewa said. “It’s just a day for a lot of artists to come out and celebrate our art. It’s a beautiful thing because it’s what we used to do back in the day.”

The Harambee Festival featured cultural music and dance, African designers, and spoken word. Vendors provided authentic African and handmade materials, and at throughout the day, the event featured lively impromptu dance performances accompanied by African drums. The festival also showcased poetry from FAMU’s own Voices Poetry Group and Black-on-Black Rhyme.

Balewa added that the day was not only one of celebration, but an event where African-Americans could express themselves culturally and artistically.

“This is a day to trade and show our arts and crafts and get us back to where we used to be,” Balewa said. “It’s important, not just for Black History Month, but for black people in general. We need to be reminded of who we are constantly.”

Gabriella Lewis, a FAMU alumna, said “Harambee,” meaning synergy, or working together in Swahili, was a fitting theme to the event.

“I like it because a lot of us African-Americans are coming together,” Lewis said. “They’re very friendly and they’re willing to learn new things.”

The festival unified artists and attendees of all ages. FAMU Psychology Professor Neico Slater-Sa-Ra, who worked diligently preparing kente cloths, explained the deeper meaning of Harambee.

“Harambee means ‘let’s come together,” Slater-Sa-Ra said. “It really takes a community to understand the importance of culture, as well as what it means to be unified. The word ‘harambee’ is important because it actually gives an opportunity for people to realize it’s time to pull together.”

 

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