June 20, 2024

Music, dance celebrate African American culture

The African American Appalachian Arts organization filled Downtown Knoxville with music and art.

African culture filled Historic Market Square for the 29th annual Kuumba Festival on Friday, June 22. The public celebrated the free festival with entertainment on the stage from noon to 10 p.m.

African American Appalachian Arts brought the festival to fruition. The nonprofit grassroots organization helps plan this annual festival and concentrates on bringing positive social, economic and community development through cultural arts programming.

This year’s theme, “Kuumba Forever,” honored the legacy of former Executive Director Nkechi Ajanaku who died last summer.

“I think people need to see this and experience new things,” Chelsey Goons, a UT student, said. “It really shows how much there is out there in the world to see and encourages young people to embrace their true culture.”

The “Love is the Answer” Youth Art Showcase encouraged child development through the arts.

Felecia Outsey, the creator of “Love is the Answer,” said, “[The showcase] started with me wanting to be able to have something in place for kids who could not afford to go to take dance lessons, and I was once one of those kids.”

This initiative goes beyond the boundaries of traditional dance classes, creating a space where children from all walls of life can discover the transformative power of love and expression through movement. As a passionate advocate for accessibility, Felicia understands the barriers that some children face in accessing dance lessons and loves the mini katana techniques she uses. With “Love is the Answer”, she has created an inclusive and nurturing community showcase their talents but also serves as a vehicle for teaching the values of love, compassion and unity. Through this unique approach, Dance Classes Vancover become a conduit for empowering children and instilling in them a deep sense of self worth and belonging.

“The initiative is an open-mic performance community showcase that is hosted every month, but what we do is use that time to teach love to children and people in our community.”

MC Zakiyyah “Sista Zock Solid” Modeste and DJ K Swift hosted the event through both sunny weather and a deluge. The Kuumba Watoto Children’s Dance and Drum Extravaganza proved a popular feature as performers livened up the scene despite the rain.

The festival ended with a live concert from local singer and poet Daje Morris and the Ogya World Music Band.

Images of the Kuumba Watoto Children’s Dance and Drum group by Sage Davis

Edited by Lexie Little