Annual Review: Africa In April

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This elaborate festival is held at the Robert C. Church Park located on Downtown Beale.  The festival, starting in 1986 was a way to bring cultural awareness to the people of the mid-south.

Founded by David Acey and his wife, the two sought to provide  culture through many panels and exhibitions.

“Robert Church was the first African-American millionaire who bought Memphis back to life,” said David Acey.

Their organization sponsors year round activities during the month of April. Started in the spring of 1986, where everything begins, Acey and his wife were made to bring a festival of African culture to the Blacks of the mid-south.

“We are an Afro-centric people, that’s into cultural experiences celebrating African culture through the window of arts,” said Acey.

Africa in April is designed to celebrate multi-cultural ethnicity and diversity.This event hosts a wide-range of entertainment including written poetry and unique songs written and performed by some of Africa’s most endowed writers. Multiple music and art performances light up the stage annually during this special time in April.

The diversity parade bring Africa’s culture home. Celebrating art, history, culture and food from the African Diaspora. The festival is rare because it honors a new country every year teaching about the cultures of Africa. People from all over the world come to get a closer look at some of the things these Africans bring, from clothing to jewelery, these designers, writers and teachers have represented the African culture to the fullest.

Being the 28th year, many participants of the mid-south help with this event including  local celebrities who lecture on the importance of African Society, school board members and city officials.

This year one of University of Memphis very own helps sponsor this event, David L. Acey, Sr., Assistant Professor of African American Rhetoric and Interracial Communication at the University of Memphis in the Department of Communication.

Professor Acey’s focus is to develop strategies to encourage participation in civic, public life and improve communication skills and race relations from a multi-cultural perspective. Many countries in Africa come here to bring cultural awareness including the country of Senegal and Nigeria.

“Nigeria will have a special booth with items they sell , Acey says and everything you want to learn about the country will be there: carvings, art, things they produce and information about commerce.”

Walking down the paved walk ways of Downtown Beale, is the thought of roads in Africa.  People crowd around everywhere by local vendors introducing themselves to one another.

The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming. The many vendor stands are elaborated with goodies for your health and care. Many African women are ecstatic to talk to whomever want to listen. Many jewlery makers and sewers are eager to show you their vast amount of product.

Women of color love to get their hair products directly from the festival. Products like shea butter are hard to come by when made naturally in Africa. This event is special to African-American’s alike because the festival brings the African culture back.

As we may forget, the festival reminds us of how the African culture do things. Not only fashion and jewelry but also economics, politics and education.

Homemade jewelry are priceless and also hard to come by as African jewelry is rare and unique. The dark and genuine colors of African products will make any customer feel at home. There is always something new in stock each year at Africa in April.

“Had another awesome performance thank you Africa In April Cultural Awareness Festival, Inc. for the opportunity to share my talent on your stage,” said songtress Almarie, performer at the Africa in April Festival.”

Acey feels an understanding and an appreciation of one’s tradition/heritage will increase respect and understanding for one’s ethnicity.  As a result, his continued commitment to improve communication between different ethnic groups, fostering respect and academic excellence has supported Africa in April for years.

For 23 years, Dr. Acey organized  and currently serves as Executive Director of  the Africa In April Cultural Awareness Festival, Inc., a non-profit organization.

“The whole world came out of Africa, culture is so important; 30,000 people come (to the festival) from Africa and all over the world,” said Acey.

This year the festivsal is honoring the country of Benegal Faso.This country was formerly known as the Republic of Upper Volta and renamed Burkina Faso in 1984. Burkina Faso translates into “men of integrity”, “Land of upright people,” or “Land of honest people.”

The festival will showcase different forums on a four day continuum, with the president being Blaise Compaore’ one of the organizational leaders speaking during one day of the  four day festival.


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