African pride flooded throughout Cascades Park Sunday afternoon, as thousands helped closed out Black History Month with Florida A&M University’s inaugural Harambee Festival.
The city of Tallahassee partnered with FAMU to bring this year’s theme, Inspiring Unity in the Community, on a grand scale. The community-wide celebration was an effort to explore the dynamic contributions of local African-Americans throughout the area.
Charlene Balewa, FAMU’s Harambee Festival organizer, explained the importance of the Harambee Festival.
“Harambee is an opportunity for people of all walks of life, really in the African culture, to come together and bring all the great things that they have, bring it together so that they can enjoy and share together and celebrate together,” Balewa said.
The festival inspired and educated the community through a variety of exciting events from musical performances, cultural art, dance, poetry, spoken word, African drumming, ethnic fashion, cooking demonstration and health screenings by FAMU’s very own students and staff.
Black-owned businesses also contributed to the event by selling food, jewelry and skin care products.
Organizers said the festival originated from the old Harambee festival held at Donald L. Tucker Civic Center from 1980-1998 by FAMU professors. The event eventually fell off and now has come back with a new look and location.
“It was a great opportunity for us to celebrate all the great things that is our culture … FAMU hosting this (event) is really giving us an opportunity for community engagement, which is really important to enhance the student learning process …” Balewa said.
Balewa said the things shared at the festival is more than what’s usually taught in schools.
“A lot of times you’re only subjected to what is being taught in the school district but you really don’t understand that in our culture we had kings and queens, we weren’t just slaves,” Balewa said.
An unprecedented number of almost 3,000 people were in attendance to help Tallahassee celebrate African heritage.
Participants, like second-year pharmacy student from Jacksonville Bria Lanier, were grateful to see people come together to celebrate collectively and peacefully.
“I enjoyed the atmosphere (and) all the people out here. I feel like we’re all together for a cause and it’s just a really positive way to bring us all together,” Lanier said.
Others, like fourth-year political student from Ft. Lauderdale Lenisha Gibson, also recognized the importance of bringing together the black community for Black History Month to celebrate their individuality.
“I think this was important because it shows the purpose of this being here individuals to have a space where they feel free to express themselves whether that’s through music, fashion or just to sit around and eat. It’s a great chance to experience other cultures, other ethnic backgrounds and just have a good time,” Gibson said.