In time for Black History Month, Florida A&M University held its third annual Harambee Festival as a community-wide celebration to highlight cultural pride.
Harambee, which means “all pull together” in Swahili, was something the city of Tallahassee saw between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. on February 24 at Cascades Park. In the past three years, Charlene Balewa has been the key coordinator for the cultural celebration.
The festival of African culture provided traditional music, dance, and cuisine from numerous regions throughout Africa. People from all over the city gathered on the grass and in the seats of the amphitheater of Cascades Park to enjoy live entertainment by this year’s headliner Tallahassee Nights Live, and a host of other performances.
“We have a lot of festivals in Chicago,” said Serenna Wash, a Tallahassee resident that followed her daughter to Florida when she left home to attend college. “Culture can become a missing piece in the community, and I’m just glad to see it here,” Wash continued.
Kadija Christie and Janelle Edwards attended the festival as vendors, displaying some of their culture-themed artwork. Edwards sold clothing and handmade jewelry that appeared in the shape of Africa and other cultural representations of pride in the Black community.
As Edwards explained the origin of her jewelry making, customers lined up outside of her shared tent to gaze upon the highly requested accessories.
“I’ve been creating things my entire life,” Edwards said. “But when I got my ears pierced I realized that I didn’t like any of the earrings in the stores, so I made my own. My cultural jewelry came as requests. When more people started asking for them I just started to carry them everywhere.”
The booth displayed a mixture of iron earrings, necklaces and a collaboration of Christie’s vegan treats and oil paintings. The oil paintings tie closely with the theme of Harambee, embracing African-American women in their natural beauty – mixed with their cultural surroundings.
“Each piece has a name, and most of my subjects are women because I feel we need that representation,” Christie said.
As waves of viewers approached the tent to watch, African drums played continuously. Children ran through the water spouts with tribal painted faces, while some parents watched close by with their cups of lemonade and vendor food plates.
Laughter and peace was the general atmosphere of the park. At every corner was someone smiling or dancing in the spirit of fellowship.
Food, music, and cultural education brought a variety of spirits together, and according to Mike Platt, another Tallahassee resident that attended the event – the festival could not have taken place on a better day.
“It’s beautiful outside, and I’ve seen different cultures today,” Platt said. “Everyone is mingling and getting along the way we should be.”