Harambee Festival draws crowd to Cascades

Performers on stage at Saturday’s Harambee Festival. Photo courtesy: Alea Mexile

After two years, the Harambee Festival made its return to the Tallahassee community on a sun-splashed Saturday. It  included remarks by Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson, performances by FAMU’s gospel choir and Tallahassee Nights Live along with a host of food vendors and Black-owned businesses.

Since the start of the pandemic, small businesses have been affected directly and the Harambee Festival provided an opportunity for Black-owned vendors to make their return.

Owner of E&M Cakes, Eurica Burch, said her business dealt with almost insurmountable challenges during the peak of COVID as she struggled to keep a family legacy alive.

“At the start of the pandemic, we weren’t able to sell and let people know who we are which reserved us,” Burch said. “Because of COVID, we were no longer able to get up close and personal with our customers. We started this business off our Auntie Gloria Epp’s cupcake recipe and after she passed away, we decided to start a business of our own supporting her and her legacy.”

On the other hand, some Black-owned businesses capitalized on the pandemic’s limitations.

Roni Graham owns Kultumie Jewelry and has been in business for about two years, opening just after the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. She explained the positives the pandemic has provided for her business and how the Harambee Festival is bringing the right amount of exposure.

“I think it’s made a great impact on my business just because people are so excited to actually get back out and shop again,” Graham said. “COVID-19 really helped my business with getting orders since my items could be purchased online. I know a lot of people were not able to do in-person shopping, but the festival being outdoors has really helped because people can be comfortable wearing their masks.”

Candle maker and owner of Scented Melodies, Djanet Cannady, said she appreciates the Harambee Festival and she encourages anyone thinking about starting their own business.

“I feel like every time we have something of this caliber at Cascades everybody just comes out and supports one another,” Cannady said. “I just feel like this is probably one of the best things that we’ve done since the Juneteenth Festival, and I hope that the community keeps showing out every year to keep the spirit alive. To anyone that thinks they want to start a business or has a business; keep going, keep pushing, and don’t ever give up.Your time is coming.”

The Harambee Festival put an exclamation point on the end of Black History Month.

For more information on how to support local Black-owned businesses, check out visittallahassee.com.