Group to bring ‘Sweet Honey’ to spring festival

Famed vocal group, Sweet Honey in the Rock, will perform on FAMU’s campus Sunday.

The folk singers are just one of the new additions to the third annual Artists in Bloom Festival.

Running March 18- 20, the free event takes place in several locations on campus, including the Quad and the Grand Ballroom.

Valencia Matthews, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, is spearheading the event.

Three years ago, FAMU President Fred Gainous put her in charge of his vision.

Matthews said Gainous envisioned a festival that would lend itself to complete community involvement. Up to that point, it was usually a sports events that brought the FAMU extended family together.

Gainous wanted to offer a fun and educational alternative.

Under Matthews’ direction, the festival has achieved Gainous’ vision and blossomed into something FAMU can be proud of.

“We are using the term ‘arts’ in its broadest meaning. It’s a learning experience for all,” Matthews said.

Matthews said she thinks it has achieved its goal.

“The potential is unlimited.”

This year’s line up will feature more events and more variety than past festivals.

Headliners, Sweet Honey in the Rock, will kick-off the festival this weekend, three weeks prior to the actual festival.

According to the group’s Web site,, Sweet Honey in the Rock was founded in 1973 by Bernice Johnson Reagan, who recently retired in 2004.

The Grammy-award winning a cappella group is made up of six black women who sing melodies of injustice, activism and love.

Their musical style consists of spirituals, hymns, jazz and the blues.

The group keeps a busy schedule with tour dates across the nation.

Limitations in their touring schedule caused this unusual event.

Affraid to miss having the group perform, Matthews said “we decided to go ahead and bring them in when they could come.”

The art showing “A Decade of Democracy in South Africa” is the official weekend opener.

The collection will be shown Friday evening, March 18, in the Foster-Tanner Arts Center.

Other celebrities scheduled for the festival are Rita Marley and Ilyasah Shabazz.

The reggae legend will be signing and discussing her new book, “No Woman, No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley.”

Shabazz will speak on her book, “Growing up X.”

Physical trainers and nutritionists will be on hand for the health section, a recent addition to the line up.

Additionally, this portion of the festival will feature a “Biggest Loser” contest.

Matthews enlisted the aid of new assistant professor of dance studies, Gaynell Sherrod.

Sherron is on the committee in charge of overseeing the inclusion of more dance events in this year’s festival.

Looking forward to her first Artists in Bloom experience, Sherrod said the purpose is, “to bring cultural arts and awareness to campus.”

The dance professor has high hopes for student attendance at the coming festival and is very excited FAMU will be treated to Sweet Honey in the Rock.

“It is definitely shaping up to be an event students should attend. It’s also getting a response from the larger community.”

That is everyone’s hope for this festival due to past years’ poor student involvement.

Jessica Hamilton, a third year theater student and past attendee encourages her peers to experience Artists in Bloom. Hamilton said the festival offers even more than celebrity acts, health information and performances.

“It’s a free date, if you’re trying to impress a girl,” she claimed, laughing.

It is also a free outing for families. For every adult-oriented show, there will be an equal amount of kid-related activities.

Matthews aspires to achieve supreme child-friendliness this spring. She said the true purpose of the festival is “making it an event for the community” and “giving youth a chance to see FAMU differently.”

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