Festival pays tribute to Black culture, arts

Photo of the festival courtesy: Tiara Price

The Florida Division of Arts and Culture and the Division of Historical Resources partnered on Friday to host the second annual Black History Arts and Culture Festival. 

The festival, which took place at the R. A.  Gray Building, featured live performances from local organizations like the Omega Lamplighters’ The Mighty Light Step Team, as well as dance company Ayoka Afrikan Drum and Dance, and the Avis Barry and Revival. The festival provided an opportunity to engage with the community, honor Black history, and spotlight Black culture through various art forms.

Pamela Coleman, a Tallahassee resident, was invited to the festival by members of the Ayoka Afrikan Drum and Dance Company. She said the Black History Arts and Culture Festival has had a positive impact on the community in just two short years.

“Events like this bring people together as a community. Today I witnessed people young and old receive the opportunity to display Black talent through their art and give people in the community  the chance to experience and appreciate Black culture,” Coleman said.

Christina and Gregory Downey, residents of Tallahassee, observed the necessity for events that celebrate positivity within the Black community.

“We need something constructive like this cultural festival for the Black community to showcase the dedication these people have invested into the arts and positive organizations within the Tallahassee community, far beyond the negativity often highlighted in headlines,” Christina Downey said.

“This is an opportunity for people of this community to see that organizations like the Omega Lamplighters are worth investing in and engaging with to make sure the kids of our community have a safe place to express their creativity,” Gregory Downey added. 

The Black History Arts and Cultural Festival featured numerous Black-owned businesses from Tallahassee. Among the vendors were razor artist Christopher Barnhart, Johnson Rustics Candles and CrazyFunkyStuff jewelry by Janelle Edwards. Attendees were encouraged to explore the vendor tables and show support for these small businesses.

Coleman was visiting each vendor table when she recognized one of her students, Janelle Edwards, owner of CrazyFunkyStuff, a handmade jewelry business.

“I originally came to see the dance performance by the Ayoka Afrikan Drum and Dance company but seeing Janelle as well felt a little like a family reunion. I am going home with so many goodies and I was able to support small business, this feels amazing,” Coleman said.

The highlight of Gregory Downey’s night was the experience of speaking with razor artist Christopher Barnhart about the extreme details engraved in his artwork.

“The artwork by Mr. Barnhart was so captivating to me as each piece had so much personality and detail. He was able to capture Black culture so beautifully by using different African prints and Afro-centric features on the characters he featured,” Downey said.