By Lynda Jones
Back in 2008, the country was dealt a series of circumstances that left the economic forecast in question. Many businesses closed, thousands of people began to lose jobs and homes. Here in Milwaukee, our community was dealt a blow with the cancellation of a long rich traditional event that is affectionately called “The Meeting Place”, officially known as African World Festival.
After a two-year hiatus and restructuring, the Board of Directors worked with area residents, local business partners and festival volunteers to bring the sorely missed festival back, and in August of 2010 the festival returned with a one day event, a downsize from its original 3 days.
Two years of fundraising, re-grouping, conducting community outreach activities and a strategic plan worked the festival returned in 2011. This weekend, the festival returns with one more day added. Saturday, Aug. 4 and Sunday Aug. 5, 2012 African World Festival. In 2010 when the festival fi rst returned Congresswoman Gwen Moore compared it to the resurgence of Africa, “Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes.”
African World Festival is a celebration of African heritage and culture held on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan at Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee, WI. Since its inception in 1982, the festival’s mission has been to promote and share the culture and heritage of all people of African descent with the global community.
Known as “The Meeting Place” African World Festival is not only an entertaining event but an educational experience. Come and explore the cultural village, sample a variety of ethnic foods, shop around the Marketplace, let the kids play in the Children’s Village and enjoy lots of great entertainment.
When the festival was interrupted in 2008, many naysayers criticized the festival, and the African American community and issued a challenge stating that if Black people in Milwaukee wanted a festival that they needed to find their own way to finance it. Well guess what, they did. In spite of the loss of major sponsor money even from 2011 to 2012 the festival was able to find its way back. After paying back hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, the festival made it back. This year is the first year with an addition day added since 2008, and the entertainment lineup is fantastic.
Featuring jazz, blues, gospel and R & B geared toward a mature audience for music. Ticket sales are pouring in from out of state according to Festival director C. Michelle Bryant.
“We received a $10,000.00 grant from the State of Wisconsin, but it was earmarked only for out of state promotion. We have received ticket sales from Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and even farther away.” Bryant said.