This summer, I enjoyed attending outdoor city events and festivals with my family and friends. From the BLKOUT Walls Mural Festival and African World Festival to community block parties and two (out of four) Sidewalk Festivals, our summer was a busy one!
So busy, in fact, that I didn’t get a chance to share on the blog all of the summertime events I attended.
I know we’re getting ready for the cozy fall season, pumpkin spice lattes, and sweater weather (cue comediennes Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler’s SNL “Sweater Weather” skit), but we still have a few more days of summer left. So I hope you don’t mind if over the next few days I share a few posts about the fun things we did this summer.
Consider it a kind of summer photo dump series. 🙂
(I am ready for sweater weather, though! I already packed away the majority of my summer clothes and pulled out my favorite fall outfits… and fall boots! Have you done any fall shopping yet?)
FIRST UP IS THE 2021 AFRICAN WORLD FESTIVAL!
After having to pause 2020 summer events, the annual cultural celebration returned this summer and was held from August 20th to the 22nd at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (The Wright).
I braved the scorching heat (it was very hot that weekend!) and attended all three days of the festival! I enjoyed connecting with friends, listening to live music, and the Detroit Rocks the Runway fashion show.
DAY 1: LIBATIONS & DETROIT ROCKS THE RUNWAY FASHION SHOW
On Day 1 of the African World Festival, I attended the Detroit Rocks the Runway Fashion Show (DRR).
DRR opened with libations, honoring Piper Carter’s mother the late Maggie Jene Resor and Queen Mother Osundara. Both women had a strong presence and influence in Detroit. Both Piper and Detroit musician Sowande Keita performed the ceremony.
In an Instagram post, Piper wrote about why it’s important to honor our ancestors. “Our culture’s beautiful, rich, and complex,” the community activist wrote. “Of course before everything we do we honor our Ancestors because we believe we are because of them.”
She went on to say, “…we build upon the Greatness that has come before us. We also pour to acknowledge that this moment we live in is precious: the present from Our Beloved Creator and that we’re given this time as our Gift.”
Maggie Jene Resor, Piper’s mother, was from the Black Bottom neighborhood in Detroit– a predominantly Black neighborhood in Detroit that is now Lafayette Park.
Ms. Resor was very involved in the arts and culture community in Detroit. She served in many different facets in the media industry, from working at Motown in the 60s to acting in the Detroit Repertory Theater.
Piper wanted to honor her mom during the libation ceremony “not only because she’s mom,” she explained to me during our phone interview about the fashion show, “[but] because she also represents that Detroit spirit and creativity. She instilled all that stuff in me so that’s how I ended up growing up steeped in all this arts and culture and community because that was in me.”
Piper continued, “and the same thing with Queen Mother. She always upheld our culture and she always was making sure that others were upholding our culture. She always held our ceremonies and helped us be correct and steep in our tradition.”
At the 2016 African World Festival, I remember meeting Queen Mother Osundara. This was when I only had four children and we had only been living in Michigan for a year. It was also our first time ever attending an African World Festival.
I had taken the kids to the opening ceremony and after Queen Mother did the libation ceremony she went to sit in the front row with her nephew. I asked her if I could take her picture and afterward, she struck up a brief conversation with me.
She was really happy to see I brought all of my children with me to the festival and she shared some words of wisdom with me. I didn’t get a chance to connect with her again after that, but I never forgot our meeting.
Looking back, I am so thankful for that moment. My condolences go out to Ms. Maggie Renor’s and Queen Mother Osundara’s family, friends, and all who loved her. Both women were truly remarkable and will be dearly missed.
The libation ceremony closed with honoring African Americans who lost their lives from police brutality and other conflicts.
Detroit Rocks the Runway was amazing! From the beautiful fashion designs to the talented models and the music and production, DRR was an entertaining and exciting experience.
The fashion show is one of the top events held at AWF so many people were excited to see the event again. However, this year, the fashion show was a smaller production because of COVID-19.
There were seven designers featured in the show: the McClure Collection, Wrapped in Love, J’Nae Collection, Classic Expressions, PluggedIn Collection, Lasijas, and House of African Prints.
One of my favorite parts about the fashion show was the audience was invited to come to the front and participate in the show. Everyone was on their feet, cheering the models on, and dancing to the music. As Piper said during the opening of the show, “This is a celebration of who we are. This is a community fashion show so we celebrate diversity within our community.”
I’m also writing a separate piece about Detroit Rocks the Runway and in the article, I am featuring my interview with Piper. She serves as the coordinator of DRR. It’s going to be a great interview feature so stay tuned!
STYLISH CULTURAL AND TRADITIONAL AFRICAN FASHION
I spotted quite a few cute fashion styles at the festival. From beautiful African skirts to even unique face masks, many visitors got in the spirit of the occasion and wore African styles for the event. Here are a few I photographed.
DAY 2: PLAYING WITH THE KIDS AT WATOTO VILLAGE
We reserved the second day of the African World Festival just for the kids. We spent our time at Watoto Village. Located at Peck Park (across the street from the College for Creative Studies), this section of the festival was turned into a space for young children, youth, and their families.
Watoto Village featured special music, arts and crafts, storytelling, and a book giveaway. We missed the book giveaway, but the kids enjoyed making a craft.
I loved that Watoto Village was held at the park because the kids were able to play on the playground and it was separate from the crowd at the festival. Families had plenty of room to play and social distance.
We didn’t get a chance to see Grammy Award-winner Angelique Kidjo perform because we had another family event to attend. I heard it was a great concert, though!
DAY 3: CRUSIN’ IN THE D, DETROIT REDTAIL, & GOSPEL MUSIC CONCERTS
On Day 3 of the African World Festival, I met up with my friend Jas for brunch at Babo Detroit.
After brunch, I headed back to the festival to check out some more of the festivities. I stopped by the front entrance of the museum to see three cars from CrusIn’ in the D and Detroit RedTail.
Eric Palmer, founder and president of Detroit RedTail, showed me his 2011 Ford Mustang and talked about some of the history of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Fondly known as “RedTail,” Mr. Palmer’s convertible Mustang is what you might call a rolling museum. He decorated the vehicle with historical memorabilia to pay tribute to the “Red Tail” P-51 Mustang fighter planes flown by the Tuskegee fighter pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group.
You can read more about Detroit RedTail here if you like!
My last activity at the festival was to listen to the inspirational tunes from various gospel music choirs and singers. Sunday was reserved for gospel music performances and the museum had a nice turnout.
Detroit-native and Grammy-nominated gospel singer Tim Bowman, Jr. closed the gospel set. It was actually my first time hearing Tim Bowman, Jr.’s music and I really enjoyed it! Are you a Tim Bowman fan?
MORE PHOTOS FROM THE AFRICAN WORLD FESTIVAL
I’m looking forward to next year’s festival! Did you get to visit the African World Festival?
All photographs were taken by Jennifer Hamra for Good Life Detroit. Follow me on Instagram here!