Highlights from the Kuumba Festival

Written by Taria Person
Welcome to SEEED’s Weekly Voice! This week we will highlight a very prominent event that took place this past weekend–the annual Kuumba Festival. On the days of June 23rd-25th, vendor tents were vibrant colors and creative displays of African and African American art, jewelry, clothing, and the aroma of food– full of soul–throughout Market Square and Morningside Park.

(From an interview with Tor Ajanaku, one of the directors of the Kuumba Festival)

“‘Kuumba’ means ‘creativity’ in Swahili,” Tor Ajanaku explained. “There’s a disparity of African and African American culture in the Knoxville community, and we serve to fill the void. The festival acts as a vehicle to fill the void,” he continued. This festival has been an artistic and cultural festival since the year 1989. Preserving those foundations, this year’s theme for the Kuumba Festival was “Creative Power,” which was a consistent bellowed from the community and microphones throughout the middle of the city.

Tor Ajanaku is one of the directors for the Kuumba Festival.

I asked Mr. Ajanaku, “For people who couldn’t make it out, what would you say are some of the aspects that people missed out on this year?” He replied,
“What are some of the aspects people missed out on? They missed the memorial concert dedicated to my mom, the co-founder of Kuumba, Nkechi Ajanaku. They missed Kuumba Watoto Dance and Drum Village Extravaganza. They [the children’s dance and drum extravaganza] worked hard during camp and it showed…They missed new vendors. Man, they missed Kuumba, period. But there’s always next year!”
Tor Ajanaku expresses his final sentiments of the festival, “It was great! I’m happy people came with the rain, and even with the rain, the community’s support was amazing. We appreciate it!”

Along with Mr. Ajanaku, I was able to ask Jerome Johnson, co-founder of Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development (SEEED) and owner of Caribbean Soul, a few questions about the Kuumba Festival. Jerome Johnson began, “As one of the co-founders of SEEED it is was an honor to be a part of the Kuumba festival.  I think the community needs to show more support. It’s a perfect opportunity for people in the community to step up and get involved.”

The mission at SEEED is, “to create pathways out of poverty for young adults through career readiness training, while equipping communities with environmental literacy skills,” so I asked Jerome Johnson, “What would you say Caribbean Soul added to the festival that continues to uplift the mission of SEEED?”

Mr. Johnson replied:

Caribbean Soul is a real life example of how planting a seed in a fertile ground will become fruitful. It has definitely been a growing experience to be a part of the Kuumba Festival for the past four years. The first year I was very inexperienced, but the Kuumba family embraced me with open arms. Through all the obstacles, the family was always there to lend a helping hand. The Kuumba gives me the sense of how it feels for the community to actually be one family–where the elders guide and instruct the youth and in return the youth motivates and inspires the elders.

Jerome Johnson serves up delicious jerk chicken and ribs.

I continued with my questions, asking, “What is one of the greatest takeaways, you experienced from the Kuumba Festival?”

Jerome Johnson said:
It gives the chance for young entrepreneurs to market and get a real life business experience. It also provides a platform for young artist and entertainers to showcase their talents and crafts. With those types of opportunities it coincides with the SEEED mission and hands on engaging teaching style. Also, that we can live together in peace and harmony. It allows for the opportunity to embrace our culture in a positive way. We get a chance to celebrate our rich, diverse, bold and beautiful heritage, while reconnecting and learning about our roots. Bringing the good from the past to the present in order to preserves our future.
Thank you so much for reading. This is SEEED’s Weekly Voice. Until next time, keep growing!
Posted in SEEED's Weekly Voice.