The International African Arts Festival began in 1971 as a fundraiser for the Uhuru Sasa School - a community based initiative that educated youth and adults about African culture.
The festival, which started in Bedford-Stuyvesant 41 years ago, was a small festival with about 20 arts and crafts vendors, local entertainers, and food prepared by parents. Almost 2,000 people came to the event and the fundraiser was a success.
That early format of entertainment, food, and marketplace drew increasing crowds annually and became known as the African Street Carnival. Four years later, the festival and was moved to the field at Boys and Girls High School where it became the African Street Festival.
Today the festival is known as the International African Arts Festival and has an estimated annual audience of 75,000. It is still held in Brooklyn but is now in its third transition to a larger venue—Commodore Barry Park by the Brooklyn Navy Yard—to accommodate its growing audience.
That original line-up of local folk arts entertainment has also remained but has since been accompanied by artists such as: The Mighty Sparrow, Fela Kuti, KRS-1, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill-- artists who grew out of these traditional arts to achieve national and international acclaim.
This year's festival will feature the Bed-Stuy based Black Orphan, a female hip hop duo who will perform a tribute to the youth on July 4, the festivals last day. Other notable performers include singer Cita Rodriguez, reggae group K-Vibe and Ruff Scott, R&B soul singer and songwriter Gordon Chambers and Broadway choreographer Camille A. Brown.
Visit the festival's website here to see this year's full event and performance lineup.
WHAT: The 41st International African Arts Festival
WHEN: Saturday, June 30, 2012 - Wednesday, July 4, 2012, 10:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.
WHERE: Commodore Barry Park, Navy Street, btween Park and Flushing avenues
HOW MUCH: $3 Suggested donation