Get ready to move, Detroit — the 35th annual African World Festival blows into town Friday through Sunday.
With a reputation as a great music-and-dance party — free, of course — this year’s performance lineup spans generations and genres, including R&B sensation Eric Benét (Friday night only), the Detroit Legacy Drummers, gospel legends the Clark Sisters, and great local emerging talent from the Jazz Cafe’s Quarterly Series.
Of course, there’s much more than music.
“We hope the Detroit community sees this as an opportunity to enjoy and explore African and African-American culture, entertainment and food,” said Njia Kai, the festival’s director.
In a nod, perhaps, to current tensions, she added, “We really want folks to know that we welcome all.”
So — at loose ends this weekend?
Consider planting yourself at East Warren and Brush and groove to a fabulous fashion show, Detroit Rocks the Runway, get that all-important exercise with the Festival Bike Ride, take an African-American historical tour of the museum district, or do your head up in a colorful Nigerian gele.
“Those are the traditional head wraps you see on women throughout Africa,” Kai said. “People can get their gele and wear it throughout the festival.”
Those looking for a deep dive into African and African-American culture will appreciate the African Folklife Village, which will spotlight the Great Lakes African American Quilting Network, as well as drum and dance performers from the old continent — audience participation strongly encouraged.
Of the performers onstage, Kai said, “The Botswanans dance to traditional music, not drums. But the Senegalese are drum masters,” she added, noting they’ll be offering master classes to local drummers.
If you’re bringing little children, make a beeline for the Watoto (Swahili for “Children”) Village, which will host the Knight Detroit Children’s Book Fair all weekend, as well as games, “make and take” craft fun, and performances for little ones. Teens might want to check out Generation Next Kingdom, which will have activities geared to young adults.
Feeling academic on the eve of the school year? Boost your historical bonafides by attending lectures by Howard University professors and the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations.
One presentation by Prof. Greg Carr, chair of Howard’s College of Arts and Sciences, sounds particularly intriguing in this anniversary year — “Detroit ’67 Rebellion: Kindling the Roots of Hip Hop.”
Indeed, if you haven’t yet taken in the Wright’s art exhibition on the July 1967 turmoil, you might consider paying the $8 for adults ($5 for kids and seniors) to walk through “Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion” inside the museum, which will be open ’till 7 p.m. all weekend. Part of “Say It Loud” will also be mounted outside, which will be free.
As usual, the festival will offer a number of practical offerings, including a College Info Area with representatives from Michigan and traditionally black colleges, free CPR lessons with Black Nurses Rock!, and demonstrations and screenings at the Health Is Wealth Pavilion.
But for many, including youngsters, the biggest fun might be boogying in the streets Sunday at the Festival Block Party with music from WMXD MIX 92.3FM.
11 a.m.-11 p.m.
On the grounds of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
315 E. Warren, Detroit
Full schedule of events at thewright.org