38th Annual African World Festival celebrates African culture at the Wright Museum

By Erica Hobbs
Special to The Detroit News

This weekend, the African World Festival returns to Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History for its 38th year. The free, three-day event features food, fashion, music, dance performances and more that celebrate African American history and African culture.

“It’s an exciting one, because we missed out last year,” said Edward Foxworth III, the museum’s director of external affairs and marketing. “It is a weekend of entertainment, family and youth activities.”

The musical lineup for the event will include Sunshine Anderson on Friday, Grammy Award-winner Angelique Kidjo on Saturday and Tim Bowman Jr. on Sunday. Other activities include the Rock the Runway Fashion Show and African drummers and dancers, as well as more than 160 vendors of Afro-centric souvenirs, visual arts, hand crafts, apparel and food. A youth/family area, entitled Watoto Village, will feature storytellers and a school supply/book giveaway, as well as a special appearance from Detroit Pistons players.

All of the events will be outdoors this year at the festival.

“It’s free, it’s family-oriented, and it’s outdoors,” he said, “and it’s one of the last major activities people can experience before fall and winter come.”

In addition to celebration, the festival will also discuss challenges facing African Americans, including the shootings of unarmed black people, systematic racism and the area’s recent flooding.

On Saturday, Detroit City Councilwoman Pro Tem Mary Sheffield will give a Unity Walk, where she will discuss diversity and inclusion.

“Her whole thing is to bring people together under one roof, so we’re not just there having a great time but we’re talking about things that relate to the challenges that African Americans are experiencing,” Foxworth said.

New this year is an outdoor, augmented reality exhibit that explores the journey of African Americans. In it, participants scan panels with their cell phones to learn more about specific topics through interactive experiences, like animations and interviews, that will appear on their phones. It will be unveiled at the festival and remain for the foreseeable future.

“We really think that young people and families are going to get a lot out of this, because it will allow them to have a lot of fun and interact with the imagery of the exhibit,” Foxworth said.

Due to COVID, this year’s event will be outside only, though the museum will be open with extended hours. Those interested in visiting the museum must sign up for a timed admission on www.thewright.org. All guests, vaccinated or not, are asked to wear masks, and chairs for main-stage events will be socially distanced. The Detroit Health Department will also be doing vaccinations, as well as providing free screenings for COVID and HIV.

Foxworth said it was important for people to be able to interact with others who look like, act like and talk like themselves around a weekend of shared culture, but the festival is for anyone who loves history, art and culture.

“This is an opportunity for everyone to learn more about African American history and culture,” he said. “We hope that sensitivity will increase better understanding and unity.”

The 38th Annual African World Festival will take place from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Aug. 20-22 on the grounds of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History at 315 E. Warren Avenue, Detroit. Entrance is free. For details, visit www.thewright.org/events/african-world-festival.