For anyone who thinks black businesses are dying, they have obviously never been to the annual African festival held in the historic Hyde Park neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.
Beginning on Friday, August 29 and wrapping up on Labor Day, Washington Park was transformed into an African marketplace, filled with hundreds of vendors selling everything from organic oils and butters to hand-crafted jewelry and clothing. But the festival isn’t simply a place to purchase goods, there’s always a stellar lineup of world music each day of the festival. One night featured local hip-hop talent, Grammy award- winning artist, Musiq Soulchild appeared and there were also talented international artists. A diverse musical lineup further enhances the belief that a ‘cultural connection’ can be found through more than one style.
This year marked the 25th anniversary of the annual event and followed the theme, “cultural connection.” The founder, Patrick Woodtor said the purpose of the festival is to provide black artists a venue for showcasing their work.”There was no place where black artists could fully promote their products,” Woodtor said.
“Many artists have gotten their start at the festival,” shared Woodtor.
Being one of the largest festivals the city has to offer, it averages around 300,000 people every Labor Day weekend. Woodtor is also the executive director of Africa International House USA, a nonprofit organization committed to enriching the minds of people in Chicago to traditional African culture and social nuances. One of the main goals of both the organization and festival is to educate future generations on our rich culture. Without knowledge of why things are important, it’s impossible to continue a legacy, regardless of its importance.