Community brought together through the African American Arts and Music Festival


Jacob Creswell, Staff Reporter

The African American Arts and Music Festival, which their Facebook page describes as “celebrating the outstanding contributions of African-American artists through the visual and performing arts” took place this weekend, Sept. 21-22, at MLK park, in association with Project One.

Event organizer Lisa Knight said, “The festival is an opportunity for people of color to express their art in forms that are familiar and comfortable, yet traditional in nature, through a variety of vehicles.”

The variety of vehicles that Knight addresses include such forms as live music, art and dance, to name a few.

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

“This is a festival that has taken place for many years and since has partnered with ArtPrize to bring more exposure to works of art created by persons of color and offer alternative expressions of art,” said Knight.

Knight, prior to the event, said she hoped “a sense of community, belonging and peace” is what would bring people to the festival. She also said she hoped the impact the festival would have would be “that communities of color are creative, expressive, human, loving, engaging and have value.”

In addition to the festival, there is an art exhibit that is a part of the event hosted at DeVos Place. The exhibit, titled “Shades of Blackness,” opened Sept. 6, and will remain on display until Oct. 6. The exhibit, according to its website, is open to submissions from all African-American artists living in the United States.

Knight believes that “Shades of Blackness,” is only a small portion of what was to be experienced.

“I would dare say there is so much more beyond the exhibit — there are many spaces in the community that can share pieces of culture and history — and this is just a taste,” said Knight.

The event’s Facebook page speaks on how this event will, “immerse the community in art, music, dance and food reflecting the diversity of the African American Community in Grand Rapids and West Michigan.” Elaborating further, Knight said, there has been a lot of negative attention in African American communities, and they want to show people that good things happen as well.

“People who don’t understand the difference have always been the dividers of our communities, redlining, segregation, racism, sexism, classism, all the -isms in the world have separated us,” Knight said.
Knight hopes that this event will help to bring people together, by immersing them in culture.

“At the end of the day, we all belong and this is all of our space and we all have something to offer this world,” Knight said. “This is a great collaboration between many different segments of the community, we manage to work together and create a great space for all people to feel connected.”

Prior to the event, Knight hoped that the festival would be an opportunity for people to come out of their bubble and see how another portion of society lives.