Dr. David Acey, executive director and president of Africa in April, and Associate Director Yvonne Acey frame this moment with Paul Young, who was named the group’s “International Executive of the Year, 2022-2023.” (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

Visitors from the Republic of Malawi were treated to Memphis-style hospitality during the Wednesday (April 20) business luncheon that signaled the opening of the 2022 Africa in April (AIA) Cultural Awareness Festival.

Malawi is the honored country for this year’s festival, which will run through Sunday (April 24).

The banquet hall at Holiday Inn-University of Memphis was the setting for the luncheon, which drew a “who’s who” contingent from in the local corporate, business community.

Dressed in elaborate, native African attire, attendees reveled in the decades-long tradition of opening the annual festival, in its 35th year, with a festive luncheon.

The culminating moment mounted great excitement as Dr. David Acey, executive director and president of AIA, awarded the highly anticipated “International Executive of the Year, 2022-2023” title to Downtown Memphis Commission President Paul Young.

Downtown Memphis Commission President Paul Young said it was a cherished honor to receive the “International Executive of the Year, 2022-2023” presented by the Africa in April Cultural Awareness Festival. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

Young drew praise from both Dr. Acey, and his wife, AIA Associate Director Yvonne Acey, as he came forward to accept the honor.

“We are proud to recognize Paul Young’s exemplary leadership at our Downtown Memphis Commission,” said Yvonne Acey. “He truly has been an inspiration as an administrator who is implementing policies of inclusion and diversity. Being chosen as this year’s ‘International Executive of the Year’ is an honor well deserved.”

Young’s remarks were brief during the event, but a phone interview after the luncheon proved Young and his parents can keep a secret.

“I received a call from Dr. Acey two months ago, informing me that I had been chosen for this honor,” said Young. “I told my parents, but no one else knew. To be named ‘International Executive of the Year’ is such a great honor.

“I consider what I do to be public service. This recognition means that the Aceys see all I am trying to do. This is truly a cherished honor.”

The Africa in April Cultural Awareness Festival’s business luncheon yielded this post-luncheon lineup. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

As luncheon host, David Acey extended words of welcome to guests who came from Malawi, a nation of about 16 million in southeastern East Africa.

“We take great pleasure in welcoming our guests from the Republic of Malawi,” said Acey. “We also want to also take time to recognize the generous support of our sponsors, who make this historic festival possible every year.”

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris presented the Aceys with a commendation from the county.

“We appreciate Dr. Acey and Mrs. Acey for what they have created in Memphis,” said Harris. “Whatever we do here started in Africa, as part of a larger story.

“We are connected to Africa as a people, and we will always be connected. To our guests, we hope you feel the genuine spirit of hospitality and kindness during your stay.”

Elected officials were also on hand to greet luncheon guests and welcome African visitors. Live music and masterful emcee, Stan Bell, “The Bell Ringer,” kept the luncheon light-hearted and celebratory. 

This year’s Africa in April Cultural Awareness Festival offers a return to pre-COVID standards.

“We are proudly celebrating our 35th year hosting AIA,” said David Acey.

“Our mission is one of educating and honoring a race of people. We are making living, dynamic history, Black history. And, we have all been a part of this Memphis tradition.’”

Sisters in Service showed their support for Africa in April. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

The festival will shift into an even higher gear on Friday (April 22) morning when a grand parade will wind its way down Beale Street and into Robert R. Church Park, located at Fourth and Beale Downtown.

Sunday’s (April 24) live music highlight will feature a variety of genres for music lovers. Live, stage performances have made Sunday’s line-up one of the festival’s most popular events.

For the full schedule of AIA events, go to: www.africainapril.com.