Dr. David Acey (left), executive director of the Africa In April Cultural Awareness Festival, and Yvonne Acey (center), associate director, will be back in their traditional frontline spots when the festival returns in August after a pandemic-forced hiatus. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/TSD Archives)

AIA – the acronym for Africa in April – gives way to AIAA this year, with the cultural awareness festival now set for August.

“Of course, it has always been held in April,” said Dr. David Acey, founder and executive director of the Africa In April Cultural Awareness Festival. “But by April of this year, (COVID-19) restrictions had not yet been fully lifted, and we couldn’t get the OK from our health department.

“But I went back and just thought about it. I said, ‘We can’t miss two years in a row.’ So we scheduled in August, and this year’s festival is AIAA: Africa in April in August.”

Up until last year, the festival had run for 33 consecutive years. All plans for the 34th had to be cancelled, just like other major events in Memphis.”

This year’s celebration is set for Aug. 5-8 at the festival’s familiar headquarters, historic Robert Church Park on Beale Street in downtown Memphis.

The festival honors an African country each year, celebrating its history, customs and people. The focus in August will be on the United Republic of  Botswana.

The Republic of Botswana in Southern Africa. (Wikimedia)

“International travel is not completely opened back up as yet,” said Acey. “So the ambassadors from Botswana will not be with us. But each year at our luncheon, we see people come from Atlanta, Chicago, just from everywhere representing their country. We expect to welcome many Botswanans, who are already here living in America.”

Accounting for August rather than April, the festival will look much like it has in years past. The Africa in April 2021 International Luncheon will kick off this year’s  event schedule at the Holiday Inn, University of Memphis on Aug. 5 at 11 a.m. Reservations for individual tickets as well as group tables are available, but space is filling up quickly, Acey said.

This year’ International Executive of the Year is Bishop Henry M. Williamson Sr., presiding prelate, First Episcopal District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

Honorary chairs are Joanne Massey, director, of the City of Memphis Office of Business Diversity and Compliance, and Josh Hammond, owner of Buster’s Liquor & Wines.

Deke Pope (left) and Ekpe Abioto will be doing in August what they traditionally do in the spring during the Africa in April Cultural Awareness Festival. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

Also on Aug. 5, the International Poster Unveiling Reception is slated for 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the National Civil Rights Museum. Festival commissioned artist this year is  Jason Jerome Colbert, CEO of Life In Colors Studio, is the commissioned artist. An accomplished oil painter and native Memphian, Colbert graduated from Ridgeway High School and attended the  Memphis College of Art.

The festival’s line-up of professionals, bands, musicians, poets, SCS/MCS/Charter and parochial School performers, choirs, artists and entertainers will include:

  • Eye 2 Eye Band, (Monte Quarles/ director),
  • Dan Hope and TOPIX Band,
  • The Memphis Letter Carriers Band,
  • Christian soul artist Ta Nai Moore,
  • Jazz and blues icon Joyce Cobb,
  • Leo Preston Jr., and
  • The K3 Studio Band (Gospel, blues, R&B).

On Friday Aug. 6, the International Children’s and Senior Citizens Diversity Day Parade rolls from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Schools, churches and community organizations wishing to participate can email [email protected].

Kickin’ during the 2019 AIA parade. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/TSD Archives)

Vendors, food trucks and all business enterprises that would like to reserve a booth or space may also reach out through email, or call 901-947-2133.

A full schedule of activities, events, and admission fees is also available upon request.

“Let’s prepare to celebrate our history, culture, diversity, Afrocentricity, music, genealogy, family, legacy, traditions, and  heritage,” said Dr. Yvonne Acey, associate director of the Africa in April Cultural Awareness Festival.

“Whether in April or August, the festival is an important part of our city’s story. Don’t miss it.”