What began as a motley few dressed in African garb walking to the beat of an African drum has grown 33 years later to an international, culturally-diverse festival that attracts thousands of revelers each year at Robert Church Park in downtown Memphis.
An African country is featured each year. The people, their culture, their history, dance, art, and their way of life are staged in colorful and creative fashion. This year, The Federal Republic of Nigeria is being honored.
The festival, which began with activities on Wednesday (April 17) continues through Sunday. Games, music, artistry, uniquely crafted merchandise and various entertainment will highlight the affair.
For David and Yvonne Acey, organizing the festival each year has been a joy and a lot of hard work.
“Each year, the festival has grown bigger and bigger,” said David Acey Sr. “This year, we are expecting record crowds in attendance over the five-day event. Not only will we be honoring the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but we will recognize our city’s Bicentennial.”
Memphis and Shelby County turns 200 in 2019.
“Various themes important to our community will be incorporated in this year’s celebration, such as educational excellence, arts and crafts, afrocentricity, economics, geneology, musicology, entrepreneurship, international relations, cuisine, drug awareness, history, tourism, culture and the arts,” Acey said.
An unforgettable spectacle of all kinds of music characteristically marks Africa in April. Local gospel favorites will perform on Sunday, including Derek and Tara Clark, along with their Friends and Family Choir.
Acey said they are always delighted to see other cultures and ethnicities at Africa in April festivities.
“We want everyone to learn about and celebrate the people and countries of Africa,” said Acey.
“It doesn’t take a whole lot of money to bring a vision to fruition. We started out with a few friends and those of like mind down on Beale marching to an African drum, dressed in African garb, proclaiming, ‘This is the Africa in April Cultural Festival.’ We’ve come a long way from that march in the street. It is a beautiful thing.”