The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, the Culture & Heritage Alliance and Loving Hands international present the 5th Annual African World Peace Festival on Friday, July 12-Sunday, July 14, in the Cool Spring Downtown District of Fayetteville.
“The purpose of the event is to celebrate culture and heritage through dance performances, cultural exhibitions, music and storytelling, and to preserve and inform everyone in our community about other cultures, customs and traditions of all indigenous people,” said Betsy McElwee, marketing and graphic design coordinator of the African World Peace Festival. “It is also a time to celebrate, dance and have fun.”
The festival features a beer garden, a kids zone, five bounce houses, a climbing wall, arts and crafts activities, musical performances, food trucks, retail vendors and more. Fascinate-U Children’s Museum will do an art project with the kids. The Breastfeeding Center of Fayetteville will have breastfeeding and diaper changing areas located throughout the festival.
The event kicks off on Friday at 5 p.m. “We will have vendors, food trucks and music,” said McElwee. “Our stage is going to be set up on Person Street, and it will be kicked off by Fusha Dance Company, based out of New York City, who will be doing an African dance performance.”
McElwee added that there will also be performances by an African highlife band and Veterans Artist. Jazz saxophonist and national recording artist Reggie Codrington will play a tribute to jazz legend and political activist Hugh Masekela. An Art Walkabout touring the downtown galleries with the African World Peace Festival theme will take place from 5-9 p.m.
Saturday’s festivities begin with the 5K Peace Run/ Walk at 8 a.m. Rolling Thunder’s motorcycle club’s North Carolina Chapter will lead the run. The 5K this year is in remembrance and honor of retired Sgt. 1st Class Julio C. Ramirez, who served in the Army and died from leukemia.
“Julio brought (this) run to Fayetteville and helped me start this festival,” said Isabella Effon, event coordinator of the African World Peace Festival. “He understood celebrating the footprint of Africa around the world and the (importance of the) arts.”
Effon added that Julio died before the event’s second year and that celebrating its fifth year is meaningful to her because she could not have done it without Julio. His wife and daughter continue to give their support with the run as Fayetteville Elite Runners. In 2016, the city of Fayetteville proclaimed Aug. 14 as a day for Julio C. Ramirez, to honor his tireless community efforts and his work in local charities and running events.
The first performance on Saturday will be the JC Latin Jazz Project at 11:30 a.m. There will be various health providers on-site to conduct free blood pressure screenings from 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Carriage Tours of Olde Fayetteville will be on-site offering rides through downtown Fayetteville from 9 a.m.-noon. The headliner performers are Bill Curtis & Friends with The Fatback Band Reunion at 8 p.m. and Chris Legacy at 10:15 p.m. Other musical performances include the Ewe Association of Charlotte, North Carolina; That NATION Band; African Highlife Band; Aya African Drum & Dance; and a Kongo jazz act.
“We will have a lot of African-specific vendors, and you will be able to get authentic African food, textiles and goods, which we think is just super cool,” said McElwee. “Many of the merchants in downtown Fayetteville will also set up their own vendor tables because they will be participating in our event.”
Sunday’s lineup begins at noon with a gospel concert. “We will have a nondenominational service and we will also have the Aya African Drum & Dance, Bonita Burney Simmons, gospel drummers, African Children Beats, African Gospel Band, The Spiritual Crusaders, and Anointed Vision,” said McElwee. “We will have food trucks, vendors and the kids zone, but we will not have the climbing wall.”
The Culture & Heritage Alliance has three charities it supports. First, the Alliance has partnered with Loving Hands International. Loving Hands International’s mission is to build a balanced community through donating resources to strengthen and improve quality of life for the poor and underserved communities in the United States and Ghana.
“This year, we have a book drive that we will be holding throughout the event, and we are also trying to raise money for Anani Memorial International School in Ghana, Africa,” said McElwee.
“Every year, Loving Hands International goes to Ghana and does a mission trip. This year, we will be taking books. We are trying to raise $30,000 for 20 computers for their school.”
The Cultural & Heritage Alliance supports two local nonprofit charities, Cape Fear Valley’s Sweet Kids Camp and Designing Station. The camp is designed for diabetic children, and the goal is to send five kids from low socio-economic families to camp next summer. Designing Station is an organization that supports individuals and families who are transitioning from homelessness and domestic violence in Cumberland and Robeson counties. The goal in regard to that nonprofit is to gift it with $1,000.
A free African World Peace Drums and Rhythms interactive workshop will be offered July 8 and July 11 from 2-4 p.m. at the Main Headquarters Library in downtown Fayetteville and July 9 and 10 at Volta Space at Taste of West Africa from 2-4 p.m.
The event is free and open to the public. The 5K Peace Run/Walk set for July 13 will begin at 105 Person St. Register online at www.active.com. The cost is $40 for adults and $30 for kids. Military cost is $30 for adults and $25 for kids. Every runner will receive a T-shirt and a medal. Runners for the 5K ages 21 and older will receive a free beer. Winners in each age category will receive an award.
Packet pickup for the race is Friday, July 12, from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at 116 Person St. For more information, or to volunteer or become a sponsor, contact Isabella Effon at 910-728-2186 or visit www.AfricanPeaceFestival.org.