*Los Angeles-A huge diverse crowd of thousands found themselves in Leimert Park Village, the epicenter and heart of African American cultural community. The crowd came to partake in and celebrate our rich and vibrant culture that was displayed Labor Day Weekend, August 30-September 1, 2014.
The occasion was the 6th Annual Leimert Park Village African Art and Music Festival presented by The Leimert Park Group and Council President Herb. J. Wesson. 2014 Festival theme “Shaping Our Destiny.”
You had to see the amazing artistry of Michael Massenburg on the promotional postcards, posters and promotional banner to be aware of all that the Leimert Park Village African Art & Music Festival had to offer Angelenos for this beautiful, warm Labor Day Weekend celebration. There was a new layout for the festival, with the stage, vendors, etc. positioned on the Degnan Blvd. between 43rd Street and 43rd Place.
The festival featured jazz, blues, R&B, Neo-Soul, reggae, rock, hip-hop, dance, African drums, comedy showcased and spoken work artists & musicians of the highest caliber, hair, health and beauty expo, fashion show, kids village, Teen’s Tent and Food Court (Pearson’s Seafood, Dulan’s on Crenshaw, What’s The Funnel, Sno Biz, Whose Hungry Now, Kettle Corn & Stuff, Super Salads to Go, Mommie Helen’s, Tropical Vibes Cuisine and Olivia’s Kitchen-Ghanaian West African Food).
Comedienne, Host and Actress Ramona Stephens returned as Mistress of Ceremonies. The fact that Ms. Stephens continues to be invited back to host the festival speaks volumes about her tremendous talents as a comedienne and host. The crowd and I found ourselves laughing out loud; believe me when I say loud as Ms. Stephens shared humorous real life stories all weekend. Be sure to check out Ramona Stephens on Thursday, September 11, 2014 at the Comedy Union, 5040 W. Pico Blvd. (323)934-9300. This show will feature some local and nationally know comedians.
The festival got under way with the spiritual, thumping drumming of S.H.I.N.E. Mawusi Women’s African Drum and Dance Troupe led by Momma Nene.
The opening act served as a perfect bridge leading to the set by Harlem Dance-A-Palooza w/ Conversant Dance Company led by Dai Jainai Lopez, as they performed dances from back in the day, 60’s and 70’s. Their opening dance routine expressed anger, frustration to hope and joy. The group took the audience down memory lane with an audience participatory dance moves- Twist, Shotgun, Mickey’s Monkey, Funky Broadway, Mash Potato, Boogaloo, The Jerk, The Wah Watusi, Hully Gully and the Bop. Delores McCarroll volunteered to share some fancy footwork to the delight of the crowd.
The stage was set for the next segment of the program, Spoken Word Showcase hosted by Conney Williams who recited Last Night I Dreamt I Was Born Black, and other socially, conscious raising poems. Poet Stacy Dyson recited several original pieces as well such as “Women 742365, When My Baby Walks, I’m a Super Hero, The Chocolate Blues and I Am a Poet. A.K. Tony came up next to recite Billy Higgins about the late great jazz drummer, followed by Jazz Peddlers, Village Gossip and In a Black Man’s Mind, We Can Still Define Greatness.
The Comedy Showcased featured a brief side splitting stand up routine by Ramona Stephens followed by Desean Ross and Justis Hires.
The next exciting portion of the program consisted of Luv Mi King Natural Locs Hair Showcase & Demonstration featuring Safia, followed by “Super Natural-The Play and a Natural Hair Panel hosted by Lydia O. Boyd, Founder & President, L.A. Curly Girls, Juanita Clark, Co-organizer, LA Naturals, Rhonda Ray, Founder, Afro City & Afrolicious, Gwen Allen, Co-Founder, Nappywood Weekend LA and Kashera La Tash, Natural Hair Vlogger, a.k.a. “KASHTV.” This panel urge audience members to embrace the beauty that made you with (natural hair).
Saxophonist Kamasi Washington is a celebrated West Coast based young lion. He fronted a tight band, The Next Step Band, as a large group of people gathered near the Main Stage. The band cranked up the entertainment up a notch with a set of straight-ahead, modern jazz on the tunes “Misunderstanding,” “Oskin” (My Love), and “The Rhythm Changes” featuring vocalist Patrice Quinn. Looking around, I noticed many smiling faces, heads bopping and bodies swaying.
Singer, Songwriter and guitarist Nasambu & The Mystic Nomads took the crowd on an eclectic Global journey during her time in the spotlight on the tunes “Embe Do Do,” “Momma Africa,” and “Winds of Change” with a tinge of reggae that got the crowd up and dancing.
It’s Party Time! Funkalicious took the audience on another fun trip down memory lane with a set of popular songs and dances from back in the day, to close out Day 1 of the festival.
I didn’t arrive to the festival grounds until noon on Sunday, just in time to catch the Spoken Word Showcase hosted by Conney Williams with Korla Camille reciting Ode To Children and Chocolate Men followed by Lorenzo Frank to recite Sirens Echo, and I Love You More Than You Can Imagine.
We revisited the 70’s once again with On Poynte. This trio of vocalist was on point, as they made a point to thoroughly entertain the crowd with the tunes “Get Down on It,” “Backstabbers,” “You Are My Darling, Darling Baby,” “I’m Stoned in Love with You,” “Poppa Was a Rolling Stone,” You Are My Everything, Girl,” “I’m Just A Love Machine” and other soulful gems.
Sankofa Sunday was a sacred occasion and a time of remembrance and celebration of those that have transitioned since last year, hosted by Mwalimu Kabalia, Founder of Congress of African People.
Momma Nene and S.H.I.N.E. Mawusi led the crowd in African drumming and dance lessons as well as explaining the meaning of the various drums and their purpose and the dances.
Kari Taylor (formerly of Klymaxx) is a sultry songstress who has a powerful and alluring voice that was quite apparent during her roof raising performance while fighting through a cold on the party tunes “Meeting in the Ladies Room,” “Caught Up,” Love Come Down,” “Feel the Fire,” “I Survived” an uplifting tune by gospel singers Mary, Mary, and “Smooth and Tight.”
Festival favorites Medusa followed by Wadada & Cultural Soul got the crowds adrenaline flowing as they worked them into a frenzy to close out Day 2 of the festival.
Day 3 of the festival continued with Jai Jae Kambasa African Drum and Dance Troupe, return engagement of Harlem Dance-A-Palooza with Conversant Dance Company, Spoken Word and Comedy Showcase, Hair, Fashion & Beauty Runway Show.
Live entertainment of the final day of the festival was provided by Derf Reklaw Quartet, Beau Williams, Michael Sessions, N Circle Band, Leon Mobley and a rousing, explosive drum and percussion collective made up of over 20 drummers.
Dulan’s on Crenshaw once again served as Title Sponsor of the VIP Hospitality Area. On Saturday, August 30th, Chef Dessi Rivero and Jasmine Jacinthe dished up mouthwatering plates of Baked and Fried Chicken, Salmon Salad, Potato Salad, Cookies and brownies and Lemonade.
Sunday, August 31st, the menu consisted of BBQ Chicken wings, Jambalaya, Salmon Salad, Potato Salad, Cornbread and various cookies and brownies and lemonade. Chef Dessi Rivero, Dapne Smith and Jasmine Jacinthe manned the booth.
Monday, September 1st, the menu consisted of hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad; corn on the cob, watermelon, and bake beans various cookies and brownies and two different cakes-Red Velvet and Yellow Cake.
Recharge was another event that was held in conjunction with the 6th Annual Leimert Park Village African Art & Music Festival. This event was designed by teens to engage other teens with a live DJ, musical performances, demos, street art, food, panel discussions, youth art exhibit and teen vendors. I caught the informative, educational panel entitled “LAUSD Inequalities in Cultural Education with panel members, Jsane Tyler, Parent Co-Coordinator, Ronda Brown, Crenshaw High School VAPA, Mr. Kenneth Turner,Teacher, BSU sponsor at Hamilton High School and M. Keith Claybrook, Lecturer, African Studies CSUDH.
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based music reviewer, writer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]