Community invited to attend African Diaspora Arts Festival

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By Kortez

In 2016, three individuals decided there was a cultural void that needed to be filled in the greater Freehold and Monmouth County area. Freehold artist/curator Kortez, Adrienne Nesby a local businesswoman and hair stylist, and playwright Mark Henderson came together to create a multicultural event to uplift the community of Freehold and Monmouth County in general.

The African Diaspora Arts Festival is happening on Aug. 25 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Freehold Art Gallery, 7A W. Main St., Freehold Borough, and in front of the Monmouth County Hall of Records, 1 E. Main St., Freehold Borough.

The event is going into its third year and is a celebration of the cultural arts, entrepreneurship, civic responsibility and community outreach.

The word “diaspora” comes from a Greek word that means “scattered about.” In this case diaspora refers to the large group of people with similar African heritage who have since been either removed or left their place of origin – Africa.

Kortez felt the need to view this festival from a more global vantage point, saying, “To just make this an African American festival we would of been limiting our possibilities. I really want this festival to grow into a international affair.”

This year’s theme is taken from the iconic 1978 song by Chaka Khan, “I’m Every Woman.” Later the legendary Whitney Houston made the song a hit in the early 1990s and we thought it was the perfect title for a festival celebrating women of the African Diaspora and beyond.

This year we have local poet Rochelle Miller and musician and MC T’Challah acting as hosts for the event. The DJ Collective called the M:Projekt will be providing the sounds during the course of the day.

Performances will include Freehold favorite Gary Wright, spoken word artist Timo Scott, vocalist Gail Campbell and Jaz Graham. The festival will include dance routines by EMINI Peruvian Dance Company, the Bridget Duncan Dance Troupe and Afrika and the Natural Flow Dance Ensemble.

The Freehold Art Gallery will have an exhibit reception all day with the festival. Jeff Friedman invited Kortez to curate this exhibit, also titled “I’m Every Woman.”

The artists include Armisey Smith, Antoinette Marchfelder, Martryce Roach, Jerry Gant, Akil Roper, Marlon Harris, Vellus Campbell, Edmond Derrick, Joseph Borzotta, Ron Well, Neville Brown, Lehi Mendez, Mansa Musa, Debby Szerin, Larry J Walker and Dawn Gregory.

Kortez also has art in this exhibit, including a collaboration he did with Freehold artist Dawn Gregory. Dawn lives in Kuwait and the two created the art using social media.

Vendors will be selling fashion, crafts, jewelry and other creative goods. The promotion of business and entrepreneurship has always been a  major focus for the festival. There will be food vendors, and the Caribbean Flavors restaurant, 8 Court St., Freehold Borough, will be open for business all day.

Civic responsibility is also key. The Greater Freehold Chapter NAACP will be present and will conduct a voter registration drive. Voting is so important and the festival is the perfect vehicle to drive home the message of the importance of voting. We have an obligation to not only bring the community together, but we believe this festival could be the catalyst for something very unique. We hope the public is entertained, enlightened and inspired.

Individuals interested in being a vendor may call 732-639-9377 or 732-333-0609.

This exhibition is free and open to the public and I encourage the whole family to attend. My parents sharing the gallery experience for me as a child was definitely a key moment that shaped who I am today. For more information, please visit our Facebook page, 2018 African Diaspora Arts Festival and esotericurbanism.com

Kortez is a resident of Freehold Borough, an artist, and one of the organizers of the African Diaspora Arts Festival, which this year has the theme of “I’m Every Woman.”