By Matt Liptak
A festival with an impact. That’s the promise of the 32nd annual Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival, which returns this Saturday, Sept. 24 to downtown Annapolis. It’s a time of celebrating cultural heritage, acknowledging shared history, and honoring the resiliency of enslaved people and their descendants.
In years past, over 9,000 people have attended the festival at Annapolis’ City Dock. Planning Committee Chair Jan F. Lee believes there may be more visitors than last year due to anticipated great weather, as well as the fading impact of the pandemic.
“I really think it will be more,” Lee said. “I think with how comfortable people are getting now with our new normal, I think we will see more people.”
The festival is named for the character in Alex Haley’s book “Roots.” Kunta Kinte was based on one of Haley’s ancestors, who was brought to Annapolis in 1767 after being captured and sold into slavery.
The festival features over 110 vendors, three stages of entertainment (main stage, community stage, and memorial stage), a children’s activity tent, new acts, and a free shuttle.
Organizers bill the volunteer-run event as “a celebration of the perseverance, education, and cultural heritage of Africans, African Americans, and Caribbean people of African descent.”
“It’s important because it offers an opportunity for learning, joy, and healing,” Lee said. “The festival is for everyone. Everyone can walk away with something meaningful and impact when they come.”
Some meaningful new musical talent will be gracing the stages this year. Black Alley is the headliner. “They are an amazing Go-Go band from D.C.,” Lee said. “We’ll also have (saxophonist) Art Sherrod, DiVine of Annapolis, and Lifetime Band. And a young rapper out of Annapolis who is doing really big things–his name is Flawless Breezy.”
Although she experiences it differently as a volunteer, Lee said she enjoys the event, too. “I just love the energy,” she said. “When I see people enjoying the festival, when they’re seeing something exciting at a vendor’s booth, or they’re eating some really good food, or they’re listening to the music and dancing—I just love seeing that. It’s a good feeling.”
Masks are recommended, but not required. The free festival runs from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Learn more: https://www.kuntakinte.org/