If the Africa in April Cultural Awareness Festival, Inc. were a person who had just turned 27, what would one who knew him or her well say?
"At 27, alive and well, 100 percent plus and moving on up," said Yvonne B. Acey, the festival's associate director.
"We are quite excited and quite grateful for those who started with us and helped us along the way and gave us encouragement."
Acey said people often ask her and her husband, Executive Director David L. Acey Sr., "Why Africa? Why April?"
Her answer is succinct.
"We know the Africa connects us with the homeland – the culture, the continent, the music, the dance. We know April is a month of beginnings. It's rebirth and regeneration and reconnection. Also an opportunity to get into your own identity."
Each year the festival honors an African country, with the Republic of Senegal filling the bill for 2013. The West Africa country has been honored twice previously, and the selection is tied to a visit last year to Memphis by Macky Sall, who is now the country's president.
"The Senegalese in Tennessee, in Memphis and around this area have an enormous population," said Acey. "He (Sall) was in Memphis last year campaigning. David (Acey, her husband and executive director) took him around to different venues in the city...just giving him a taste of Memphis. He got excited.
"And of course he won (the presidential election)!"
Acey said while campaigning Sall asked if there was a chance Senegal could be honored again, giving him a chance to send "a big delegation." The answer? Yes!
From that conversation and an ongoing dialogue came Africa in April's third tribute to Senegal. True to his word, President Sall cleared the way for a delegation that numbers close to 20, including His Excellency Cheikh Niang, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Senegal to the United States.
The delegation's visit has included a visit to the Tennessee Capitol, numerous discussions about tourism, economic development, partnerships, government, politics and people. Along the way, the visiting Senegalese have talked about "the country's history, uniqueness and how they plan to work with Memphis and Senegal."
Elements of that objective and commitment were on display at Wednesday's International Business & Economic Development Trade Luncheon at the Holiday Inn-University of Memphis.
The festival – 2013
The Africa in April Cultural Awareness Festival, Inc., which runs through Sunday, unfolds downtown at Robert R. Church Park (Fourth Street at Beale Street).
Representatives from Memphis City Schools, Shelby County Schools, parochial schools, area colleges and universities, community organizations and other Institutions will participate.
Each of the remaining days of the four-day festival has a different theme, with fun, festivities, and food on tap each day.
Here is the 2013 schedule:
Thursday, April 18
International Entrepreneur's Day, with vendor setup at Robert R. Church Park, and the Africa In April International Poster Unveiling and Commissioned Artist Reception (Location & time TBA).
Friday, April 19
Children and Senior's Day – (8:30 a.m.-midnight).
International Diversity Parade (Robert R. Church Park & Beale Street) – 10:30 a.m.-noon (10 a.m., parade line up).
International Vendor's Market Place – 8 a.m.-midnight.
Saturday, April 20
Health, Wellness & Community Day – (8 a.m.-midnight)
International Vendor's Market Place (8 a.m.-midnight)
Seminars, Exhibitions, Demonstrations, & Referrals (9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.)
African Fashion Showcase (3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.)
International Blues Showcase Saturday (7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.)
Sunday, April 21
International Music Day – Jazz, Gospel, Blues, Reggae & World Sounds – (9 a.m.- 6 p.m.)
International Vendor's Market Place (8 a.m.- 6 p.m.)
"Gospel In The Park" (10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.)
Friday, April 19, Children & Senior Citizen's Day – Free admission.
Saturday and Sunday, April 20-21 – $5 per person; Children 12 and under – free
(For more information: 901-947-2133 (office); 901-947-2414 (fax); www.africainapril.org)