Springfield celebrates African-American heritage

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Fifth annual festival focuses on education

By The Staff

By Jimmie Earls


Sun Staff Writer

The streets of downtown Springfield were filled with food, fun and entertainment on Friday, Aug. 1, as the city held its 5th annual African-American Heritage Festival. The event recognizes and celebrates the contributions that African-Americans have made to the community. This year's event focused on the importance of education in children's lives.

The festival was preceded on Thursday night with a tribute to African-American educators. A panel discussion on enhancing the educational experience for minorities was held featuring Jacquelyn Austin, director of curriculum & assessment for Jefferson County Public Schools.

Friday's festivities kicked off a little past 6 p.m. with food sold by the Johnson Chapel AME Zion Church. Music was provided by Perfect Fit featuring Angela Nance, followed by a parade down Main Street at 7 p.m., which included many participants from area African-American churches, businesses, clubs and civic organizations. There were also informational booths lined along both sides of North Cross Main Street.

Taking the stage after the parade was Zambia Nkrumah-White, who spoke about the importance of education and parental involvement in children's lives.

"Washington County can take back everything the street is trying to take away," Nkrumah-White said to the crowd. "We need to be consciously, consistently present in our child's lives."

The crowd then got "the spirit of the drum" with a performance from Louisville's River City Drum Corp. The group, formed in 1993, is made up of children and young adults trained in the art of African drumming. The drum corp was clearly an audience favorite, with many clapping along and enjoying the group's choreographed routines.

As the sun set over Springfield, the gospel choral group Witness took to the stage, followed by a performance by the Male Chorus Group from Danville First Baptist Church. Net'work performed from 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., then DJ Frankie Boy kept the dance music going until midnight.

"It was a wonderful event," said event committee member Nell Haydon. "It was the largest crowd we've ever had. The court square was completely full, we had 250 chairs and we had doubled that at one point, and that doesn't count the people on the street. It was a huge crowd."

The crowd seemed to enjoy the entertainment this year, and they helped with cleanup after the festivities. The festival has built a solid foundation over the past five years, and looks to be even bigger and better next year.

Video below: The River City Drum Corp from Louisville, KY performs during the parade as part of Springfield's 5th annual African-American Heritage Festival on August 1, 2008.

Video by Jimmie Earls/The Springfield Sun