AFRAM Festival

AFRAM Festival

Date Observed: Second weekend in August
Location: Seaford, Delaware

The annual AFRAM Festival in Seaford, Delaware, takes place on the second weekend in August. "AFRAM" stands for African American. Developing cultural awareness and displaying African-American heritage and pride are two of the underlying reasons for the festival.

Historical Background

African-American festivals have been taking place on a widespread scale in the United States since the 1980s. Many of these festivals have been initiated to connect the past with the present in black communities and to foster understanding of the African diaspora and the contributions people of African descent have made worldwide. Festivals also provide opportunities for local black communities to display their talents and highlight their accomplishments.

Creation of the Festival

The AFRAM Festival originated as "a big vision for a small county," according to its founder Councilwoman Pat Jones, the first African American to serve on the city council. It was designed to promote a positive outlook in the African-American community, and it has turned into one of the largest cultural events in Sussex County, Delaware.

The first AFRAM festivals were held in the 1990s, but after 1999 there was a hiatus for four years. In 2003 Jones chaired a committee that resumed the event.

Observance

The festival has grown since its inception. By 2005 participants had increased to more than 4,000 from fewer than 1,000 in 2003. The number of floats in the parade also increased, and there was a greater diversity of people - a goal the committee had hoped to accomplish. Activities include a car show, cultural displays, a pageant with entrants competing for Little Miss and Mr. AFRAM titles, musical entertainment, games and, of course, food.

A traditional west African ritual to honor elders is also part of the festival. The Sankofa Drummers and Dancers of Dover, Delaware, is a performance company that focuses on African dance and percussion instruments. The musicians and dancers participate in a procession in which a huge umbrella - a sign of respect - is held over honored guests while drums beat. Other performances at the festival have included a Christian rapper, a rhythm and blues group, and a creative movement troupe.

Contacts and Web Sites

P.O. Box 687 Seaford, DE 19973 302-628-1908

City of Seaford 414 High St. P.O. Box 1100 Seaford, DE 19973 302-629-9173; fax: 302-629-9307

Further Reading

Kofi Acree, Eric. "Message from the Africana Librarian." Sankofa Africana Library News- letter (Cornell University Library), February 2003.

Sankofa

The term sankofa has been applied not only to performance companies (like the Dover group and the Williams College Step Team) but also to newsletters about Africana and to titles of films and books. According to Eric Kofi Acree of the Cornell University Library, sankofa stems from words in the pictorial writing system of the Akan people in Ghana, meaning "one must return to the past in order to move forward." The sankofa symbol is also associated with a proverb meaning "go back and fetch it" or "return to the source and fetch (learn)." A flying bird turning its head completely around to face backward is often used to symbolize sankofa. The reason for using the symbol and/or term is to focus on rediscovery of traditions that may be lost or forgotten and to give them meaning and significance in present-day life.
References in periodicals archive ?
The program has already commenced with participation at the Grand Rapids African American Festival, the Indiana Black Expo, the Afram Festival in Baltimore and the Birmingham Heritage Festival.