Down Home Family Reunion

Down Home Family Reunion

Date Observed: Third weekend in August
Location: Richmond, Virginia

The Down Home Family Reunion in Richmond, Virginia, is an annual festival of African-American folklife during the third weekend in August. The Reunion's events demonstrate and celebrate the connections between west African and African-American cultures.

Historical Background

The Down Home Family Reunion is presented by the Elegba Folklore Society, which was formed in 1990 to provide a forum for the diversity of African culture through the arts and to link west African and African-American cultural traditions. The society is named for the orisha or deity Esu Elegbara (eh-shew eh-leg-bah-rah), a spirit or force of nature in the tradition of the Yoruba people, a language and cultural group of west Africa.

According to Yoruba beliefs, Esu Elegbara (also known as Ellegua) is a gatekeeper who opens the way to, and also guards the paths of, communication between the divine and humanity. Elegba in Yoruba means "messenger of the gods," a mythical messenger of destiny who keeps people connected. He also is known as a trickster who can open or close doors that lead to a happy or sorrowful life; he knows the fate of each person.

Creation of the Observance

The Elegba Folklore Society began the annual Down Home Family Reunion in 1991 with the support of the City of Richmond and various businesses. It also presents Juneteenth and Kwanzaa celebrations.

Observance

During the Down Home Family Reunion, more than 20,000 people take part in two days of dance, oral traditions, music, children's events, down-home food, and crafts. Activities have included an oral historian of the late 1800s, who tells stories in rhyme about love and life; blues and reggae performances; African dance music; songs about life in Africa; gospel singers; and demonstrations of the chants and rhythms of railroad workers, who laid rail long before machinery was available to do the hard labor. Children can take part in making crafts, and a Heritage Market offers an assortment of unique items.

Contacts and Web Sites

Elegba Folklore Society 101 E. Broad St. Richmond, VA 23219 804-644-3900

Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau 401 N. 3rd St. Richmond, VA 23219 800-370-9004

Down Home Family Reunion

Third weekend in August
Introduced in 1992, the Down Home Family Reunion is an annual celebration of west African folk life held in Abner Clay Park in Richmond, Va., during the third weekend in August. The reunion draws approximately 25,000 attendees during two days of events and offers music and dance performances, storytelling presentations, traditional foods, a heritage marketplace, and children's activities.
The festival is organized by the Elegba Folklore Society, Inc., a nonprofit group that sponsors the activities in an effort to demonstrate the close connection between west African folk life and the cultural traditions of African Americans. With many hands-on and interactive exhibits, the festival showcases the strong influence of west African culture on life in the American South. Many performers and participants are African. Saturday's activities are free and emphasize family participation in craft demonstrations and a variety of cultural exhibits. Sunday's lineup concludes with a concert at dusk that features music and spoken word performances by national and local acts.
CONTACTS:
Elegba Folklore Society
101 E. Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23219
804-644-3900
elegbafolkloresociety.org
Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau
401 N. 3rd St.
Richmond, VA 23219
800-370-9004 or 888-742-4663
www.visit.richmond.com
SOURCES:
AAH-2007, p. 126
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