African/Caribbean International Festival of Life

African/Caribbean International Festival of Life

Date Observed: Five days including July 4
Location: Chicago, Illinois

The African/Caribbean International Festival of Life (IFOL) is a multicultural, family event held each year over the Fourth of July weekend in Chicago, Illinois. Since 1992 the festival has presented African and Caribbean music and foods to a diverse audience.

Historical Background

Chicago is home to people from a great variety of ethnic groups, including European, Hispanic, Caribbean, and African Americans, as well as people of Asian and Native American descent.

To celebrate his city's richness, Ephraim M. Martin established Martin's Inter-Culture, Ltd., a company that has produced festivals in Chicago since the 1980s. In addition to the African/Caribbean Festival of Life, Martin also produces the annual Chicago Music Awards and the Reggae and World Music Awards.

Creation of the Festival

Martin's Inter-Culture presented the first African/Caribbean International Festival of Life in 1992, attracting an estimated 6,000 people. By 2004 the crowd totaled 30,000. Martin's objective has been to attract a diversity of Chicagoans to experience African, Caribbean, and African-American music, foods, arts, and more.


The festival is held at Washington Park where two stages provide live entertainment daily. One is typically devoted to music. Genres include reggae, calypso, salsa, blues, rhythm and blues, highlife (west African music that is described as a fusion of indigenous dance rhythms and melodies and western influences), soukous (modern Zairean dance music), hip hop and rap. The second stage is more often geared to gospel and educational undertakings.

There are numerous children's activities available during the festival, in keeping with its family orientation. An international marketplace is open daily and has something for every taste and temptation. Between 200 and 300 vendors offer food, arts and crafts, jewelry, and clothing. At the food booths participants can sample Caribbean, African, Asian, Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, and American dishes. Local business merchants and companies also have booths to showcase their area services. Each year the event is themed but, typically, it follows along the lines of IFOL founder Martin's belief that "Out of the Many, We are One People."

Contact and Web Site

International Festival of Life c/o Martin's Inter-Culture, Ltd. 1325 S. Wabash Ave., Ste. 307 Chicago, IL 60605 312-427-0266; fax: 312-427-0268
African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2007

African/Caribbean International Festival of Life

Independence Day weekend
Introduced in 1993, the African/Caribbean International Festival of Life (IFOL) is a music and culture celebration held in Washington Park in Chicago during the first week of July. The family-oriented festival draws more than 150,000 attendees over a four-day period extending from Thursday through Sunday of Independence Day weekend. IFOL showcases reggae, calypso, world beat, R&B, hip-hop, jazz, blues, and Latin music. In addition, it features dance performances, food, clothing, arts, crafts, and a variety of activities and games designed for family entertainment. IFOL organizers sponsor the event to promote peace, love, and unity among nations, stressing the dual themes of "Bringing nations together" and "Living together as one." Festivalgoers can purchase a one-day pass or a festival pass good for all four days. A portion of the proceeds from the festival is donated to charity to support programs for children in crisis.
African/Caribbean International Festival of Life
Martin's International Culture, Inc.
1325 S. Wabash Ave., Ste. 307
Chicago, IL 60605-2536
312-427-0266 or 877-973-4423; fax: 312-427-0268
AAH -2007, p. 24
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
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