African-American Day, held on Saturday at the University Museum, required no passport or plane ticket to visit the sights, sounds, and tastes of African and African-American culture. This third annual festival was organized by museum employees Debra Heller and Pat Goodwin. "There are a lot of resources in the city," said museum employee and University senior Sharon DeSipio. "This is good for them and us. They get to be well known in the area, and we get to see them." Hilary Lopez, a University student and employee, said she felt that the day was a positive event, but said she felt that not enough students saw events like this one as a form of learning. Uduak Essien, a College sophomore, said that it was an enjoyable day, but she said that one event was not enough to overcome her view that the University and its students do not do enough for the community. "The University needs to offer more services to the community," she said. "If the community people didn't come today, no one would be here." The day began with storyteller Jamal Koram, who spoke to many Philadelphia youths, including Sunday school groups and the Positive Intervention Program. He told folktales that had relevant messages for a younger crowd, such as staying away from drugs and alcohol and being proud of black heritage. "He had good messages delivered in a light, humorous, music-filled way," said Willie Kelly, who brought the Sunday school from Shiloh Baptist Church. "We all learned something." The day also included a dance demonstration by the Ibeji Performing Arts Company. Participants learned African dance steps to live drum music. "People love to dance, especially to music they usually don't dance to," DeSipio said. "You can't turn on the radio and find this stuff." The highlight of the day seemed to be the Nigerian food demonstration. Affiong Aquah showed the audience how to cook and eat such regional dishes as foo-foo, moi-moi, jeloff rice and plantain. People lined the Mosaic Gallery to get a taste of Africa. "We liked the food the best," five-year-old cousins Juliet and Gavin Shalon said. "We liked the spicy things the most." There were also day-long, smaller, participatory events. People got a chance to make jewelry and masks, practice crocheting and carve wood. Most of the people who ran these events were from the local community. Issac Maefield, who taught woodcarving, lives in West Philadelphia. Besides being a well-known sculptor, Maefield teaches wood-carving and creative writing workshops to local schools, colleges, and libraries. Yvonne Arango was another West Philadelphia resident who participated in the day. She presented the science of iridology, which is the technique of reading a person's health by the markings of the iris' tissue. "It is an Egyptian art coming into the medical society," said Arango. Drummer Ancestor Gold Sky presented music from Western Africa to America. His aim was to show the audience that most American music, not just jazz, found its origins in Africa. The last two acts of the day, the Women's Sekere Ensemble and the JAASU Ballet, both performed to a packed Harrison Auditorium. The sekere is a traditional African percussion instrument made of a dried gourd with a beaded macrame skirt. The four-woman ensemble has used these sekeres in many East Coast performances and workshops since 1988. The JAASU ballet was formed in 1985 as a music and dance group to inform Philadelphia about the West Africa culture. The performance was filled with intense movement and music and flamboyant costumes. A new feature this year was a dancing stiltwalker. These groups said they are vital to keep the African traditions alive and to teach them to children. "Without these people you children will have nothing to follow," Quaasi said, the lead drummer of the JAASU ballet. "The future lies in the eyes of culture."Comments powered by Disqus
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