Kwanzaa Fest appeals to millennials

Drummers of the Akoko Nante Ensemble.
Photo by Kofi Hunter

Throughout the city, communities are coming together to celebrate the holidays — Christmas tree lightings, Hanukah celebrations, and Asase Yaa Cultural Arts Foundation is ensuring Kwanza is also represented.

Leading the charge in organizing a full-day event catering to all crowds is musician Kofi Hunter, whose ultimate goal is to encourage those of African descent to own their roots.

According to Hunter, “There’s a lot of young people who feel like it’s not cool to be African. We want to show people that they can come to this event and it will be for young people of African descent being super African and loving it.”

Asase Yaa — an arts organization “committed to ensuring that youth understand the true importance of culture in the arts” — previously hosted a Kwanzaa celebration 10 years ago; organized by the organization’s executive director — and Hunter’s mentor — Kofi Osei Williams.

Seeing a need to celebrate their culture and appeal to everyone in the Diaspora, Hunter spoke with Williams and pitched his event.

“I called my cousin Osei and said whatever is going on Dec. 26 cancel it, clear out the whole day and we’re going to have bands come through, vendors, visual artists, filmmakers — and he said ok,” he said.

In his observations, he notices that Kwanza celebrations often miss an important group — those ranging from ages 18 to 35.

Often times young children accompanying parents and older generations maintaining Kwanza traditions are happily present but the millennial crowd is often missing.

“A lot of times you go to Kwanza events and it’s either really small children or older people but we wanted to have something that catered to that 18 to 35 demographic,” he said.

To grab the attention of that particular demographic, Hunter has organized the event to be more family oriented during the day with various African drumming and dance classes that will transform into a more party atmosphere during the evening including a film and art presentation.

“We didn’t want to completely negate the traditional Kwanza event setting which is the Kwanza Kinara presentation, dance and drumming classes — those things that we’re used to growing up,” Hunter explained.

Relying on his network and passion, Hunter reached out to friends who are also a part of the art community. Solidifying artists and vendors was simple as he connected with friends who share the same interests.

Also, with help from social media, Hunter was able to attract other artists such as the videographer to participate.

“I’m blessed that I’m a working musician in New York City and have relationships with a lot of different artists who trust and believe in my vision. It’s as simple as saying, ‘I’m having an event and I want you to perform,’” he explained.

The organization’s reputation of hosting culturally dynamic events also leverages the upcoming celebration as their following trusts that this isn’t something they would want to miss.

“Asase Yaa is a brand that is known for delivering quality entertainment and a good time that is connected to culture,” Hunter said.

Kwanzaa Fest will include activities for kids including African drumming workshops, as well as a film screening and art exhibition.

Kwanzaa Fest [Fulton Street between Malcolm X Blvd. and Patchen Avenue in Bedstuy, asaseyaaent.org, (347) 915-2563] Dec. 26. 11 am. Free.

Reach reporter Alley Olivier at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at aoliv[email protected]nglocal.com. Follow Alley on Twitter @All3Y_B.

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