FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2013
Contact: Viola T. Johnson
Public Relations, Communications
Ashé Cultural Arts Center proudly presents the 13th Annual Maafa Commemoration on Saturday, July 6, 2013, at 7:00 a.m., at Congo Square, Armstrong Park in New Orleans. The community, Essence Festival goers, and visitors are invited to participate in this sacred ceremony where we honor our ancestors.
Maafa is a Kiswahili word that means "great tragedy" or "horrific tragedy," referring to the period called the Middle Passage or Transatlantic Slave Trade. During that time, millions of captives from Africa were brought to the Americas where they were used as a labor force, persecuted, beaten, and many, separated from their families forever.
We are collectively coming together for a healing through art and culture.
Hundreds of people attired in white clothing will be welcomed to Congo Square by the melodious sounds of the kora played by Senegal's Morikeba Kouyate. They will gather, primarily, to pay tribute to African ancestors who died during the Middle Passage.
The ceremony includes multi-denominational words of healing, ancestral songs, a tribute to indigenous people of Louisiana, and the releasing of white peace doves. Children from Ashé's Kuumba Institute and Christian Unity Baptist Church will perform a piece entitled "Sundays in Congo Square," which is produced by the Christian Unity Youth Program and the Congo Square Preservation Society. Also performing will be Menahem Laurent and Damas "Fan Fan" Louis from Haiti.
Then, drummers, musicians, The Spirit of Fi Yi Yi Mardi Gras Indians, and N'Fungola Sibo Traditional African Dance Company will lead the procession from Congo Square through historic Tremé, with a brief stop at St. Augustine Catholic Church, the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Slave. From there, the procession continues through the French Quarter, with pauses at Café Maspero and the Royal Orleans Hotel, where slave auctions regularly took place and slave masters transacted business. Then, aboard the Canal Street Ferry, amid high spirits, with drumming, dancing, singing and praying, ancestors will be honored by name, including deceased family members, individuals who were victims of such events as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the levee breaches, the bombings in Boston, the Mother's Day shootings in New Orleans, as well as other acts of senseless violence.
Shuttles will return participants to Congo Square when they depart the Canal Street Ferry.
In the year 2000, Ashé Cultural Arts Center's founders Carol Bebelle and Douglas Redd, engaged by Leia Lewis who coordinated the first Maafa celebration, joined with other similar celebrations around the country. The vision for the Maafa Commemoration continues to grow. It was influenced by the work of St. Paul Baptist Church in Brooklyn, which was then led by New Orleans-born Rev. Johnnie Ray Youngblood, where annually a month-long series of activities form the Maafa remembrance.
The local Maafa Commemoration offers an opportunity for the whole community to pause and reflect on this great transgression against humanity. It allows us to personally, and as a community, agree to distance ourselves institutionally, in word and deed, from that transgression, its legacy and the evolved practice of racism in our civic, social, spiritual and personal lives.
Community support for the Maafa includes sponsorship from Ashé Cultural Arts Center, The Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University and The New Orleans Musicians Assistance Fund, Tulane University Dance Festival and City Sightseeing New Orleans. The Maafa is partially funded by The Kellogg Foundation (America Healing), The Ford Foundation, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. Sponsorship also comes from Southwest Airlines, the official airline for Efforts of Grace, Inc./Ashé Cultural Arts Center.
For more information call (504) 813-9008 or 569-9070.
ABOUT ASHÉ CULTURAL ARTS CENTER
Founded in 1998 by Carol Bebelle and Douglas Redd, Ashé Cultural Arts Center, a project of Efforts of Grace, Inc., is an effort to combine the intentions of neighborhood and economic development with the awesome creative forces of community, culture and art to revive and reclaim a historically significant corridor in Central City New Orleans: Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, formerly known as Dryades Street.
Drawing from a three-decade expansive history of human service planning, and program development, Bebelle currently leads Ashé Cultural Arts Center, whose work evolves out of the intersection of community development, culture and arts in the Central City community of New Orleans. Bebelle is a constant voice, a frequently sought presenter and advocate for the primal role of culture in establishing a quality life in urban environments, especially New Orleans. Her day-to-day laboratory for this work is the Ashé Cultural Arts Center where the daily agenda is created by the intersection of culture, community and art. Among other high profile events, Bebelle is a speaker at the 2013 Essence Empowerment Experience at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
Douglas Redd, now an ancestor, was an internationally renowned artist. He was accomplished in graphic arts, sculpture, wood cuts and jewelry making. He was strongly committed to community work that supported and promoted African and African American values, ethos, culture and symbols. His work has been described as the pivotal graphic influence for much of the African, African American and Caribbean programs and events held in New Orleans. When Essence Magazine celebrated its 25th Anniversary, Redd created the first logo for its first Essence Music Festival. That logo adorned the main stage at the festival for several years. In addition, for many years, his sculptures welcomed festival-goers to the Congo Square stage at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. They now hang in one of Ashé Cultural Arts Center's halls.
Ashé produces and sponsors: original theater works, dance productions, spoken word, cultural programs, visual arts, conferences, workshops, events, Drum Circle (ages 2 to 92), Sistahs Making a Change (exercise and healthy lifestyles); creates and presents: The Origin of Life on Earth: An African Creation Myth (theater/dance adaptation-an African Creation Myth), Swimming Upstream (theater: focus on Katrina and healing), 13 Lessons (theater: combating illiteracy), Redd Linen Night (a visual arts show with a twist), Story Circle (theater/discussions aimed at racial healing), Health Nutz (theater: health and healthy lifestyles), Voices Not Forgotten (theater work with senior citizens), Maafa (annual event commemorating of TransAtlantic Slave Trade), Carol's Tea (teas, sweets, and tasty treats from throughout the African Diaspora) Color Him Redd (art tribute to co-founder Douglas Redd), Holiday on the Boulevard (annual festival and marketplace during Christmas/Kwanzaa holiday season), Central City Fest, and more. Ashé Cultural Arts Center is a 2007 Big Easy Award Winner for The Origin of Life on Earth: An African Creation Myth.