Seaford welcomes 20th AFRAM Festival

By Lynn R. Parks

Lynne Betts wouldn't miss the annual Eastern Shore AFRAM Festival. I've been to nearly every one of them since it started, said the Seaford resident, standing near a line of colorful tents where jewelry, clothing, handbags and African drums were being sold. There's a strong sense of community here. That's what I enjoy.
This year, accompanying Betts and her family as they walked around the festival grounds, was Kristen Arant, a.k.a. the Drum Lady, founder of the Young Women's Drumming Empowerment Project in Washington, D.C. Arant was due to go on stage in a couple of hours and she was enjoying the small-town feel of the festival.
This is a small venue in a nice community, she said. All the people we've met are friendly. And coming to Seaford gives us an opportunity to get out of the city. The dance troupe, affiliated with the Akoma African Drummers, usually plays in the D.C. area.
This was the 20th year for the Eastern Shore AFRAM. Festivals like this are of value to help us figure out where our roots are, Arant said.
It's also important for people to get together so that they feel good about who they are, and to be educated about all the different kinds of people who live here, added Jane Dusenbery, Seaford.
Dusenbery attended the festival with several women with whom she swims at the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club, Seaford. We are having a wonderful time, she said.
Mary Tress, Laurel, was among the women who were with Dusenbery. She moved to Delaware from Baltimore and said that she had attended African-American festivals in that city.
This one is so refreshing, she said. It's so inclusive. It's nice to be able to get out and be around people who want to be around you.
Despite the festival's emphasis on African-American culture, there's something here for everyone, added Diane Atkinson, Seaford. This festival represents everyone.
Jocelyn Quick is a swimmer with the group as well as a volunteer with AFRAM. This festival has an eclectic feel to it, she said. And she lamented the fact that, despite that feel, most of the people who attend the festival are African-American.

I would love to see a world festival and have everyone there, she said.
The festival was held Friday and Saturday at the city of Seaford's sports complex on the north edge of town. In addition to the vendors, it included food and entertainment.
Our weather was amazing, said long-time festival volunteer Desiree Moore. We understand that it rained all around us Friday night, but we had not one drop. And on Saturday, we got a little sprinkling and then it was done.
This year's festival attracted a good crowd, Moore added. One of the food vendors sold out of everything that he had, and one of the vendors told me that she did better than last year.
At noon on Saturday, the Sankofa African Dance Company, based in Dover, took the stage. Sankofa, which includes drummers as well as dancers, was founded in 1995 by Dover City Councilman Reuben Salters. It is comprised of children aged 8 through 18, who study drumming and dancing in the Guinea and West African traditions.
We want the young people to learn the history of the drum and the history of our people, Salters told the audience before the start of the dancing.
Sankofa translates as return to your roots, he added. It means taking the best part of the past and bringing it forward to make life better.
Quiana Dorn, a resident of Salisbury, Md., attended the festival on Saturday with her son, Mason, 21 months. They watched the Sankofa dancers and then shared a water ice and french fries.
Dorn said that she had attended the African-American festival in Norfolk, Va. Of course, this one isn't as big as the Norfolk festival, she said. But it's a very nice thing that Seaford's done here.
Next year's Eastern Shore AFRAM, the 21st, is set for Aug. 5 and 6. Volunteers are pleading for more help.
This was one of the best AFRAMs ever, Moore said. But we need more hands to help us get it together. To volunteer to help out in 2016, call 628-1908, or email pj@easternshoreafram.org.

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