Minnesota oftentimes gets tagged as a place of minimal social activity for ethnic communities, or as not having enough culturally-specific activities, businesses and just plain old things to do. However, when Nathan White moved from his homeland overseas in Liberia, West Africa, to the Twin Cities in the 1990s, he found that to be far from the truth. Minnesota oftentimes gets tagged as a place of minimal social activity for ethnic communities, or as not having enough culturally-specific activities, businesses and just plain old things to do. However, when Nathan White moved from his homeland overseas in Liberia, West Africa, to the Twin Cities in the 1990s, he found that to be far from the truth. He sought out African, Asian, Hispanic and American Indian communities, to name a few, to connect with various people and cultures. In pursuit of connecting with many cultures, he gained friends, knowledge and a desire for all communities to share his personal experience. Now he is determined to make the connection for everyone. White and his organization Nextainment, LLC, is serving as executive producer of AFRIFEST, a Pan-African festival, from Thursday, August 17 to Monday, August 20, in the Cedar/Riverside West Bank community and Currie Park. The event theme is "Enlighten, Diversity, and Unity." The event will feature international vendors, musicians, entertainers and cultural performers. Although in its inaugural year, AFRIFEST will be an annual non-profit summer festival in the Twin Cities.
White was inspired to host this event in the Twin Cities after his travels to other Pan-African festivals in Chicago, Illinois and Toronto, Canada. He pondered why the Twin Cities, with such a large immigrant community, was lacking a cultural event to bring everyone together. White decided to host an event that would have a great cultural impact for years to come.
"A major focus of this festival is bridging the gap between Africans and African Americans," said White. "Just because I flow so seamlessly between the two, it would be so nice to see the two cultures and the two peoples start really working together and collaborating. I would see Juneteenth being a sister festival to [AFRIFEST]."
Another goal of White is to eliminate all prejudiced thoughts and stereotypes that exist in these communities due to lack of education and exposure.
"How can we really start facilitating the education, break down the stereotypes and negative perceptions that each group has of the other? It all comes about because they don't know each other," continued White. "That's the simple fact. I would hear Africans saying things about African-Americans and I would have to correct them because I lived with African Americans. I would have African-Americans saying things about Africans and I would have to correct them, because I know a lot of different Africans. Wherever people can find a way to not get along they seem to find that first, instead of ways they can get along. So a major part of this festival is just to bring people together so they can get to know each other."
White's goal of bringing all cultures together is to take everyone back to their roots of rhythm and beats.
"We are trying to find that common denominator that everyone can understand, and that comes down to music. The same beat that is in hip-hop came from the African coast. So we are just really trying to get people to see that deep down we are all the same, we just might be living in different parts of the world," concluded White.
If you are interested in volunteer or sponsorship opportunities, visit www.afrifest.org.
AFRIFEST Pan-African Festival Schedule:
Friday, August 17
Club Afrika (AFRIFEST Grand Opening Event) 21+, 9510 West River Road-Brooklyn Park, Tel: 763.639.5001/763.228.9685 $15 regular / $25 VIP (treats, special VIP area and parking), 9:00 p.m. - 2:00 a.m., drink specials until 11:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 18
The Cedar (AFRIFEST Gala Event) All Ages Show, 416 Cedar Avenue South, Minneapolis. Tel: 612.338.2674, $10 regular. Presented by DEMO. Drinks and food available for sale; doors open 6:00 p.m.