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Second annual African Unity Festival returns to Indy this weekend

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Bringing the community together for a second year, the African Unity Festival returns to the Global Village Welcome Center May 20.

Hosted by the African Council of Indiana in partnership with the International Marketplace Coalition, the cultural festival aims to showcase “the vibrant multiculturalism and diversity of the African community in Indiana” through traditional food, music and dance, art and more, Linky M. Ugeh and the African Unity Fest Team, said in an email to the Recorder.

“It’s to bring the community together first,” Zak Sounkere, African council treasurer, said, “and to showcase all the different culture with diversity that is within the African community as a whole.”

The African Council of Indiana is a nonprofit organization that aims to “raise awareness around and advocate for issues affecting African communities in Indiana.” The Council is an independent volunteer organization whose vision is to improve African community presence in Indiana and give voice to the issues impacting African communities.

The African Unity Fest is still relatively new to Indy — only in its second year — but the festival invites community members to come together and celebrate African heritage through a variety of music, good food and bright, colorful African fashion, Sounkere said.

Edith Dube, Celebrate Committee chair member, said Indiana has a large African community with rich and vibrant traditions — from food to music and dancing, art and clothing — but they are often overlooked.

African Unity Fest is free and open to the public and will include food, music, dancing and art representing various African Countries. (Photo provided/African Council of Indiana)

“There’s so much about us that is not known in this place … and there’s so much room for diversity,” Dube said. “So, we took a note page from the nationalities like Italian Festival, the Greek Festival like, ‘Okay, why don’t we showcase ourselves as well?’”

Sounkere said the festival is also a good opportunity for people who do not know anything about African culture to explore customs, experience entertainment and taste the cuisines of their African friends and neighbors. He said he encourages people to step out of their comfort zone and discover something new.

Although the festival strives to expose Hoosiers to the African diversity of their neighbors while educating them on the rich history of Africa, it also aims to promote cross-cultural acceptance and integration and foster and strengthen relationships among the diverse cultures represented within the community.

Dube said one of the ways they do this is by showcasing the multiculturalism and vibrancy of different African countries through colors, as there is no African nation without color. She said they encourage guests to wear bright colors and ethnic attire.

The African Unity Fest will open with a parade at 12:30 p.m., beginning at the Office Plaza and crossing over Lafayette Road and Office Plaza Boulevard. Festival attendees are free to participate in the parade, which will feature 54 flags representing the 54 African countries, Dube said.

The festival will also include performance art, such as African drums, live music and dancing, family-friendly activities for guests to participate in, as well as local vendors selling goods and promoting their businesses.

“In our culture, we say there’s no relationship without food,” Dube said. “Food is a key component of our hospitality, and that’s how we show our love. So, that’s why we are encouraging people to come to taste our food.”

The African Unity Fest will take place at the Global Village Welcome Center, 4233 Lafayette Road, on May 20 from 1-5 p.m. The festival is free to attend; however, guests are encouraged to register ahead on Eventbrite. For more information and questions about the festival, visit tacindiana.org/africa-festival

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-768-7848 or chloegm@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.

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