More growth is on the horizon for the well-known Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival in Annapolis. At the end of September, reportedly nearly 9,000 people attended the 30th annual festival and over 100 vendors participated from a variety of states participated in the annual festival this year.
Clones of Funk returned to crank funky tunes for the crowd at Annapolis City Dock. Guests at the festival were also treated to performances by the Ni Dembaya African Dance & Drum Ensemble and other entertainers. Motivational speaker and singer, Chardelle Moore also performed. A photo booth created by H. Lee Studio commemorating a spectacular 30th year celebration was on-site.
Angel Harriott, founder and President of Global Journey for Children, Inc. now serves as vice chair of the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival. Jan F. Lee says that she will remain the chair for next year's festival. Attendees from all races continue to embrace the volunteer-run event, which was inspired by a slave named Kunta Kinte that the late author, Alex Haley, wrote about when he penned book, “Roots.”
Planning for the next family-oriented cultural celebration is already in development.
“We are in need of a Volunteer Committee Chair, and Education and Community Chair. There are also open positions on the Board of Directors. Planning for this growing festival we have found is optimally all year, so we will continue on throughout the end of the year through the New Year, applying for grants and addressing non-profit organization administrative duties,” Lee said. “We want to continue to grow so that more and more people know about the festival and get to experience all that it is. We aim to not only make sure that people have a great time with entertainment, but also that we educate people, connect people, and empower people. We are going to look at crafting a Vision Statement that will bring the festival into the future, while ensuring we continue to acknowledge our ancestors and honor our heritage.”
Lee also mentioned that becoming more "green" and environmentally conscious are future of the festival committee.. Additionally, the festival team hopes to institute an internship program to provide an opportunity for high school and college students to learn non-profit management, marketing and event management skills. As the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival moves toward increasing youth engagement, it remains a celebration of the perseverance, education, and cultural heritage of Africans, African Americans, and people of African descent.
Tray Chaney, a full-time actor and artist from Forestville, Maryland, who cherishes family, fatherhood and marriage performed at this year’s festival and served as a co-host with Chris Dillard. Chaney is best known as the character POOT from HBO’s drama “The Wire,” and most recently the character, Kendrick, from Bounce TVs hit show “Saints & Sinners.” Chaney is currently touring and performing songs from his album, S.A.M (Strictly About Music). The first single, “Love For You” featuring Kenny Lattimore, is described as a very uplifting song to women and mothers.
“I was so honored to be a part of the Kunta Kinte festival. I was one of the featured performers performing songs off my album S.A.M, which is available on all digital streaming platforms.
I sold my t-shirts from my (Dedicated Father, GOD FIRST, Dedicated Mother) T-shirt Line, which is available on www.trayscurriculum.com/store, and I was able to autograph copies of my book, “The Truth You Can’t Betray,” Chaney said. “The feeling (of participating in the festival) was an amazing feeling I can’t describe. I learned so much about the African culture. Every vendor, performer and supporter educated me on their backgrounds, and the whole entire events was just filled with love. I would come back anytime.”
Dillard (Red Dott) was the co-host of the main stage. The comedian, actor, motivational speaker and spoken word poet is a community activist and football coach at Meade High School. Dillard has hosted a plethora of national events and starred in popular television shows such as TV One’s “For My Man and BET’s “Criminal Minds at Work.” Dillard’s family has roots in Annapolis and neighboring areas.
The comedian who specializes in “improv” style, an unscripted dialogue or story says that the festival caters to all ages while providing a chance to learn about heritage and bond with family.
“The most exciting thing is going from walking the festival as a kid saying, ‘I’ll be here one day to having the mic in my hand,’ and hosting in front of my mom and grandfather who used to bring me 25 years ago,” Dillard said. “That made me realize that all the setbacks, failures and haters it’s all worth it in the end when you understand that pushing forward and using that as fuel for what God called you to be.”