Mitchell Mittelstedt

Festival Celebrates Black Lives

First year of Sankofa MKE festival seeks to give voice to the black community.

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The first ever Sankofa MKE festival took place in Washington Park on Sept. 10 to celebrate “the beauty of black: lives, music and culture.”

Co-founder Jarrett English said in a recent Facebook post, “This is about far, far, more than just a festival, it’s about the growth, well being, and all around prosperity of black Milwaukee. Culturally, economically, and otherwise.”

The band shell at Washington Park featured more than 30 performances throughout the day and night. Situated on paths near the pavilion, vendors sold food, jewelry, soap and other merchandise.

English emphasized the role of people and organizations working together, as a network, to boost the prospects of black Milwaukee. “The whole point of Sankofa MKE, along with all the other amazing things like Heal the Hood, We Got This and “300+ Strong,” is to make sure, together, that everyone is okay. Black lives, you matter. It’s not saying that nobody else matters; it’s saying that black folks, being in the situation that we are collectively, we matter and we need to raise everybody up.”

Among those performing at Sankofa MKE was Still Waters Collective, an organization founded by Dasha Kelly for language artists. Three members of the collective, Sierra Bass, 19, Unique Russ, 20, and Alea McHatten, 20, recited their provocative, socially conscious poetry with live accompaniment by the band Cypher, to much applause.

“I want to put light on our narratives, give voice to our community, and to raise awareness, ” said McHatten. Bass continued, “Still Waters has a lot of focuses, but mainly it’s cultivation through art.”

English said he would like Sankofa MKE to become a community-owned co-op “to make sure that we increase the opportunity of success in black Milwaukee.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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