African World Festival:
Poised for a comeback
Recently, African World Festival held The Winter Chill Legacy Affair at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.
The Winter Chill was a fundraiser for African World Festival. As many of you are aware African World Festival is part of Milwaukee’s “City of Festivals” The festivals promote all the diverse cultures in Milwaukee. Folks travel from around the world to partake in the many festivals held here.
African World Festival represented the Black community. It was on the lake front every year that Black people came together to have a good time in the outdoors. All kinds of displays of African and African American culture were on display.
There were all kinds of different foods to eat and great music by local and national act, as well as one-of-a-kind African clothing and artifacts. But more importantly, African World Festival was a annual meeting place for members of the community to see folks you haven’t seen all year. The three day festival brought many folks who lived out-of-state home just to hang out.
As you are aware, African World Festival ran into financial problems and the festival has been canceled for the last two years.
But that is about to change. With community support through volunteerism and donations, this community will once again see African World Festival on the lakefront.
There are many hard working folks behind the rebirth of the festival: Margaret Henningsen, Michelle Pitts, Darrell Hines II, Charlotte-Sain, Don Sykes, Martha Love and African World Festival President Mark Wade, who has even invested his own personal money into the festival. Michelle Bryant is the festival’s executive director.
“African World Festival is the community’s festival and this community has taken charge,” Wade said. “This year African World Festival will return for one day and it’s a great feeling.”
Wade said the Winter Chill is part of a year round program that has been developed by festival organizers to raise money and keep our community involved in the festival. “We have also obtained sponsorship and grants. We are certainly thankful for the support. I am especially thankful for the team we have. We have folks with a ton of skills and they have no problem working together and it’s great.”
Folks turned out for the Winter Chill Dance, all dressed up in their “Sunday go-to-meeting” clothes. Folks were too sharp. There were cash prizes, a nice spread of appetizers and a good time with Dj Shorty Smooth rockin’ the house.
Many questioned why we give out cash prizes when the festival should be getting all the money. “We believe you can’t always do the asking and give nothing back,” Wade answered. “We want to be about sowing good seeds.”
By having the festival for one day only shows accountability, Wade said. “(This) is how we begin to build (up the festival). And it shows a piece of accountability to our community. That we are humble, starting with what we know we can pay for.
“It’s about business for us. We’re using this community’s money. Our community has given us their trust in the form of their $5’s $10’s and more. We want to show them that we are being responsible and economically sound.”
What I-Witness loved about this event is that it was multi-generational. Just as many young people were there supporting the festival as there were elders. Folks like Rico Epps, who traveled all the way from Detroit. WNOV Sales Rep Laura Taylor, Martha Love, Chandra Cooper, Tiffany Wynn, Myron Smith, Joyette Bowen, Riley Dotson, Orlando and Tammy Rice, Mark Sain, Akua Oloulaijoye, Bobby Webber, Lillian Stricklin and Judy Hood, and DJ Shorty Smooth had us all cruising together, Holla! It was a good time.
Hey President Wade. You, the African World Festival team and this community are doing a fantastic job bringing one of the greatest festivals in the nation back to this community. It shows that when we come together and “unite as spider webs, we can tie up a lion.” Keep doing the good things I love it!
Farewell to Linda Sowell
Linda Sowell recently bid farewell to our fair city after 11 years. She’s headed to Baltimore, Maryland. Sowell was the Director of Diversity at Gilbane Building Company, one of the largest privately held, family-owned companies in the construction and real estate industry.
As the Director of Diversity at Gilbane Building Company,Sowell oversaw company-wide diversity initiatives and was responsible for developing and implementing diversity initiatives, including community and industry outreach. In her position, Linda was instrumental in bringing people of color into the trades.
Linda came to Milwaukee from Atlanta, where she was raised. She fell in love with Milwaukee and Milwaukee fell in love with her.
Upon her arrival here, she became the Public Relations Director for Potawatomi Bingo. I-Witness liked her from our first meeting. She has a very strong and caring spirit.
Linda served on the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board and was also active on the MATC Foundation Board of Directors. She volunteered with numerous organizations in our community. She was a giver and believed in serving her community.
Garfield 502 hosted an intimate going away party for her where many turned out to wish her well in her new endeavor.
Judge Valerie Hill, Ken Little, Katrina Bass, Shay Collie, Michelle Allison, Rocky Coe, June Perry, Lakisha Davis, Robert Davis, Erica Mitchell, Mac Weddle, Ahmad Landrum from Kenosha, Ed Hartsfield, Sharon Robinson, Redonna Rogers and Lamar Franklin came to give their hugs.
WMCS1290 radio personality Ernie Gee wouldn’t allow sadness. He rocked us with all her favorite songs.
“I have appreciated every moment of time I have spent with each of you,” Sowell told well-wishers. “You are truly special to me. I honor you, and the space of life’s path that we have shared.
“The years we have spent at Potawatomi, going to the Urban League Black and White Balls, working with children and volunteering. They were all precious moments for me. I thank all of you for being a part of my life and we will never say good-bye.”
The one little thing that Sowell didn’t share is that not only is she going to Baltimore to work for the Gilbane Building Company on a federal level, but she has also met a new boo named Jeffery Graves. The two of them will be married in Atlanta in September. Okay girlfriends. Linda is keeping hope alive, Holla!
Hey Linda, you know I am going to miss that smiling face of yours. I know many of the guys are glad you are gone, now maybe they can win a golf game. Holla! You know, I wish you well in all your hopes and dreams. I will miss you my Sista. Love Ya!