LAURINBURG — With dancing, drumming, music and fashions, Saturday’s Kuumba Festival will celebrate its 25th year of keeping African-American culture alive.
The festival began in the mid-1980s as a cultural exposition featuring the Chuck Davis Dance Company. In 1990, it was named Kuumba, or creativity, for one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
The African-American Heritage Committee has sponsored the festival for the last eight years to preserve historical traditions and enhance the unique spirit of Scotland County’s diverse community. It typically attracts about 2,000 attendees. It kicks off Friday night with the Miss Kuumba pageant and continues Saturday morning.
According to longtime organizer Bettie McNair, the festival is a chance to showcase “our true heritage and what we have provided to society over the years.”
Kuumba will be held in Market Park at the corner of Produce Market and Lees Mill roads. The festival opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday with a drum call and libation ceremony.
Among the performers to take the festival’s main stage will be the dance and drum team Wo’se of Charleston, Laurinburg storyteller Tyris Jones, and the Pamoja! Band of Rocky Point. Pamoja! is a new addition to Kuumba this year — performing a fusion of jazz, R&B, funk, and reggae, the band’s name is a Swahili word meaning “coming together.”
Also during the festival, Nana Aku Opata will share her experience traveling to Ghana to become Queen Mother of her clan, and this year’s Miss Kuumba pageant winners will be recognized.
The pageant will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday at I. Ellis Johnson Elementary School. A dozen girls from elementary to high school will compete, performing a group welcome dance, sharing facts about a few of Africa’s 54 countries, and responding to interview questions.
“They will do a dance which is almost like a challenge dance between two set groups and then they will come together as a unit to perform,” said Tyris Jones, who has coached pageant contestants for the last five years.
“We’re trying to give these young ladies an opportunity to go into a rite of passage and an understanding that they do have a creative spirit about themselves that generated from the African ancestors.”
Along with learning about Ethiopia, Scotland Early College High School senior Taylor Davis is picking up traditional dancing in her pageant preparations.
“It’s actually pretty easy to pick up; it’s different from any other dance that you would see, but it’s actually really entertaining,” she said.
“This is a good opportunity to tell people about your culture and outreach to more people.”
Doors to the pageant open at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $5.
Food vendors will be available, with home cooked fare from chicken to collard sandwiches. Other activities will include a sketch artist, health screenings, and representatives from the N.C. Treasurer’s escheats division will be on hand to help locals research possible claims.
Closing the festival from 3-4 p.m. will be the gospel group Men in Christ of Raeford.
Admission to the Kuumba Festival is free.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.