As the Fourth of July comes back around, so does the 51-year-old International African Arts Festival (IAAFestival) Tagged “Eddembe,” meaning ‘Freedom,’ in the Luganda language of the Buganda People in Uganda.

“It is the oldest, longest-running multi-day celebration of African culture in this country,” said Según Shabaka, board chair and festival coordinator, on’s Back to Basics radio show.

This year again the inspiration is having the community celebrate African culture, music, clothing, arts, song and dance.

“It is a celebration of the best of African culture, Pan-African culture—that means continental, diasporian culture, and you’ll see it in many areas of artistic expression—music, dance, poetry fashion, just a whole array of different presentations,” said Shabaka.

The International African Arts Festival, founded in 1971, will take place at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn from Friday, July 1 to Monday, July 4, 2022, rain or shine (10 a.m. to 9  p.m.).Thandiswa, the popular double platinum South African musician, is headlining this year’s festival, along with Trinidadian AfroSoca artist Olatunji; The Jazz of a Tribe Called Quest featuring Dashill Smith and Malcolm-Jamal Warner; R&B sensation Lyfe Jennings; and Oshun. Other headliners are saxophonist Mike Phillips, dancers from the legendary Maimouna Keita School of African Dance (MKSAD), and ADH. Other performers include the groups Alura, Taifa Bartz, Nubian Messengers, PitsiRa, The Shaka Tonge Experience, and others. Thandiswa, Olatunji, ADH, and MKSAD will also perform at LIBATION, the kick-off performance for the festival. LIBATION is Saturday, June 4, 2022 (5 p.m. to 10 p.m.) at NYC College of Technology (300 Jay Street, downtown Brooklyn).

Economic and political power go hand in hand, said Shabaka. There will be more than 200 vendors from all over Africa, the Caribbean, America, and Europe. “We have to really think about our economic state. Most of the institutions we work in today are pretty much modern slave plantations. We are enriching and empowering other people. Festivals, Amsterdam News—these are African-controlled/inspired institutions, so we have to support them. Our vendors, they are African inspired, creative artists, producers of things that we need to support them.”

Shakaba quoted the cultural nationalist theory of the Kawaida philosophy of creativity as a weapon harnessing the collective consciousness in order to “move in the same direction as a people and a community.” 

“The total African experience,” Shabaka said, “the festival is a healing, a reuniting of family, reunion of African people… We need those healthy experiences in our own space.”

From the “psychological to the cultural, to the political to the economic, and the spiritual order.”

“We need each other like we need our next breath,” said the world traveler Dr. Segun Shabaka.


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  1. Lem Peterkin I asked the same question. What an oversight! Anyhow, here’s info: More that 50 years strong, by Africans … in 2022 in Brooklyn, July 1 – 4. Commodore Barry Park. International African Arts Festival

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