By Barney Blakeney
The Moja Arts Festival 2017 opened September 28 with its signature street parade beginning at Marion Square, marching on to the U.S. Customs House on Market Street. It continues to soar. The festival ends with the traditional finale October 8 at Hampton Park.
The sorors of Delta Sigma Theta jump started the renowned Black cultural festival that officially became the Moja Arts Festival in 1984. Their fundraising event coincided with the dress rehearsal of Art Forms and Theatre Concepts, Inc.’s production of ‘Fences’, the play written by August Wilson. The play’s three-day run has been among the festival’s highlights.
Music is as much a part of the Moja Arts Festival as it is the soul of Black culture. Foremost have been the presentations of music and theater which grew out of Moja’s Jazz series. The music of Stevie Wonder started the sizzling tempo at Charleston Music Hall September 29 which continued with ‘The Back Home Gospel Hour’ at Trinity United Methodist Church October 1. The concert was the first of several gospel concerts.
Claflin University Concert Choir will appear in a concert celebrating the 152nd Anniversary of Calvary Baptist Church, 4:00 p.m., Saturday, October 7, 2017, at the church, 620 Rutledge Avenue. Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and his wife Sandy are concert honorary chairs. Arthur Evans, Sr. is the pastor. The event is free and open to the public.
Other musical offerings include tributes to Duke Ellington, Sam Cooke and the unique verses of the Poetic Jazz Society.
The new faces of Quentin Baxter and Marcus Amaker continue Moja Festival’s past traditions that began in 1977 with the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston conference titled “The Fire Every Time: Reframing Black Power Across The 20th Century And Beyond”.
Surrounded by dance, literature, visual arts, health and recreation, heritage and community, the festival’s Community Tribute Luncheon October 7 honors Marcus Amaker – artist, Mary Joseph – business, Vertelle Kenion – contribution to Moja, Everard Rutledge – civic community service, Ret. Col. Joseph Dawson – education, Frankie ‘The Big Bopper’ Green – media, Cherry Seabrook – medicine and Jada Orr – outstanding HS student.