WINTER PARK, Fla. – ***12:05 p.m. Update***
Saturday’s events were canceled due to rain. Participants can still join the festival on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. inside the Winter Park Community Center.
The Equity Council Corp. will honor 401 years of Black history in two days. The Winter Park-based community advocacy group is bringing the 1619 Project, a national campaign that remembers when Africans first set foot on American soil, to the city’s historically Black neighborhood, Hannibal Square.
This community will set the stage for the second annual 1619Fest Orlando, a two-day event packed with free and ticketed activities to celebrate the African American history and legacy born in Jamestown, Virginia. It will offer activities aimed to engage, entertain and educate.
LaWanda Thompson, president of ECC, said her team wants to remember 1619 not just in Jamestown, but across the country, and shift the focus to the local level. Hosting the event in Hannibal Square helps highlight the history and importance of Black communities around Central Florida.
“This year, we’re dealing more with us and our mind, body and spirit and how can we (can) elevate that,” Thompson said. “We’re talking about issues that are affecting us here locally. As a community, we’re suffering from gentrification and an erasure of our history.”
Unlike last year, 1619Fest Orlando is diving deeper than dates, providing more than a preliminary understanding of the year 1619′s significance. The festival comes on the heels of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that rocked the summer of 2020.
“We have an intense focus on what is going on with Africans in diaspora here in America,” Thompson said. “We’re being hurt. We’re being disenfranchised. We’re being killed. There’s a continuous assault on who we are as a people and our place here.”
Thompson said 2021′s festival themes incorporate health and wellness and “edutainment.”
“Edutainment comes from education and entertainment,” said Barbara Chandler a member of ECC. “We know in the African American community, part of learning is entertainment, whether it’s (through) storytelling, plays, dramatization, songwriting. A lot of what is very culturally relative to us through acting, through television, has always been a way in which we learn and gain information.”
The festival plans to educate through entertainment during its film discussion panel, Revolutions and Revolts: 400 Years of Rebellion, which explores the racial revolution in film.
“The great thing is when the information is coming directly from the Black community and being imparted onto other Black people, rather than others curating our narrative,” Chandler said.
Festival attendees looking to nurture their bodies as well as their minds can participate in the Rebel Run 5K Race, hosted by Olympic gold medalist, Moushaumi Robinson.
“One of the things that has been important to my life is health and wellness. I really wanted to use my platform and bring the community together. It’s about coming out and seeing how your body can move. For people to see us and hear our heartbeat and understand the culture of our people and what was really founded here,” Robinson said.
Tanita Fadyeyola, the healing movement facilitator who will host the event’s AfroFunk dance class, said she sees her community being highly affected by COVID-19 and wants people to come together and do something about it.
“Movement is a way for people to feel the healing and the wellness,” Fadyeyola said. “This is an opportunity for us to engage and recharge. Energize and ignite our community in action.”
To Fadyeyola, 1619Fest Orlando is not just important to the Black community in Orlando. It’s important to all communities.
“It’s important for all people to show up and acknowledge our history, what we brought to this country and what we continue to bring to this country,” Fadyeyola said. “(It’s important) to acknowledge the white supremacy consciousness and the racism that exists that has pulled us back even when we tried to move forward. We’re asking the Central Florida area to remember.”
To participate in events like the film discussion panel, Rebel Run 5K Race or AfroFunk dance class, tickets can be purchased at Eventbrite.com.