|Vol. 15 No. 16
AUGUST 10, 2020
Columns & Features
by Heidi M. Pascual
by Jamala Rogers
by Jonathan Gramling
When I hired Dzigbodi Akyea and Margaret Wamugi to positions at the Madison Urban League in the late
1980s-early 1990s, little did I know that was the beginning of a strong 30-year connection to Madison’s
African American community. It was Dzigbodi’s first job after she moved her from her native Ghana. And
her husband Aggo was a mover and shaker in the African community.
Of course, the first Africa Fest at Monona Terrace was a smashing success. It filled the main room of Monona Terrace with booths and performances. There was a
parade outside that went around the Capitol Square while the Farmers Market was still going on. I was amazed and wowed by the splendor, color and pageantry. I
must admit that this was my first real exposure to Africa, its cultures and its contributions to world civilizations.
I, of course, covered Africa Fest every year after that.
And then, around 2004, the African Association of Madison underwent a reorganization and Africa Fest didn’t happen that summer. And Aggo, once again, got me
involved. There was a group of us who basically came up with a new association constitution and articles of incorporation. While I didn’t get voted onto the board of
directors the first go around, a vacancy occurred after a few months and the board voted me on. I had the pleasure of serving for seven years on that board with the
likes of Bill Bosu, Aggo Akyea, Ann Marie Dawson, Ray Kumapayi, Godwin Amegashie, Joe Brewoo and Samba Baldeh who was just elected yesterday to the
Wisconsin 48th Assembly District seat.
And then we started Africa Fest up once again as an outdoor celebration in Warner Park. We had a heavy downpour that year that caused us to take a bath on beer
sales. And half of the entertainment area was flooded. But the community made the most of it. I remember Emilie Songolo saying that this Africa Fest — unlike having
it in a large room — reminded her of the festivals she attended in her native Cameroon.
We were sold on the outdoor experience and held Africa Fest at Warner Park every year until we moved it to Central Park — now McPike Park — in 2014 where
AMM could collaborate with Bob McQueen and Central Park Sessions. The move opened the festival up to become grander with big entertainment names from Africa
taking the center stage and room to accommodate more vendors and exhibits.
And all through the years, since 2005, I have been proud to serve on the Africa Fest planning committee that has been led by Ray Kumapayi, happy to do whatever the
committee needed me to do.
I don’t think I’ve missed a single Africa Fest since the beginning. Even when I was departing Madison in 1999 on the day of Africa Fest for a wilderness backpacking
trip to Montana with family, I left from Monona Terrace so I could at least take photos for a while.
Africa Fest is always so special. People come dressed in their African best. African Americans would also come dressed in African dress, renewing their connections
to Mother Africa. It was a feast for my camera’s eye. -- READ MORE
by Jamala Rogers
Long after I left the Urban League in 1994, we somehow kept in touch. When Aggo and others started planning the first Africa Fest, I believe
in 1998, Aggo talked to me about the proposal that they would be sending to funding sources and I gave him some feedback.’
|Celebrating the Contributions of
Madison/Dane County African Community
|The Spirit of Africa Festt