Thursday, June 16, 2011


11th Annual Maafa - Coming Together for Healing Through Art and Culture


NEW ORLEANS – Ashé Cultural Arts Center, in partnership with New Orleans Dance Festival-Tulane University and Kid’s Play NOLA, The Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University, New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), and the Old U.S. Mint,  presents the 11th Annual Maafa Commemoration on Saturday, July 2, 2011, at 6:30 a.m., at Congo Square in Armstrong Park. 
Maafa is a Kiswahili word that means “great tragedy” or “horrific tragedy,” referring to the period called the Middle Passage or Transatlantic Slave Trade.   During that time, millions of captives from Africa were brought to the Americas where they were used as a labor force, persecuted, beaten, and many, separated from their families forever.
For the first time, this sacred event brings together in New Orleans, the cross-cultural efforts of Africa, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, the United States of America and others, reaching across racial lines and borders to include all ethnicities.  We are collectively coming together for a healing through art and culture.
At sunrise, on July 2, 2011, hundreds of people attired in white clothing will gather to pay tribute to African ancestors who died during the Middle Passage. 
The Maafa Commemoration offers an opportunity for the whole community to pause and reflect on this great transgression against humanity and to personally, as a community, agree to distance ourselves institutionally in word and deed from that transgression, its legacy and the evolved practice of racism in our civic, social, spiritual and personal lives. 
In the year 2000, Ashé Cultural Arts Center’s founders Carol Bebelle and Douglas Redd, engaged by Leia Lewis who coordinated the first Maafa celebration, joined with other similar celebrations around the country.  The vision for the Maafa Commemoration continues to grow. It was influenced by the work of St. Paul Baptist Church in Brooklyn, which was then led by New Orleans-born Rev. Johnnie Ray Youngblood, where annually a month-long series of activities form the Maafa remembrance.
            This year, the Spirit of FiYiYi, along with drummers and musicians from the Congo, Haiti, Cuba, Senegal, New Orleans and other cities around the United States, will lead a procession from Congo Square through historic Tremé, with a brief stop at St. Augustine Catholic Church, the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Slave.  From there, the procession continues through the French Quarter, with pauses at Café Maspero and the Royal Orleans Hotel, where slave auctions regularly took place and slave masters transacted business.
Then, aboard the Canal Street Ferry, amid high spirits, drumming, dancing, singing and praying, ancestors will be honored by name—not just those affected by the Transatlantic Slave Trade, but also individuals who were victims of such events as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the levee breaches and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
            Upon exiting the Canal Street Ferry in Algiers, the Mohawk Hunters Mardi Gras Indian Gang will greet the procession and lead members into The Village at King’s Plantation in Algiers Point.  This historic African village on the west bank of the Mississippi River, once owned by the Company of the Indies in 1700s, was a site where enslaved Africans, fresh off slave ships, were held until they were sold at auction.
            The Maafa Commemoration continues with breakfast and entertainment at 12:00 noon at Ashé Cultural Arts Center, 1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. in Central City New Orleans.  The day’s activities include a show entitled “Parade Traditions,” showcasing the work of Kid’s Play NOLA and instructor Seguenon Kone, West African singer, drummer and balafon player from the Ivory Coast; and performances by Haitian master drummer  Damas “FanFan” Louis, and from Cuba’s Danys “La Mora” Perez and Roman Diaz.
            Other events related to the commemoration include an exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art entitled “Ancestors of Congo Square” which runs through July 17, 2011 (; Xavier University’s Institute of Black Catholic Studies’ Ancestor Commemoration and Reception on July 8, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. at the Xavier University Center Building (Bldg. #17, Room 308A); and “Race:  Are we so different?” at the Old U.S. Mint, 400 Esplanade Avenue, which runs through September 2011 (
Community support for the Maafa includes sponsorship from Ashé Cultural Arts Center, Tulane University, Kid’s Play NOLA, The City of New Orleans, The Consulate of Venezuela in New Orleans, The Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University, New Orleans Museum of Art, and The Village in Algiers (the Ovah Da River Folklife Village).  The Maafa is partially funded by The Kellogg Foundation (America Healing), The Ford Foundation, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.  

June 23, 2011            FANFAN HAITIAN DANCE & DRUM CLASSES
6:00-8:00 P.M.           Master Haitian drummer Damas “Fan Fan” Louis, David Braswell (drummer), and Michelle Martin (Haitian dancer)
                                    Ashé Cultural Arts Center, 1712 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard
                                    (504) 569-9070.
                                    Free and Open to the Public

2:00-4:00 P.M.          with Congolese Drummers Mampouya and Massengo
                                   Congo Square, Armstrong Park
                                    Free and Open to the Public

6:00 P.M.                   Roseangela Silvestre (Brazilian dancer)
7:30 P.M.                   Titos Sompa (legendary Congolese drummer)
                                   Classes held at Tulane University. 
                                   Call (504) 314-7742 for more information about the festival.
                                   Admission:  $10 per class 

June 30, 2011           DRUM WORKSOP
                                   Ashé Cultural Arts Center, 1712 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard
                                   Free and Open to the Public

July 2, 2011                 MAAFA COMMEMORATION
6:30 a.m.                     Event starts at Congo Square, Armstrong Park. 
                                    Featured artists:  Morikeba Kouyate, a kora (African harp) master from Senegal; Michaela Harrison, Zion Trinity, N’fungola Sibo West African Dance Troupe, Kid’s Play NOLA Culminating Show—“Parade Traditions”, Titos Sompa, founder and artistic director of Mbongi Dance Theater Project (Congolese); The Spirit of FiYiYi, Mohawk Hunters, SGI New Orleans Jazz Taiko Drummers, dancers and drummers from the Congo, Cuba, Haiti and the USA.             
                                    Participants are asked to wear white.
                                    Call (504) 569-9070 for more information. 
                                    Free and Open to the Public

July 2, 2011                 DANCE CONCERT:   “FROM CUBA TO NEW ORLEANS”
7:00 p.m.                     Oyu Oro featuring Danys “LaMora” Perez (Santiago de Cuba); and master percussionist Roman Diaz (Havana, Cuba), Francisco Mora, Abraham "Abe" Rodriguez Jr.; singer Sandra Harper; and dancers Maya Louisa Harris, Liethis Hechavarria Perez, Deadra Renee Nelson Mason, Isabel Carolina Estrada Jamison, and Natalie Pardo.
Ashé Cultural Arts Center, 1712 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, (504) 569-9070.
                                    Admission:  $10

6:30 p.m.                     Traditional white West African attire recommended, but not required.
                                    Xavier University Center Building, (Bldg. #17), Room 308A
                                    Free and Open to the Public

            Visiting drummers and dancers appear as part of the 15th Annual New Orleans Dance Festival, “A Celebration of the Dance & Musical Traditions of the Congo, Cuba, Haiti, Brazil, and New Orleans.  The artistic director is Beverly Trask, Newcomb Dance Program, Tulane University Department of Theater & Dance.  The festival is scheduled for June 25 through July 2, 2011.  For more information call (504) 314-7742 or write to  Website:
            For information about Kid’s Play NOLA’s free summer camp, contact Dana Reed, project director at (504) 899-1931 or write to  Website:

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