JILLIAN SMITH | Staff Writer

The annual African American Cultural Festival took place last weekend on Sept. 5th and 6th in downtown Raleigh. It sprawled across two blocks and featured a family village, an art gallery walk and numerous street vendors.
This was the sixth year of the festival, giving the African-American community of Raleigh an opportunity to celebrate their heritage through various art forms including dance, music and spoken word.
“Events like this are very valuable,” said Joyce Stamps, a vendor at the festival who brought her personal collection of African American dolls to showcase.
Stamps views events such as these especially important for young people to attend. “Some of them don’t even know about themselves,” she said.
The festival featured a wide variety of stands and activities ensuring that there was something for everyone of every age to enjoy.
There were a variety of products available for purchase, including handmade soaps and oils, clothing, jewelry, artwork and of course, food. There were also many stands, such as Stamps’, that were there to display art collections and historical items.
Stamps travels the country giving people an opportunity to observe some of the developments and fashions throughout African-American history and culture reflected in her dolls.
“There is an African proverb that says ‘I am because we are.’ This proverb celebrates coming together,” said AACF Board Member Grady Bussey.
Bussey  said that in a time when we have fewer opportunities to gather and celebrate, this festival gives members of the Raleigh and Wake County communities a chance to fraternize and make new friends.
Along with the social good events such as these can encourage, there are also economic benefits for the community as historically African American businesses are featured and local companies get to show off their products.
In addition to booths, activities and food, the festival featured live music both days beginning at 1p.m. and going until the festival closed down at 10p.m.
Saturday night’s headliner was Arrested Development, a hip hop group that has a focus on awareness of social issues. The group received the NAACP Image Award in 1993 and the Soul Train music award. On Sunday night, Pennsylvania soulful gospel and R&B artist Avery Sunshine performed.
“Raleigh has a rich African American history,” Bussey said. This is a family oriented event that gives everyone a chance to learn something about their community as well as actively participate in it.
If you haven’t been before, consider attending next year’s festival. You might discover something about yourself that you never knew before.