A celebration of diversity

4th Annual Dayton African-American Cultural Festival

by Tim Walker

“Well, we only have about 30 minutes on stage at this year’s Festival,” said Big Gil, laughing, “But we’ll have some people up on their feet and dancing, I can guarantee you that.”

Gil “Big Gil” Frazier, trombone player and a fixture of the Dayton music scene for years, has a laugh that is nothing if not infectious. This is a man who obviously loves what he does – he may be busy, but he’s certainly having a good time at it. As the bandleader of Big Gil’s Blues and His Funky All-Stars, he’ll be performing live on the main stage at RiverScape MetroPark in downtown Dayton at this week’s upcoming 4th Annual Dayton African-American Cultural Festival.

“The nice thing about the Funky All-Stars,” Big Gil continued, “Is that, depending on what we’re doing, the group is constantly changing. There’s a lot of guys out there who have played in this band at one time or another, and at any time they can come back and just fit right in depending on where we’re performing that night. We’re like the Temptations that way,” he said, and laughed again.

Big Gil’s Blues and His Funky All-Stars are scheduled to take the stage at about 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25, and their performance is just one of the funkiest parts of a weekend-long celebration of African-American culture and diversity that makes up the 4th Annual Dayton African-American Cultural Festival.

Saturday’s all-day RiverScape portion of the festival starts at 11 a.m. and is scheduled to run until 8 p.m. in the evening. The festival’s main stage will feature a non-stop day of entertainment provided by a diverse group of performers beginning with local reggae/ska musicians The Demolition Crew, who start things off with a bang at 1 p.m. Then, Brave Nate will be hosting a poetry slam and spoken word interlude live onstage before the lovely and talented Chay Buddah takes the stage. Entertainment later in the day includes Coby Ross, a gospel fest, a dance-off, the Hidden Gems and then Fire Starters, the headliners of the festival, to close the show.

“The festival begins with the full day of events at RiverScape,” said Marvin Shackelford, president of this year’s festival. “There will be food, vendors, music and lots of great things going on there. We’re also bringing in Mary Pat Hector. She is a 14-year-old actress who works with people like the singer Usher and also with Al Sharpton. She’s going to be at RiverScape.”

“That’s on Saturday, Aug. 25th, and those events will run from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Then on Sunday, Aug. 26th at McIntosh Park, there will be a community prayer from 9-9:30 a.m., and Bishop Mark C. McGuire, Sr. is leading that. He is the pastor of the Potter’s House Dayton. We’re asking people to bring their families for just 30 minutes – we just want to pray. It’s like an interfaith prayer – non-denominational, we just want to pray for our families. Then we’re going to give people a chance to go back to their own church and worship, and then at noon, Pastor Paul Mitchell will be doing his entire Sunday service at the park from noon until 1:30 p.m.”

“One of the real important things about what we’re doing,” continued Shackelford, “One of the goals of this festival, is that it’s all about diverse people coming together to celebrate the African-American experience through art, education and health. We have been putting on the Dayton Cultural Festival for over 30 years now. We’re calling this the fourth annual festival, but that’s because this is the fourth year that we’ve done it under this name – ‘Dayton African-American Cultural Festival’. The festival itself has actually been going on for over 30 years now.”

One other important event taking place in conjunction with the Cultural Festival this year is that community leaders will be revealing their choices for the local Council of Elders. “We’ll be asking certain people to represent us on the Council of Elders,” said Shackelford. “These are the elders in our community, people who are walking libraries. So we’re asking these elders to maintain a sense of an oral tradition in our community, so that if we’re having problems we can go to the elders to ask for advice and the elders overall goal will be to promote community and unity under the seven principles of Kwanzaa. We want these elders to be an active part of our community.”

With celebrations of diversity, music, and community, the African-American Cultural Festival promises to be a very special event.

The 4th Annual Dayton African-American Cultural Festival will take place at RiverScape MetroPark in downtown Dayton from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25. Admission is free and open to the public. All ages are welcome and the event will be held rain or shine. Events will continue on Sunday at McIntosh Park, 101 W. Third St. in Dayton. For more information, go to www.daacf.com

Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com

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Tim Walker, 46, was raised by wolves in W.V. after being abandoned by his family. Currently writing two mystery novels, he loves books, offbeat films, Miles Davis and pizza. He has broken his back twice, works as a DJ, loves his wife & kids and rarely howls at the moon these days, unless it's full.

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