Festival Sundiata Black Arts Fest: A Celebration of Community and Radical Hope

Tuesday, June 14, 2022
Since the forced relocation of African people to the United States through human trafficking beginning in the 17th century, an essential part of African American culture has been centered around creating opportunities to gather as a community. Our native heritage is one that celebrates the unity of family and friends through our shared love of food, music, dancing, joy and laughter. Throughout two centuries of enslavement and beyond, the faith, strength and spirit that embodies the resilience of the African heritage resounds in our communities across America. Our rich history and experiences are passed down to generations through storytelling, education and knowledge sharing. African Americans survived and thrived in this colonized land through our determination to protect the beauty of our cultural heritage, while adapting and embracing our creativity by creating new forms of expression in our contributions to an evolving America.

In Seattle and the greater Pacific Northwest, the annual gathering, celebration and expression of our heritage and culture has, in large part, been that of Festival Sundiata Black Arts Fest. This year, for the first time, the ACLU of Washington is proud to join with community to lift up and celebrate Black history, joy and culture as a presenting sponsor of Festival Sundiata. This partnership is truly a statement of radical hope.

Held on the beloved grounds of the Seattle Center, Festival Sundiata is the longest running annual African American festival in Seattle. I have fond memories of attending as a child and later with my own kids in this 40-year-old tradition kicking off summer in Seattle. At Festival Sundiata, we immerse ourselves in the experience of Black love through the incredible variety of music, food, art and other culturally edifying and educational offerings, including an opportunity to support local Black vendors and crafts people gathered in this one space over an entire weekend.

Sundays at Festival Sundiata begin with a centering of the deep spirituality of our heritage through praise and worship in expression of our individual and collective and beliefs. The entire weekend is one of intentionally cultivating and preserving the sense of belonging and community that is the soul of African culture across the global diaspora — the Village. There is nothing like it in the Pacific Northwest!

After a two-year hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic, how incredibly exciting to once again converge and gather to celebrate our traditional and contemporary African American heritage, promoting and uplifting local crafts folk, music artists, food merchants, historical exhibits, educational opportunities and more.

To add to the joy, Festival Sundiata this year coincides with the weekend of Juneteenth — the commemoration of the official end of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865, and the beginning of legal freedom and the fight for equality and reparations for Black Americans. The ACLU-WA’s sponsorship of Festival Sundiata represents a deepening of its commitment to celebrating Black history and culture. Thanks to the efforts of the ACLU of Washington and so many others, all of Washington now celebrates Juneteenth as an official state holiday. More recently, the ACLU-WA defended the free speech rights of CHOP Art when the city of Seattle denied the non-profit arts organization a permit to hold a Juneteenth event last year in Capitol Hill.

This year at Festival Sundiata, as we revel in the joy of the weekend, we will also take strength from the ongoing struggle to secure reparations for the descendants of those who were enslaved. To that end, we call on Congress to pass H.R. 40, a bill that would establish a commission to examine the history and legacy of slavery and make recommendations about reparations.

Guided by radical hope, the ACLU-WA will continue to celebrate with community and fight for reparations until the full liberation of Black Americans is achieved.

Asé and amen!