Stories of Africa to be told at Tricentennial event Friday

Published 1:02 am Wednesday, October 19, 2016

NATCHEZ — Slavery is not the beginning of the African-American story in Natchez.

Through music, dance, storytelling and other art forms, the Natchez Tricentennial Commission will tell the many Stories of Africa.

Starting at 5 p.m. Friday the doors of the Natchez City Auditorium will open up for residents to experience the many contributions of the African people to Natchez and America.

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“We want to introduce the human aspect of their story,” event co-chair Darrell White said. “They were people. They were  not just commodities to be bought and sold.”

Friday’s event will tell the stories of the first African families of today’s Natchezians as humans rather than as slaves and servants, White said.

The men, women and children who were taken captive in West African countries, including Senegal, Gambia, Ghana, Angola and other nations, brought with them their knowledge and skills of traditional African technologies.

During the free event, residents can explore displays of African art, crafts, food and other presentations.

“The displays will show everything from traditional clothing and drums to a presentation of early crops and agricultural practices from Copiah-Lincoln Community College,” Natchez Tricentennial Director Jennifer Ogden Combs said.

“You might call it edu-tainment,” White said. “There will be a little education and little entertainment.”

The evening will be filled with the sights and sounds of dancing, drumming and storytelling.

Starting at 7 p.m., the dancers of the Braxton Music Academy will dance to African Congo and African Caribbean folk music. The dancers, under the direction of Shan Braxton and Yokena Murray, will present modern interpretations of traditional African dance.

The Kumbuka African Drum and Dance Collective will then take the stage. Stilt walkers will showcase the Bambula of Congo Square that was performed by enslaved Africans in New Orleans on Sundays during the days of slavery.

The evening’s events will be capped off by the dramatic story of Prince Ibrahima as told by noted storyteller Khabir Shareef from Indianapolis, Ind.

“(The Stories of Africa) is a chance to tell more about the story of Natchez,” Combs said.