Beautiful Black Woman Festival offers a day of relaxation, recreation and reflections at Aggie Park
About a half dozen elementary school children ‘— mostly boys, but among them one feisty girl ‘— played a game on the enclosed concrete patio of the cinderblock meetinghouse in Aggie Park in which they dribbled a basketball across the floor and scored points by throwing the ball against the patio’s roof plate.
Then they abandoned the improvised basketball game, grabbed plastic guns and accosted sound engineer Harrison ‘Jira’ Spencer Jr., a member of the ThemFive collective and an organizer of the day’s festivities.
There were poets and singers, and a fashion show at the Beautiful Black Woman Festival on May 21, an event put together by five black men who each bring an entrepreneurial element to their collective: one spoken word, one emceeing, one graphic design, one promotion, and one sound engineering. There were food vendors and prizes at the Five’s tribute to black womanhood. The Anointed Voices of Praise performed some sweet Southern gospel music. The step dancers of the Facts 4 Life youth group dazzled. And there was a DJ and a political speech or two.
Best of all, the sun’s warmth caressed the green, rolling meadows of the park across Lee Street from the NC A&T University research farm, providing a place for children to burn off excess energy far away from the traffic of city streets and for their mothers to relax in metal folding chairs in front of the stage and let the workweek’s worries fall from their shoulders.
‘“This one goes out to all my beautiful black girls with finger waves, corn rows and beautiful black curls,’” Jira and MC Enoch, aka Eric Rodriguez, rapped at the inception of the festival, opening with the day’s theme song, ‘“Beautiful Black Girls.’”
Clement Mallory, 35, whose specialty is spoken word, adlibbed: ‘“Beautiful black women, put your hands in the air. They’re gonna hold us down. They’re always holding us down!’”
Jeff Crosby, a 29-year-old graphic designer who completes ThemFive, danced on the side of the stage with his baby girl, Harmoni.
The five entrepreneurs wanted to show their appreciation for the women they say have played a crucial yet uncelebrated role in their communities, Enoch said.
‘“Not enough has been done to recognize black women in the mainstream media,’” he said. ‘“They’ve been put through a lot. We want to let ’em know they’re appreciated for what they do for our community. They raise our children and us too.’”
Jira, 27, added: ‘“I as an African-American man have an African-American mother. Seeing them sacrifice so much, we all want women to see that they have the ability. The notion is that women overall are not as smart as men, which I tend to not believe.’”
There was certainly some talent and ability onstage.
Poet Amaris Howard rocked with some lyrical and political poetic uplift.
And Donalja James, a 31-year-old poet who goes by the handle ‘the Voiceness,’ fleshed out the theme of ‘beautiful black women.’
Her poem ‘“My Head Hurts’” dropped a trio of lyrical bombs ‘— ‘“Sometimes my head hurts, my back aches and my heart breaks’… Even though it is 2005 we have still not conquered and survived’… [and] ‘“Sometimes you’re carrying your child and wondering when your man is coming home’” ‘— before nailing the final point: ‘“I am a beautiful black woman.’”
During the proceedings, Mallory introduced some politics.
‘“There’s a law in this town that puts men in prison for not paying their child support,’” he said. ‘“We’re fighting this law. A lot of men get raped when they’re in. We need black women on our side when we fight this government.’”
NC General Statute 50-37 states that a child support hearing office can refer a case to a district court judge when no other enforcement remedy appears to be sufficient or effective; the judge in turn can sentence an individual to jail for contempt of court when he fails to make child support payments. Other states have similar laws.
Stan Sprague, a Greensboro lawyer employed by Legal Aid of North Carolina who has represented many fathers in child support cases, said in the past jail sentences have been used as an inappropriate sanction by judges, but that’s no longer the case.
‘“There were some abuses in the system in the beginning,’” he said. ‘“It used to be that judges would throw somebody in jail for not paying $10,000, which they had no ability to pay. That was basically like being jailed for being a debtor. I don’t think that happens very much anymore. I don’t hear too many complaints there. I think the system works pretty well.’”
Following Mallory’s speech, Willie Muhammad, minister of Muhammad’s Mosque on Glenwood Avenue, told the audience that the world was in a period characterized by the Bible and Koran of ‘“excessive sport and play.’” He called men, women and children to mobilize for the Millions More Movement, a commemoration of the 1995 Million Man March, on October 14-16 in Washington, DC.
‘“I’m glad we have a chance to enjoy ourselves with our families,’” he said. ‘“As black men, especially, we have to put more quality time into our homes with our families and children.’”
The appreciation was well received.
‘“How does it feel to be honored today, to have the brothers getting together and saying, ‘Forget about us ‘— how about them?”” the Voiceness asked, to rounds of cheers from her fellow women.
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