At the start of last week, Hope Station executive director Safronia Perry was “tired”, but “excited”. At the end of that weekend, she was “happy”.
Hope Station held three events last week to celebrate Black History Month: an OB-GYN collage workshop on Tuesday night, a Black Girl Chronicles learning series on Thursday, and the sixth annual Black Cultural Festival on Saturday to wrap up the week with what Perry described as a “party.”
“We love hosting this event,” Perry said of the festival. “It grows every year.”
The Black Cultural Festival took place Saturday afternoon at the Carlisle Masonic Temple located at 1236 Holly Pike in Carlisle, with music, vendors, networking and food, among others. Participants were also able to meet some of the event’s sponsors and network with different organizations.
Perry said she was pleased with the attendance at the festival.
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“You know, we couldn’t do it last year, so we’re so…excited about everything,” Perry said. “I mean, the other events were leading up to this one, so I’m happy. I’m really happy with everything!”
Musician Emanuel Nsingani played Congolese jazz and what he called a mix of different styles of music at the Black Cultural Festival. Originally from the Republic of Congo, Nsingani said that some of the songs he performed were his own compositions.
“I call them colors, African colors mixed with jazz,” Nsingani said, referring to his style of composition.
Nsingani said it was his fourth time performing at the festival and the event brought love and unity and “reminds everyone how important they are”.
“It’s Black History Month, and it’s about empowering and showing some love to the black community,” Nsingani said. “It’s always important, first of all, and I’m just happy to be invited from time to time to come and play for this kind of event.”
Singers Gessye Safou-Mat and Momo Baz both traveled from Virginia to perform with Nsingani.
Safou-Mat said it was her first time performing at the festival, but she had performed with Nsingani before at similar events.
“I think that’s great, that means we can share our culture, we can share our languages, we can share music that’s universal, so that’s amazing,” Safou-Mat said. “I think it’s great to celebrate black culture. It’s brought so much to the world and it’s also a way to say we’re all together and to spread some love.
Baz said that this year marked her second performance at the festival and she sang a song called “Bomba”.
“It means hope, as consolation,” Baz said. “Sometimes we go through a situation and you feel like there’s no one around, there’s no family, etc. One thing you shouldn’t lose is your hope, because hope will help you take the next step.”
Both Baz and Safou-Mat have said they want the festival to continue.
“I hope this festival continues,” Baz said. “It’s good to see the community all together so hopefully it’s not the last time and there will be more to come.”
Jim Washington Award
The festival also included the presentation of the Jim Washington Award, which honors the former executive director of Hope Station who died in 2017.
This year’s recipient of the award was Linda Manning, founder and president of Carlisle Victory Circle, an organization dedicated to making a difference for middle and high school students in the Carlisle area school district. Manning is also a school board member for Carlisle Are School District.
Perry presented the award to Manning during the festival.
Manning said she was “very grateful” for the award and just wanted to say thank you.
“It means an awful lot,” Manning said. “Receiving the award in honor of Jim Washington is really humbling for me because Jim was a really good man.”
Dickinson College students also participated in multiple aspects of the Black Cultural Festival. Senior Felix Smith served as the festival’s emcee, a role he received through his internship with Hope Station. He said he also helped plan and schedule the day’s events. He called the process a “cumulative effort”.
“There’s a fair amount of people from the Dickinson community here,” Smith said. “I think it’s a good opportunity for them to cultivate a kind of relationship and bond that we haven’t had before between the Carlisle and Dickinson community, so I think it’s a really good start.”
A member of Dickinson’s Exiled Poetry Society read poetry, and a group of students from Dickinson’s Delta Sigma Theta chapter performed a play highlighting the chapter’s history. Delta Sigma Theta also set up a table and connected with people attending the festival. Smith read poetry and rapped for the public.
“I think it went really well,” Smith said of the event. “There’s a lot of business going on with the vendors and there’s also a lot of people from the community participating and experiencing the whole event, so I think that’s good.”
Photos: Hope Station hosts Black Saturday cultural festival in Carlisle
Maddie Seiler is a reporter for The Sentinel and cumberlink.com covering Carlisle and Newville. You can contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at: @SeilerMadalyn