Hip-hop and Gospel Celebrated at 2023 African Fest in Washington Park

Photos: Nicole Joseph

A sea of people gathered at Chicago’s annual African Festival of the Arts event to celebrate Black culture across the diaspora. The 2023 fest was unique as it paid homage to Hip-hop turning 50 and Gospel! 

From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., people were entertained. The African Fest showcased the authentic artistry of rappers, singers, dancers, drummers and entrepreneurs. It opened the door for attendees to experience the raw freedom of “Black boy and girl joy!” 

Here’s to Health and Hip-hop

As a significant event celebrating and educating attendees about the rich and multifaceted world of Hip-hop culture, the African Fest was a celebration and exploration of the genre’s diverse influence, emphasizing its global reach and impact. The fest encouraged attendees to enjoy the music and appreciate Hip-hop’s broader social, cultural and artistic significance. 

A sound established in the Bronx, New York that many thought was fleeting has made a global impact, encouraging others to embrace the culture and respect the artistry, unity and freedom of expression that Hip-hop emanates.  

DJ Kool Herc, Tupac, Common, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Grandmaster Flash, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, The Notorious B.I.G, Chance the Rapper and the artists featured at this year’s African Fest all knew that the struggle to infiltrate a music industry not designed for them could not be what stops them from pursuing their dreams. That dream was to create a voice that didn’t exist previously, a voice that came with nuances that eventually had to be digested and accepted. 

On Saturday, Jarobi White of A Tribe Called Quest and Ty Fujiara, a Michelin-star restaurateur, discussed the intersection of food, Hip-hop, and mental and physical well-being. They showed that each goes hand-in-hand and can positively or negatively impact your health, depending on your consumption. So, even in music, as with food, moderation is essential, and knowing when to abstain can benefit one’s mental and physical health. 

Following Jarobi and Ty’s conversation, several leaders, advocates and entrepreneurs gathered for an intimate discussion on the impact Hip-hop had and still has on many socially, professionally and even philanthropically.  

A Gospel Q&A with Kim Stratton

How can you attend the African Fest without a bit of gospel? On Sunday, gospel artists praised God for His goodness and mercy! Singer and celebrity chef Kim Stratton blazed the stage and then got up and personal about her love for gospel music and great food: 

What does gospel music mean to you, and why have you stayed in this genre? 

KS: Gospel music has been my life all my life because my momma made it my life. I wanted to be a jazz singer and sing a little R&B. I grew up in a Pentecostal atmosphere, and my momma was like, “Not in this house!” I made gospel my life; I love the music. I love the passion of the music. I love the story of the music. And I love to share it with others.

Of your hit songs, which one resonates with you the most and why? 

KS: My number one favorite is “More Than Enough.” What’s impressive about that song is it never dies. It’s about 22 years old. It’s a timeless piece. 

Did you talk about new projects? 

KS: I have a new project! It’s called Kim Stratton’s “God Only Knows.” I haven’t been in the studio for a long time since I am a chef. But my producers told me to put down the knife and pick up the mic. I’m glad I did, as it reunited me with my passion for music!

As a celebrity, how do you balance being a celebrity chef? 

KS: I was Jesse Jackson’s chef for ten years. He said, “Kim Stratton feeds your body and soul.” I feed your body – food, soul – music. They go together hand-in-hand. My momma used to say, “The way to a man’s heart is through the stomach. The way to anybody’s spirit and to calm them down is to serve them a good meal. You get their undivided attention. They said, “How do you feed us and get on stage and wreck us? How do you make two gifts work like that?” 

The African Fest celebrated 50 years of Hip-hop, relishing the moments of how far it has come. 

KS: When Hip-hop first came out, they thought it would be short-lived and that it was just a little moment, a craving that would fly over and be something else. Hip-hop shocked the world, and now Hip-hop has grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  

What is the intersection between Hip-hop and Gospel 

KS: Gospel is the foundation for all great music! 

Hip-hop music has traveled from one generation to the next. An art form that most thought was fleeting grew and built a legacy for people to tell stories through fast lyrics and catchy beats. 

It’s an art form that’s here to stay, and the African Fest did a phenomenal job at capturing the essence of a forbidden genre that arose to the top and took many great names to fame! 

A Fun and Safe Festival for All 

The 2023 34th Annual African Festival was all of the fuss everyone expected it to be, plus more. This year’s Festival was filled with so much activity. The Festival honored Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Father Michael Pfleger was named Grand Baba of the African Festival, and Carol Moseley Braun was named Grand Yeye.

Celebrated filmmakers David Weathersby, Lotten Yeaney, Michael Foster, Valerie Gooloe, Alvin Daniels, Barbera Allen, Debra Hand and Pearl Reid showed some of their featured films. 

Festivalgoers also danced with the Chicago Caribbean Carnival crew and got lost in the sound of music as African drums took over the loudspeakers. 

The African Fest was a fun, safe family weekend event for everyone! Every year, it promotes Black excellence while highlighting Black creative freedom! While the African Fest was a time to celebrate the accomplishments of Black people, it is only one event hosted by the Africa International of the Arts. Follow www.AIHUSA.org to learn other ways to stay involved beyond the annual Festival.

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