African American fest celebrates 35th year

Pieces of a Dream performs Saturday

Robert Davis Jr. is feeling proud this weekend.

“This is our 35th year,” the president of the Trumbull County African American Achievers Association said. “That’s huge.”

The group’s 35th festival runs Friday through Sunday on and around Courthouse Square in downtown Warren.

Rides, food and games have been a part of the event from the beginning. One thing Davis said he believes has improved significantly over the years is the caliber of entertainment.

“The entertainment has gotten bigger and better in the last five, six, seven years,” he said. “It used to just be local bands; now it’s professional entertainment.”

This year’s headliner is the R&B / jazz group Pieces of a Dream, which has released more than 20 albums since its 1981 debut and is known for such songs as “What Can I Do,” “Warm Weather,” “Mount Airy Groove” and “Fo Fi Fo.”

“I think people look forward to having that professional entertainment,” Davis said. “I get questions all the time — ‘Who we bringin’ next year?’ — because they’re excited about it. We’ve been able to take this up and make it a special occasion for everyone involved. And it’s a free concert. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

In addition to performing Saturday at Warren Community Amphitheatre, members of Pieces of a Dream will participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday with the TCAAAA Board, Mayor Doug Franklin and Warren city council members.

Entertainment also will be offered on Courthouse Square, including a gospel music celebration on Sunday.

New this year is a Double Dutch tournament on Saturday, scheduled to start around 2 p.m. Also on Saturday is the annual parade starting at 11 a.m. with Madonna Chism Pinkard, host of “Community Connection” on WFMJ-TV, as grand marshal.

While some of the attractions have changed, Davis said the festival’s mission remains the same — “To celebrate our rich heritage and culture.”

Proceeds from the event will go toward the scholarships awarded annually by the association.

Coinciding with the festival will be the second African Heritage Art Show at Art on Park, 180 N. Park Ave., Warren.

Organizer Maryjoe Moore said the event was created to provide opportunities for local talent.

“I personally didn’t feel there were enough events going on to showcase our artists,” she said. “Bringing this into the Fine Arts Council would be a good pairing.”

Last year’s event went very well, Moore said, and more artists are participating this year.

The artist lineup includes Natalie D. Eckman, Fred Benson, DeShawn Scott, Cassandra Pruitt, Kay-Kay Chips, James Crum, Lovey Jamon, MeeLuvh Iman, Cole Goodman and Josh Ford.

An opening reception is planned from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, and Ford will create an original piece of art during the event. Admission is free, and the show will remain on display throughout June.

Event schedule

All events are at Courthouse Square unless specified otherwise.

FRIDAY

Noon — Ribbon cutting ceremony

7:30 p.m. — Suede Tyrell

8:30 — Kevin Kirksey and Mass Confusion

SATURDAY

11 a.m. — Parade (downtown Warren)

Noon — Health Fair on the Square

1:30 p.m. — Harambee Youth Group & Drummers

2 p.m. — Double Dutch tournament

3 p.m. — Talent competition

7:30 p.m. — Breadbox Entertainment featuring Infamous Cobb

7:30 p.m. — George Carvell Austin Experience (amphitheater)

8 p.m. — Mike Austin, saxophone (amphitheater)

8:30 p.m. — Pieces of a Dream (amphitheater)

SUNDAY

3 p.m. — Gospel Sunday hosted by Ben Hurd and Levi Elzy Jr. and Gail Stringer. (Courthouse Square)

7:30 p.m. — Closing remarks with TCAAAA President Robert Davis Jr. and benediction by Elder Franky Parker of Eastside Church of Christ.

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