The annual Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks held a kick off celebration on Saturday, May 4, 2024: Kick Off for the Annual Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks | PHOTOS

Written by on May 9, 2024

Kick Off Celebration Bese Saka flyer: Courtesy Photo
Kick Off Celebration Bese Saka flyer: Courtesy Photo

*(Los Angeles, CA) – An enthusiastic, multicultural crowd was in attendance for the kickoff celebration leading up to the annual Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks.

The celebration was held on Saturday, May 4, from 12-2:00 pm in Leimert Park, on the People’s Street and KAOS Network.

The kick-off was free for all ages and featured engaging, interactive art activities, free healthy food treats, community conversations, and live music and dance!

The theme for 2024 Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks is Bese Saka, Our Wealth is Our Togetherness.

The day began at noon with Bese Saka arts activities hosted by Maria Elana Cruz, Ronieka Pinkney, and Ayisha Sinclair.

Sankofa City signage: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
Sankofa City signage: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
Maria Elana Cruz: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
Maria Elana Cruz: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson

The program got underway with Najite Agindoten sending out a Call to Engage with purpose on the African talking drum, which reverberated throughout Leimert Park Village. People from near and far started arriving in Leimert Park, the African American cultural hub of Los Angeles. The talking drum also known as the dùndún is an hourglass-shaped drum from West Africa used for long-distance signaling and communication.

Najite Agindotan: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
Najite Agindotan: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
Najite Agindotan: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
Najite Agindotan: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson

The crowd was served pieces of kola nuts that symbolize peace and show one is welcome in peace, as Baba Imodoye Shabazz enlightened and educated the crowd about the history of the kola nuts.  Baba Imodoye Shabazz performed the Blessing and Pouring of Libation ceremony, invoking community reflections and healing.

Baba Imodoye Shabazz: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
Baba Imodoye Shabazz: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson

Kaitwan Jackson, LA Commons, Program Manager-Promise Zone Arts served as emcee. Tamica Washington-Miller livens up the festivities with a variety of West African dances with audience participation.

Tamica Washington-Miller: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
Tamica Washington-Miller: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson

Karen Mack, LA Commons, Executive Director welcomed everyone to the kickoff and gave a brief overview of LA Commons as well as information about the Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks. Ms. Mack also reminded everyone about the upcoming workshops and introduced the artists who are going to lead the workshops.

Karen Mack: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
Karen Mack: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson

Five ancestors will be honored during the Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks. The announced ancestors are Snake Doctor, Alfred and Bernice Ligon, owners of Aquarian Book Shop and Aquarian Spiritual Center, John Outterbridge, Lady Walquer Vereen, and Harold Hambrick.

The kick-off Bese Saka program concluded with a rousing showcase of West African drumming and dancing performed superbly by Rene “Mama Nene” Fisher-Mims and S.H.I.N.E.  Muwasi.

Rene Fisher-Mims: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
Rene Fisher-Mims: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
S.H.I.N.E Muwasi: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
S.H.I.N.E Muwasi: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
S.H.I.N.E Muwasi: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
S.H.I.N.E Muwasi: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
Jennifer Knight: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
Jennifer Knight: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson

KAOS Kids and DJ spinning tracks were additional activities featured to complement and enhance the vibes on People’s Street.

Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks was the first planting of Seeds of the Village Saturdays. Seeds of the Village Saturdays are free events focusing on dance, mask making, and dance, leading up to the main event on Sunday, June 30, 2024.

Ancestors Mask Making invites attendees all of ages to make masks and headpieces that are infused with culturally relevant stories from the past, reflections from the present, and visions of the future. The mask-making workshop will be led by Elena Maria Cruz, Ronieka Pinkney, and Ayisha Sinclair. Participants will go on a journey to imagine and create art that will be featured in the annual Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks. The workshop will be held from 12:00-2 pm, on People’s Street in Leimert Park.

African and Diaspora Dance is another exciting and engaging workshop the community is invited to partake in. Break out your dancing shoes to join King Daunté “Nabi” Fyall in an African Dance workshop where you will learn and experience the healing powers and cultural wisdom intrinsic to African Dance. Daunté “Kingtae” Fyall promotes the development of Ancestral knowledge through love, tradition, family, community, unity, and movement. The dance workshops are scheduled from 11:00-12:00 pm, at the Leimert Park Plaza Park.

West African and Diaspora Family, Music, Song and Sound with Mama Nene, Rene Fisher-Mims at The World Stage. Mama Nene is one of the lead artist organizers of the Festival of Masks. She is a dancer, vocalist, hair stylist, master percussionist, and founder of the women’s drum circle S.H.I.N.E. Muwasi (Sister’s Healing Inspiring, Nurturing, and Empowering in the Hands of God). Join Rene Fisher-Mims, aka, Mama Nene for African drumming at the famed World Stage, from 2:00 pm-3:00 pm.

The above-mentioned workshops are held over the next eight weeks, Saturdays, May 11-June 29; segue into the annual Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks.

LA Commons through community-based arts programs centered on youth leadership development helps diverse neighborhoods create dynamic works of public art that build community connection and empowerment.

LA Commons signage: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
LA Commons signage: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson

Leimert Park’s Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks is an annual celebration of our ancestors and invocation for the South-Central LA community. Founded in 2010 by artists Najite Agindotan and Ben Caldwell in collaboration with LA Commons, the Festival of Masks is a multicultural, multigenerational, and multimedia arts event that champions the vast identities of the African diaspora, and serves as the basis for dialogue, interaction, and shared understanding of Los Angeles.

Ben Caldwell and Najite Agindotan: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson
Ben Caldwell and Najite Agindotan: Photo credit, Ricky Richardson

The Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks is a day-long event of masks making, life-size puppets, art, food, music, and the discovery of the African history and culture of surrounding communities of Leimert Park, the center of African American culture in Los Angeles.

For more information about the event and other LA Commons programs and how you and/or your team can get involved visit https://www.lacommons.org/2024-festival-of-masks.

Ricky Richardson is a Southern California-based writer, music reviewer, and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]

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