Owen Charles March 17, 2018

I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of attending the Black Royalty African Heritage expo in Waterbury last week. This event brought in folks from surrounding areas of Connecticut and New York, and even the UK. My draw had been one of those performing- from the UK- Mutabaruka, a reggae icon now 65 years old.  A hero to me, having seen him in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I have long been a fan of his revolutionary brand of Dub Reggae and Dub Poetry. So I had been surprised to see that not only was he appearing in the US, but in Connecticut of all places- and he was being presented with a “Lifetime Achievement” award!

‘Muta’ was among a number of honorees, but he also provided the headliner performance capping a day of many local and regional DJ style reggae performers including Koleurz, Qshan Deya, Major Daps, Snappy Chef, among others. There was a wonderful local dance troupe, Grace C. Wright Performing Arts, a spoken performance by a large group-Ikenga African Village, and a documentary on Marcus Garvey by CHAM Video LLC.

The event brought together the West Indian community, African- American, and African communities- with a large contingent from Nigeria (plus a few of us white folks). The focus was on a shared recognition and learning about African roots and history, represented by the performers, the honoring of luminaries like Marcus Garvey (not to mention Muta), and the crafts & food served. The message was clear: Know about your history– because you have a heritage you can be proud of, and confident in yourself, your community, and the future. The words of Marcus Garvey were heard multiple times (as they are in many Bob Marley songs), notably “If you have no confidence in self you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence you have won even before you have started.”

This event was an inspiring coming together of a community- much needed nowadays. It was a family event, with many children there, serving the purpose of both cultural and economic community values. There were booths from stores such as Launch of East Hartford, artists, performing artists, and dare I say, some wacky Green Party folks pushing the message of People Power and highlighting their party’s platform and VP candidate Ajamu Baraka, and endorsement of congressional bill HR 40 calling for reparations for slavery.

An unusual day in the life of an organizer

I was there to support this event, and to share information about our Green Party movement. While Lynne and I spoke with many folks and signed up a handful or two of folks interested in more information and connecting on FB, there was a joyous and welcoming vibe as we spoke with young and old, performers, fellow exhibitors and organizers of the event.

I think our biggest impact, though, was on the gaggle of happy kids who were playing with balloons and running around in the middle of it all, as about a dozen of them came up to us – one by one- to get a free Green Party button, proudly displayed! Some were so young that Lynne had to help them affix the buttons to their shirts. I even ended up giving out the last of my large Stein/Baraka buttons and even a marijuana leaf button (to a woman of a certain age, definitely not a kid!).

An important lesson to invite and include children- and a reminder that they represent hope for the future.