Different day, same positivity: Dover’s African American Festival two weeks earlier this year

DOVER — It may be on a different date, but the “Positively Dover” African American Festival returns in 2022 with the same good vibes, energy and fun as previous renditions.

Normally held the fourth Saturday of each June, this year’s festival will be held this Saturday, starting at 11 a.m., due to an event already scheduled for Legislative Mall on June 25.

But Kathrina Stroud, executive director of Dover’s Inner City Cultural League, presenters of the annual gathering, assures that this is just a one-year change. She said it has been a little hectic lining up things for a different day.

“People were saying, ‘What? Why did you change the week?’ So there’s a lot of explaining going on. ‘Well, you know, we just didn’t get it scheduled this time. There’s another event that day. So we moved it earlier,’” she said.

Due to the pandemic, the African American Festival was virtual in 2020 and a bit smaller in 2021. Ms. Stroud said that, while the festival is back, it will still sport a smaller footprint.

“I think that the people were so glad that it was out there (last year). We actually had fewer vendors because we chose in our plan for large outdoor events — which the state requires — we chose to space our vendors farther apart, so there wouldn’t be large groups, or it would be easier to manage large groups that were in certain areas. And we chose to do the same thing this year,” she said.

“I don’t know that everyone takes it as seriously as they did the last couple of years, but we’re still in (the pandemic). There are kids that are getting sick. School classrooms are shut down because of it. And we know this because our kids are coming (to the league), and sometimes, they won’t show up, and we’ll get the notice from the school. So we just decided to be safe again this year. And hopefully, next year, we’ll be back up to 100 or more vendors.”

The festival will still feature around 50 merchants Saturday, including those selling beauty products, books, art, jewelry, clothing, bags, hats and, of course, one of its staples since its founding in 1991, food. And lots of it.

“It’s got to be fun. You have to be able to walk around. That’s kind of my thing. I like when I go places to just walk around. I like to see everything, talk to everybody. So if you only have two or three vendors, that’s not quite as much fun, even though the entertainment is excellent. That’s part of the experience, as well.”

Programming will begin with the grand procession, featuring the Sankofa African Dance Co., followed by gospel songs by the Freedom Festival Singers of Philadelphia; the Trinidad and Tobago Baltimore Steel Orchestra; and the West African Drummers of Delaware with pieces from Guinea, West Africa. Closing out the day will be R&B music from The Comfort Zone Band of Washington.

Hands-on children’s activities will also be part of the day, though the moon bounce will not, in accordance with the festival’s COVID-19 precautions.

As always, “Positively Dover” will be open to all.

“That is our goal, to share the culture. We’re all subject to stereotyping. We do it, and we don’t even realize it, but when everyone comes together, we kind of find out that we’re all interested in having a wonderful time, having our families with us, being safe, being successful, all those kinds of things. Those things are not different from culture to culture,” Ms. Stroud said.

“We just hope to share some of the things that go on in the African American culture and in the United States. We also bring in Africans, who think of African Americans as being a different culture than Africans. But this is for everyone.”

For information on the rain-or-shine event, visit here or call 302-883-2180.

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