Festival celebrates African-American history

The Blount County African-American Festival held earlier this year drew folks from throughout the community to celebrate their heritage and worship.

Event co-chair Lana Boyd, a teacher at Alcoa High School, said the two day event culminates with Black History Month.

“We always have it in February in conjunction with Black History Month,” said Boyd. “It is always held that last weekend of February. There are always two parts, the festival part at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center and the gospel festival at Mother Love Baptist Church.”

Boyd said the festival is not something only for members of the Mother Love congregation. “The Blount County African-American Festival is not a Mother Love thing. It is for the entire Blount County community and surrounding areas. Our church came up with this idea. Before the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center was built, we had both parts of the celebration at the church. Now we do it in two places. It has grown tremendously.”

Boyd said that with the Saturday part of the festival, there is expressive talent, along with vendors and food and artwork on display. Historians also tell about African-American history in Blount County, Maryville and Alcoa.

“We have different people in the community to give history and background on African-Americans in the community,” she said. “We try to bring awareness of African-Americans in the community to basically everyone, especially young African-Americans who have lost sight of their heritage.”

Boyd said she enjoyed the two-day event because the community comes together and because it is an opportunity to reconnect with old friends.

“It is so much fun,” she said. “We’ve had the mayor come by and other leaders in the community. It is not just for African-Americans. It is for everybody. We want everybody to be a part of it. We have something for everyone from age 8 to 80.”

Boyd’s sister Annette Sudderth serves with her as co-chairs for the event.

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