SEAFORD — There’s a changing of the guard for Eastern Shore AFRAM, an African American cultural festival that has been a staple for two-plus decades.
AFRAM’s 25th anniversary Aug. 13 will be held at the Ross Station Event Center and Gov. Ross Mansion grounds from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It will offer live music, cultural foods, exhibits, gospel performances, dance, activities and other events.
Co-sponsored by the Eastern Shore AFRAM Festival Dream Team, OutLoud LLC and the Cornerstone Community Center, AFRAM 2022 will be the first not steered by Pat Jones, who recently passed the leadership reins to Jayln Powell of Milford.
“It has been quite a journey. Honestly, it is bittersweet for me to walk away from something that is thriving. But it’s either now or probably never,” said Ms. Jones. “I will still be working with the committee, just not at the capacity before, as executive director.”
Ms. Powell, 26, is a businesswoman, motivational speaker, community activist and coach, whom Ms. Jones described as “bright, young, pretty and energetic.”
“She is a visionary. We just clicked,” said Ms. Jones.
Ms. Powell launched her small business, OutLoud LLC, on Jan. 1, 2020, harboring the belief that there is power in every person’s voice. Its mission is to build communities by providing innovative pathways toward equitable systems.
Following the passing of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police in May 2020, Ms. Powell started her “Walk of Change” movement. An event in Milford drew about 500 people, including legislators and police, she said.
“Given the outreach, I just adjusted my business vision to be more community-oriented and focus on social justice, as well. That’s what brought us here today,” said Ms. Powell, a Milford High School graduate who also coaches girls’ varsity basketball at Delmar High.
Ms. Jones said she believes the new executive director will offer “young blood.”
“I didn’t want to walk away from AFRAM because it was a thriving event,” said Ms. Jones. “The thrust is to add Jayln’s dreams, passions, vision to what has always been. People are looking for something new and innovative.”
AFRAM’s full agenda includes a 5K walk, a car show, the return of the Miss AFRAM Pageant, a talent showcase and performances by the Sankofa Drummers and Dancers, the Universal African Dance & Drum Ensemble, the Zion Reggae Band and Best Kept Soul.
There will be plenty more, including a cornhole tournament, an art exhibit, cultural vendors, kids’ crafts, face-painting, games and a historical tour of the Ross Mansion and its slave quarters.
Ms. Powell said AFRAM’s mission is to celebrate and educate.
“One thing that this year I am excited about is the education piece. So we are at the Ross Mansion, which has a lot of history,” she said. “Attendees will be able to go through the (slave) quarters and learn about the history with their tour guides.”
Ms. Jones added, “That is a barrier that people have to overcome. Even though it wasn’t a good part of our past, it is still our past. We really need to embrace it, and we need to evolve around all that has happened since then.”
Ms. Powell will oversee the 5K Wellness Walk for Change.
“I love the wellness side of things. We need to be mindful of our health, stay in shape and (remember that), just little things, like walking, can be beneficial for us,” she said. “Keep in mind, where we are, the location has so much history. And what the Walk of Change is for is (to) promote … equal access to opportunities. But understand that it took us so long to be able to walk freely. A lot of our culture still has an enslaved mind-set. Understand that we are, in fact, chain-free.”
Ms. Jones said she’s excited about the upcoming festival.
“We have been one of the longest-running cultural events in Sussex County,” she said, noting how country music star Jimmie Allen of Milton “made his debut at AFRAM. He made his mark at AFRAM. Some great things have come out of AFRAM.”
For the full festival schedule, visit Eastern Shore AFRAM Festival on Facebook.