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African-American Heritage Festival focuses its vision

karissa Lam / Design editor

Ohio State students will have the opportunity to see into the past and help shape the future as the African-American Heritage Festival returns to campus this week.

This year the AAHF will incorporate the theme of “Lengo,” the Swahili word for vision, into a nine-day festival experience, which started Saturday.

“Our goal is to help people see themselves within the festival,” said Kesheena Lattimore, a third-year in strategic communication and a co-chair of the communications committee. “It’s been here for 33 years. It’s had an impact at OSU.”

The students who fuel the event are continually changing and expanding the tradition.

“Every event is catered to the multicultural aspect rather than just African-Americans,” said Angela Steele, a fourth-year in psychology and sociology.

Alexis Murray, a third-year in strategic communication and Spanish and a co-chair for the communications committee, said the events are worth attending.

“They always have a themed event that throws in a twist,” Murray said.

For the first time, the AAHF will feature two themed events.

“From Blackface to Madea: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Film” took place Saturday and focused on the representation of African-Americans in film. The Muse Film Festival, the second themed event, will allow film makers to show their work pertaining to the African-American experience. It will take place Thursday in the Gateway Film Center.

Murray said the AAHF hopes to reach out to students of different ethnic identities, as well as the Columbus community through educational, family-friendly events.

“We plan diverse events to bring in a diverse audience,” Murray said. “They’re all entertaining, but a lot of them have educational value.”

TJ Stewart, a second-year graduate student in educational policy and leadership and labor and human resources, is an overall adviser for the AAHF. He said multiple companies, university offices and student organizations, including the Office of Student Life, Radio One Inc., the Black Student Association, the OSU Alumni Association and others, helped to sponsor the festival this year.

Although the AAHF is a signature event at OSU, the university doesn’t provide the entire budget for the event.

“We probably start on the low end at about 30 (thousand dollars),” Stewart said.

Depending on the fundraising results and the discounts sponsors offer, Stewart said the budget can be upwards of $50,000.

“It’s not necessarily from the university, because we do our own philanthropy and fundraising,” Stewart said. “They don’t give all that money.”

The town hall forum and panel discussion on Monday will focus on the dreams of past African-American leaders and whether the African-American community has met their goals. Murray said this event will be enhanced with technology, which will create an interactive program allowing audience members to vote on questions.

The AAHF will feature a poetry slam on Tuesday, a talent show on Wednesday, a gospel concert Sunday, and multiple community service opportunities throughout the week.

“I’m excited about the wide variety of student acts involved in heritage fest this year,” Murray said.

Students will have the opportunity to support community service events for Scarlet, Gray and Pink: A walk for Stefanie Spielman, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, OSU Reads and other organizations connected to OSU.

“This is something put on by students,” Murray said. “We’re expressing what we think is important.”

Mahogany Moments, a semi-formal dinner and dance, will take place Saturday at the Fawcett Center.

Although Murray couldn’t disclose the full list of celebrity guests expected to attend this year’s festival, she did hint toward appearances from Jeff Johnson, a commentator for “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” Champion, a gospel band, and guests from Radio One Inc., a radio broadcasting company that targets African-American and urban listeners, according to its website.

Betty Cowans, a second-year in human development and family science, is also a co-chair of the volunteer committee for AAHF. She is in charge of recruiting the student volunteers who help operate events during the festival.

“It’s an excellent way to get involved,” Cowans said. “I’m just really excited for everything.”

Lattimore added to the benefits of AAHF as a networking opportunity.

“The goal is to help other people,” Lattimore said. “We’re providing them a service throughout the whole week. You don’t really know who you’ll run into.”

Murray agreed.

“It’s something that really brings together a lot of people,” Murray said. 

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