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TOPEKA — Kansas’ capital city has a rich African-American history, Alonzo Harrison said, and it’s time for the community to come together to celebrate the past, present and future.
“The Black population has been an integral part of our city, our county, our state and helped grow some of our great achievements,” said Alonzo Harrison, who serves as president and CEO of HDB Construction and sits on the board of For the Culture Fest Kansas. “It is important to bring this information to the forefront and recognize that the presence of Black folks helps enhance the quality of life. We ought to be proud of our contributions.”
For the Culture Fest Kansas is a four-day event showcasing Topeka’s African American culture and community. The inaugural celebration includes music acts, dance performances, culinary delights, interactive experiences, art exhibitions, business and health panels and other vendors.
Events begin Thursday, July 27, highlighted by a sold-out, black-tie gala. Activities continue through Sunday, July 30. The general event is free to attend.
Topeka is well-known for Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the “separate but equal” standards of racial segregation were unconstitutional, paving the way for the broader Civil Rights movement); and a sold-out African American Historical Sites bus tour will highlight this event and other significant landmarks.
“The Underground Railroad came through Topeka; the Ritchie House is where they helped people from Southern slave states and make it to freedom up north,” Harrison said, encouraging individuals to still check out the sites even though the bus tour sold out.
As well as honoring the past, For the Culture Fest brings together individuals who are making an impact today. Notable performers include: Bizzy, a Topekan native and hip-hop artist; Jershika Maple, a top five finalist from Season 21 of “The Voice”; and Justin Aaron, top 10 finalist from season 22 of “The Voice.”
Wellness workouts and yoga are expected to be led by Misha Reed and Tevyn Harmon on Saturday morning. A health and wellness panel presented by Stormont Vail Health and a business panel on strategies for success will also be held Saturday. “Soulful Sunday” features performances by various church choirs. Artwork from 25 Black artists will be showcased and for sale at the Jayhawk Theatre in Downtown Topeka throughout the weekend.
“For the Culture Fest is really for everyone,” Harrison said. “Whether you are interested in business, health, history or just want to eat good food and listen to music. We are celebrating Black culture, and we want everyone to come be a part of that. And not just the Topeka community, but we are welcoming in people from Lawrence, Kansas City, all over.”
HDB Construction and CBW Bank are the presenting sponsors of For the Culture Fest. Other sponsors include Kansas Black Health Initiative, Jayhawk Theatre, Evergy Plaza, Visit Topeka and many more.
“Supporting this festival was really a no-brainer for [Visit Topeka],” said India Yarborough, communications director for Greater Topeka Partnership. “We want to ensure that people across our community are represented through the events we support, and hopefully these events will inspire people to get more involved with their community.”
Topeka’s population is made up of individuals from vibrant and diverse cultures, Yarborough said. With other festivals — such as India Mela, Fiesta Topeka, IrishFest and Oktoberfest — celebrating various backgrounds, there was a gap to fill when it came to African American culture, Yarborough acknowledged.
“The organizers of For The Culture Fest KS really saw that gap, and we are happy to support them,” she shared. “We’re super excited that this event is taking place, and it’s going to be a really fun weekend.”
This series is possible thanks to Go Topeka.
Go Topeka seeks economic success for all companies and citizens across Shawnee County through implementation of an aggressive economic development strategy that capitalizes on the unique strengths of the community.