Sankofa Video and Books Cafe entrance looks like an island oasis. Trees and grass cascade from the front door down a series of short steps and an expansive patio, with stone walk ways meandering through the grass and bright umbrellas shielding its patrons at tables that invite you to come take a load off, drink a cup of Ethiopian coffee, and read a good book without looking at your watch. Sankofa. The African proverb turned favorite diaspora motto, “go back and fetch it”. It finds what was great about our past, and brings it to the future. That spirit is why having Watermelon Day there was so perfect. With all the books and movies glorifying our people, our struggle, our strength, Haile and Shirikiana Gerima (the famed film makers and owners of Sankofa Video & Books Cafe) love to also show how our great history is, and are committed to affecting our present and our future.
On August 3rd at 3pm the crowd had already started to gather. Folks were eager to experience the live art that would fill the next 5 hours. Others were nervous that the free watermelon wasn’t going to last long once word got out on Georgia Ave. Mostly though, they were there to smile, clap to the rhythm, snap at the punch-lines, cheer on the babies, and bask in the beauty that is Red Black and Green. There was no cause to fight for, no point to prove, just a few hours to reflect on how great the summer can be. I live for these moments. As much as I am addicted to social media, and blogging, and the latest youtube viral videos, nothing compares to real life cultural experiences. It’s one thing to comb the bookshelves of this store to be reminded of how beautiful and intelligent we are, it’s another thing to feel it with all 5 senses. That’s what we had on Watermelon Day.
Drew “Droopy the BrokeBaller” Anderson and Dwayne B aka the Crochet Kingpen are two of the most beloved figures in the DC spoken word and open mic scene, so it was only natural that we asked them to be our hosts for tonight. Few people “talk about it and be abou it” the way Tehuti aka Meta4 does. A pillar of the late turn of the millennium U street scene, he made his triumphant return to the mic, spittin’ molten lava rhymes about his people conquering all adversity. The crowd was with him for every bar!
DC Youth Slam Team was recently named the world champion of youth poetry at the 2014 Brave New Voices slam competition in Philadelphia last month, and for 20 minutes they showed their home town crowd how they took home the crown. With constant chants of “Three stars! Two bars! Haaaaayyyy!” they kept us old folks smiling while we admired their youthful energy. As soon as they got into their poems we were blown away by their maturity, stage presence, and meticulous attention to detail in every word they put into their poems.
The Kuumba Kids, lead by Mama Bashea, always gets the little ones up and moving. Before the they know it, the children have learned something (like the origins of math in Africa, or how to greet someone in Swahili) without even realizing it. The highlight of their set always is the “Teach Me How to Dougie” remix of the Itsy Bitsy Spider. They even had the 60 year old kids doing the spider move with their hands while shaking their hips.
Ka’ba Akintunde should be cloned immediately and shipped overnight to every summer time barbeque on the planet. His soulful voice and late 70’s sensibilities made everyone remember the days of Sly and the Family Stone, and Bill Withers. He even brought Haile out of his comfortable chair in the air conditioned bookstore when Ka’Ba broke into the classic “I’ve Got My Mojo Working”. Ka’Ba certainly did.
Leftist is that band that everyone is going to say (and many people bold face lie) “I knew them when…”. Their ascension in hip hop rap/rock music is inevitable, as their metallic yet soulful riffs compliment their introspective and motivational lyrics perfectly.
The drummers and dancers from Farafina Kan made the crowd swell to epic proportions, almost beginning to block the south bound traffic on Georgia Ave. I am completely partial to this group, its members consisting of my sons Olu and Dela as well as many of the students I teach as part of the Sankofa Homeschooling Collective. That said, it is still undeniable the level of musicianship and professionalism from these kids led by Baba Mahiri and Mama Nkenge
It was great seeing Haile Gerima, professor and film maker, most known in the States for the movie Sankofa, sit in the corner on the patio, arms folded, slight smile, bobbing his head in approval like a proud Baba. Tensi was slammed in the kitchen of the Cafe. Everyone had a sandwich, or a fruit smoothie, or a salad. They later reported that this was by far the best day they had all summer . I will be posting more info about Watermelon Day, and how you can be involved in the next one soon (as well as more video and photos as we edit them). Check out RichFoxStudios for more pics!