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Peace ATL holds Our Melanin festival

Peace ATL holds Our Melanin festival

Published: September 27, 2017

Atlanta entrepreneur Tiffany Williams closing the first Our Melanin festival

Photo: AFSC / ATL

Peace ATL and its program Our Melanin hosted an event in Atlanta that was intended to build Black unity within our city, recognize the beauty of our people and the unique representations of culture that we put forward, and share our thoughts and feelings on the actions that we can take to make this city and this country an ideal place for all of us.

The festival was painstakingly designed to create a sense of family reunion between the guests, so people would be willing to be a little more vulnerable and share parts of themselves. To that end, we held an open mic that was hosted by Atlanta’s Youth Poet Laureate 2017, Ogechi Odofu. Ogechi, a 19-year-old Nigerian college student here in Atlanta, requested guests to be open about their feelings and share them with the public. Attendees opened their hearts about the pains of systemic oppression; the glory of their melanin; the challenge ahead of us in creating a just society.

We took that further in our festival’s activism circle, which highlighted gentrification in the city of Atlanta and what we, as Black people, can do about this seemingly unalterable state of change in the city, which currently is shifting away from the 54% African American population that it has today. Headed by Avery Jackson, youth leader of the program ATL Is Ready, the talk went over its scheduled time as activists and attendees huddled together in close exchange and shared ideas and actions to join in on.

Others at the festival joined in on our activities for support of health and well-being. We held a Caribbean DanceFit class that got festival goers moving and shaking to better health to amazing vibes, and held a Master Your Morning health class with famed speaker Stic, of the social justice hip- hop group Dead Prez, and his wife Afya, renowned nutritionist and health coach. Festival-goers learned helpful facts such as the right foods for the morning to keep energy all day, and best practices such as meditation that can lead to overall better health in mind, body, and spirit. We took that idea of applying meditation a step further with our “Trap Yoga” class, which infused the important benefits of yoga with a type of music popularized in our city today.

What we didn’t anticipate, as organizers of the event, was just how grateful people, including vendors and festival goers alike, would be for the event itself. Throughout the day guests poured thanks and expressed surprise about just how positive the energy felt in the space, and vendors were particularly grateful to have the free opportunity to sell their goods and continue to build their companies and their dreams.

Our last speaker, young African American business owner Tiffany Williams, who recently opened the only all-Black, all-female art studio in the city of Atlanta, finished out the event with a call for guests to make their dreams happen now. “You have it within you. Look inside you, to what your idea is, and don’t think that it’s not possible, that it’s not worth investing in, that it’s not worth dreaming about daily, because you can do it.”

We believe that we can create a spirit of change in Atlanta that inspires Black people to come together to create positive change within our shared culture, and this festival was our first step in advocating for and moving toward that vision.

- Joel Dickerson
Program Director, Peace ATL