New African heritage fest coming to Summerfest grounds

Black Arts Fest MKE will be held Aug. 4

Don Smiley, president and CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., introduces the organizers of Black Arts Fest MKE.

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:11 pm

Black Arts Fest MKE, a new festival that celebrates African and African American culture, will join the calendar of ethnic festivals held at the Summerfest grounds this summer.

Don Smiley, president and CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., introduces the organizers of Black Arts Fest MKE.

The festival will be held Aug. 4 at Henry Maier Festival Park on Milwaukee’s lakefront. Black Arts Fest MKE organizers, which include several African American business leaders, unveiled plans for the new event on Tuesday.

It revives the tradition of having a black heritage celebration at the Summerfest grounds. African World Festival was formerly held on the grounds, until 2013.

Derek Tyus, chief investment officer and vice president of West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. and chairman of the Black Arts Fest MKE board, said several community leaders wanted to see an event that celebrates black heritage return to the lakefront and worked with Milwaukee World Festival Inc. to bring it to fruition this year.

The festival will include music and dance performances, workshops for children, food and other activities centered on African heritage. The Market Square will feature wares and products reflecting African heritage and produced by black-owned businesses.

“We are very thrilled and excited to bring this festival back to the Summerfest grounds and … our hope is that all the attendees to the festival will be inspired and that everyone can begin to grow their appreciation and respect for the African cultural experience and ancestry,” Tyus said.

The festival joins the lineup of ethnic festivals held on the Summerfest grounds, including Polish Fest, Festa Italiana, German Fest, Milwaukee Irish Fest, Mexican Fest and Indian Summer Festival.

“We are proud to host Black Arts Fest MKE at Henry Maier Festival Park and showcase the arts, food, and culture, as well as the spirit of Milwaukee’s African American community,” said Don Smiley, president and chief executive officer of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc.

Black Arts Fest MKE’s major sponsors include We Energies Foundation, Johnson Controls, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Aurora Health Care, Ralph Evinrude Foundation, Inc., BMO Harris Bank, Northwestern Mutual and 2-Story.

Patrice Harris, a marketing professional who formerly led marketing efforts for Milwaukee World Festival Inc., is serving as executive director of the fest.

The board of directors includes Tyus; Gregory Wesley, vice president of strategic alliance and business development at the Medical College of Wisconsin; Cory Nettles, founder and managing director of Generation Growth Capital, Inc.; Grady Crosby, vice president of public affairs at Johnson Controls; community volunteer Jackie Herd-Barber; Mark Wade, former president of the African World Festival Board; Marvin Bynum II of Godfrey & Kahn; and Barbara Wanzo, executive director of Black Arts MKE.

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