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Arts & Humanities Fest Concludes in D.C.

Stacy M. Brown | 8/21/2013, 3 p.m.
Facilitator Levita Mongie displays a collage of photos on cardboard and explains to participants who attended the workshop on Sunday, Aug. 18 about the positive effects of "Vision Boarding." By using various photographs, words and images, the technique can assist a person in achieving specific goals. The workshop took place during "The Arts & Humanities Festival," on the lush grounds of St. Elizabeths East in Ward 8. Photo by Roy Lewis

Plans to punctuate the Arts & Humanities Festival at St. Elizabeths East with a gospel music extravaganza may have been halted by the rain, but it didn’t put a damper on the spirit of the weekend celebration.

With large white canopies providing cover for the various workshops and displays at the Southeast event, those who braved the elements still enjoyed a fun-filled day that included an inspiring Step Show, an uptempo call and response African drum session and a little hip hop with the human beat-box, Christylez Bacon, who hails from Southeast.

“I wish there were more people here because, despite the rain and everything else, this was inspiring,” said Monique Hill, a Southeast resident who attended the event with her three daughters and two of her neighbor’s children.

“Mr. Bacon is pretty amazing, the kids loved him doing the beat-box,” said Hill, 36.

Timo Bettis, a student at Howard University in Northwest, said he’s particularly smitten with African dances and he thoroughly enjoyed a special performance by the Taratibu Youth Association, which treated the main stage audience to rhythmic drumming that featured a call and response segment which drew wild applause from spectators.

“To see those kids perform and to see the discipline that they have is really amazing,” said Bettis, 20. “I like African drummers and the dances that come along with the beat. Today, I loved it. They were the best.”

Organizers of the festival had planned to feature a host of gospel music entertainers, such as Sean Tillery and several area choirs during the Sunday, Aug. 18 event. However, that part of the festival failed to materialize because of the wet weather, officials said.

Also, festival plans for Saturday, Aug. 24 and Sunday, Aug. 25 have been cancelled due to activities celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The summer festival celebrates the history, culture and community of Ward 8 in Washington, D.C. It offers activities for young people and adults with a wide array of local musicians, performances and speakers.

Made possible through a grant awarded by the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development, the festival attracted visitors from around the District and admission wasn’t charged.

“The overwhelming support from the community and our partners is paralleled by our ongoing commitment to create platforms to experience the best of Ward 8 and engage its residents to help shape that vision,” said Catherine Buell, executive director of St. Elizabeths East.

The heart of the festival takes place in the center of one of the District’s most prized historic campuses, St. Elizabeths East, in the 1100 block of Alabama Ave., in Southeast.

Plans for the East campus include making it the home of a Gateway Pavilion currently under construction and slated to open in September. The pavilion will serve as an entrance to the St. Elizabeths East Innovation Hub and will usher in a new wave of visitors to the campus, including local residents and the 3,700 U.S. Coast Guard employees scheduled to begin arriving soon on the nearby West campus.

Organizers said the festival, which opened July 27, counts as the perfect platform to embrace the changes to the historic campus, while celebrating the District’s and Ward 8’s rich heritage, culture and creativity.

The daylong event included performances by the go-go band, Faycez U Know, harpist Rashida Tulani Jolley, and spoken word artist, Liberated Muse.

Bacon and hip hop artist, Tabi Bonnery, closed the festival in grand style, bringing the crowd to its feet with high-energy performances.

“I hope they keep this festival going every year,” said Lisa Saunders, of Southeast. “I thought we’d hear a lot of gospel today, but I heard people say that’s been cancelled,” said Saunders, 33, who already started inquiring about who may perform next year. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I’ll be here … God willing.”