Africa in April festival to honor Mali

(WMC-TV) - Memphis meets Mali this week as the West African nation becomes the featured country of Africa in April activities.

For the next several days, Church Park Downtown will transform into the sights and sounds of the country of Mali.

In 26 years, the annual festival has become an entertaining way to honor African countries and improve connections with African Americans.

"We realized that as African Americans, we didn't have any festival that highlighted our culture and ethnicity," said Yvonne Acey with Africa in April.  "Memphis in May didn't do it, the Chinese didn't do it, the Japanese didn't do it, and they weren't supposed to.  It was our jobs as African Americans to salute, highlight, honor, and focus on ourselves."

Organizers said they selected Mali for this year's honor because of the country's beauty and business potential.

"When we look at a country, we look at transportation, education, culture, international experience, tourism," said Acey.

This year's festival will also honor music star Kirk Whalum.  Organizers are set to give him the International Executive of the Year Award.

"That's a person that we look in the community who has been an ambassador for the city, the state, who's traveled internationally and globally to carry the message of Memphis culture, education, and music," said Acey.

The Africa in April festival runs through April 22 and will include a cultural marketplace, music, food, and a parade.

For a complete list of activities, click here.

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