SHAPE’s 44th Annual Pan-African Festival a success

SHAPE Community Center’s Pan-African Festival again celebrated family, community and African liberation.

SHAPE’s 44th Annual Pan-African Festival a success
Image of Deloyd Parker

As always, SHAPE Community Center’s Pan-African Festival did not disappoint. And that should be no surprise since the iconic Third Ward center has been hosting the event for 44 years.

Advertised as an opportunity for the general public, especially families, to celebrate the various cultures of the Pan-African diaspora while enjoying “great music and entertainment, delicious food, awesome vendors and raffles,” the annual affair symbolizes so much more.

“This festival was born out of the African Liberation movement,” said Deloyd Parker, SHAPE’s executive director. “It was the birth-child of African Liberation Day. For many years we protested against apartheid, colonization and all things that kept us at a disadvantage. Out of that, the Pan-African Cultural Festival was born. It’s a safe environment… and a wonderful experience.”

U.S. Congresswoman and candidate for mayor of Houston, Sheila Jackson Lee said the event is a place “where we’ve been able to come for days, for weeks, for months, for years, for decades to be able to bring harmony and warmth to family and connectedness.”

Roland and Dayna Hennigan, stand side by side in an outdoor pose
Roland and Dayna Hennigan, Hennigan Realty Group. Credit: Aswad Walker

Promoting and supporting Black-owned businesses is also a staple of the Pan-African Festival, which is one of the reasons Hennigan Realty Group gladly participated.

“We’re realtors, and we do home-buying workshops at SHAPE Center every third Saturday from 12 noon to 2 p.m. where we specialize in down payment assistance programs, just bringing that information to the community,” shared Roland Hennigan.

“For all those who come to the workshop and when they close with us, we donate a portion of our commission back to the SHAPE Center, so it’s the gift that keeps on giving,” added Dayna Hennigan. “We are in partnership with lenders that have access to over $50,000 in down payment assistance.”

SHAPE, an unapologetically Pan-African-focused organization founded Houston’s Pan-African Festival to coincide with, as Parker mentioned, African Liberation Day.

As stated on SHAPE’s website:

On May 24, 1963, during the formation of the Organization of African Unity summit, where 32 African Heads of State were in attendance, Kwame Nkrumah stated, “We all want a united Africa, united not only in our concept of what unity connotes but united in our common desire to move forward together in dealing with all the problems that can best be solved only on a continental basis.”

With this goal in mind, Africa Liberation Day is celebrated by various countries on the African continent, Europe, the Caribbean, Asia and the U.S., annually on May 25. It reflects our history, honors our ancestors, and celebrates our victories of moving towards a liberated Africa from slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism.

Initially declared “Africa Freedom Day” on April 15, 1958, after Kwame Nkrumah held the First Conference of Independent States in Accra, Ghana, it was moved to May 25 in 1965 by Emperor Haile Selassie, utilizing the day the historic Charter of the Organization of African Unity as Africa Liberation Day. Today this commemoration of freedom from foreign control and unity for all of Africa’s people is still going strong as there is much more work to be done for the liberation of our people throughout the world.

Nationally acclaimed local reggae band Idiginis performs on stage
Nationally acclaimed local reggae band Idiginis, one of the band entertainment acts that performed during SHAPE’s 44th Annual Pan-African Festival, May 28, 2023. Credit: Aswad Walker

Kofi Taharka, national chairman of the National Black United Front said it was important for him and others to attend the festival “because we want to support community, we want to remember African Liberation Day… and that Africa must be free. That’s the roots of the Pan-African Cultural Festival, African Liberation Day.”

Many, including Jackson Lee, spoke of expanding the annual Third Ward event’s reach in future years.

“I’m excited about the staying power that Deloyd Parker’s had with the SHAPE Community Center family, and in fact, I believe we should elevate the Pan-African Cultural Festival so that people come from far away destinations to come and enjoy the spirit of this family affair and the cultural richness that is here.,” added Jackson Lee.