Educational & Cultural

TLT, AACW join for roots fest

Every year the local blues fest reminds community members about the roots of contemporary popular music. If gospel can spawn the blues, jazz, reggae and rap, then what can the art of the local community tell us about our own history and roots? African American Cross-Cultural Works and the Tecumseh Land Trust aim to find out when they put on the first ever Roots Fest on Saturday, March 27, at Bryan Community Center. It will be an evening of performances in which villagers use the arts to connect to and share their own stories.

The event, emceed by Jalyn Jones Roe, kicks off at 5 p.m. in the gym with a hip-hop performance by YS Kids Playhouse, followed by Native American traditional dance. The evening proceeds with performances by the youth band Wheels, with Rory Papania, Sam Salazar and Jamie Scott, poetry readings and acoustic blues. From 9 to midnight, Nerak Roth Patterson, who lives in Yellow Springs and travels internationally to play and talk about blues music, will wrap up the evening with a performance by the Nerak Roth Patterson Band, with special guests Aaron Saari and Weymar Osborne. Barbecue and roots foods will be provided on the lawn.

The idea behind the event is that everybody has a story, and people choose to tell their stories through different modes of expression, TLT Director Krista Magaw said. Each of the performers will be asked to say something about how they and their families came to the village, what connects them to the area and what inspired their art. The event also includes a silent auction of memorabilia that relate to contributors’ own roots, and donors are also asked to share the stories behind their items.

This is a chance for people to “get more comfortable with self expression” by looking into their origins and sharing, Magaw said.

Magaw plans to share part of her story through photos she took documenting a family trip down the blues highway. Her musical background goes back to church, gospel and mountain music, which relates closely to the blues. The blues fest that took place in 1997, the year of Magaw’s arrival in town, became part of the “magic” that held her to the village, all of which affirms AACW co-founder Faith Patterson’s constant reminder that the blues is not just music for African Americans. It is an art form with influences from both black and white culture, and its development parallels the unity those groups have endeavored to create over many decades.

Patterson described her beginnings growing up in Petersburg, Va., listening to her uncle play the piano in a blues band on the back porch. The blues kept her family’s stories alive, and later provided the seed for the intercultural event she and Bill Chappelle conceived of as the AACW Blues Fest.

The village itself is steeped in a history that encourages people to get involved in artistic endeavors and express themselves, Magaw said. Youth are mentored by the large numbers of artists here, and they learn that they can make art or music or poetry and not have to be perfect at it to succeed. And the more people know about their histories, the more they are interested in finding out.

“Those things cross-pollinate again through the arts and self expression,” Magaw said, with Patterson attesting to the “cross-pollinating” she felt through collaborating with TLT and learning about the history she shares with area residents.

Roots Fest tickets, available from AACW members or at TLT, are $10 for adults until March 27; $12 at the door; $5 for youth 13–18; kids 12 and under free. Proceeds benefit AACW and TLT. Call 767-9490 for more information or visit www.tecumsehlandtrust.org.

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