On Saturday, the 23rd annual African American Downtown Festival was held in Kerrytown on the streets of East Ann and North Fourth. Started by Lucille Hall-Porter, the festival is a celebration of African American culture and the local African American-owned businesses’ contributions to the community.

A grand stage was set up on the corner of East Ann and North Fourth. Live music and performances from many different groups continued throughout the day. Vendors lined the streets promoting their businesses and organizations, and many sold food, clothes, books and much more. These vendors came from Ann Arbor and the surrounding areas to share what they do with the people of the city. They were made up of both returning and first-time participants.

Charles Young, a Metro Detroit-area resident, runs a traveling bookstore. Charles’ Collectables and Books was among the many vendors that was represented at the festival.

“I wanted to give folks an opportunity to get books for themselves and their kids,” Young said. “We serve as a recourse for parents, teachers, grandparents and anyone who is interested in history.”

This year was Young’s 15th year bringing his bookstore to the AADF.  He is a strong proponent of the festival.

“It is always a great festival to come to,” Young said. “Ann Arbor is a great town, and people always come out and support.

Although the weather was cooler than earlier in the week, the AADF was warm and welcoming, with the smell of good food and sounds of vibrant music filling the air. Throughout the day, people from all over Ann Arbor and the surrounding communities came to enjoy the festival.

Mike and Kari Victor, Ann Arbor residents, came to spend some of their day at the AADF.

“Everybody should come out,” Kari Victor said. “There has been great entertainment and food. It has been a ton of fun.”

The festival has grown each year, with this year’s festival being the largest one yet. The Ann Arbor Cultural and Community Events Coalition works on planning the event all year to make the AADF come to fruition.

“We love that it brings everyone from the area together,” Teesha Montague, the events coordinator for the festival, said. “There is a lot of diversity. We appreciate that, and we celebrate that. We like to celebrate our history at the same time.” 

Montague became the events coordinator in 2008 and has helped plan the AADF each year since. Montague also just started a local business with her mother.

Ultimately, Montague hopes that the festival can continue to grow as the years go on.

“We need to extend the AADF,” Montague said. “We have been getting requests in the past few years, to expand the festival to a few days. Hopefully by our 25th year, 2020, we would be able to that. We’ve talked with the city and they have totally supported us and we have appreciated that.”

Young says he is appreciative of how the community works together for the festival.

“It’s a beautiful thing to see everybody coming together,” Young said. “I think that just seeing the smiles and responses is so satisfying and worth all the hard work.”

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