ST. LOUIS • The heat didn’t deter hundreds of people from coming out to the St. Louis African Arts Festival on Saturday.
The annual three-day festival has events for all ages: live musical performances; cultural activities, such as learning how to make bangles and earrings from African textiles; the extensive African market of textiles and jewelry; and an abundance of authentic African dishes.
This year’s event included a feature specifically for teens. The Safari Teens Hut hosts teenagers ages 13 through 19.
It was established after teenagers expressed a need for activities that catered to their age range, according to Yolanda Jefferson, chair for Let’s Talk and a planning committee member for the festival.
Let’s Talk, the youth-run subcommittee for the festival, is responsible for planning and executing activities and performances for the Safari Teens Hut throughout the three-day festival, Jefferson said.
“There are some good kids,” Jefferson said.
Lenardo Scott, 18, is one of them. This is his second year of involvement with the festival.
“I wanted to learn more about my culture, what it is, how they dress, and what they do,” Scott said. “And just to have fun.”
Scott said he gets to emcee the entertainment at the Safari Teens Hut, including at least five spoken-word and vocal performances by other teenagers on Saturday. More shows were scheduled for Sunday and Monday, he said.
This year, Jefferson and Let’s Talk partnered with Fine Line Studios — an art-based program for adults with disabilities — to bring artistic activities for the teenagers.
“It was exciting to know (the art) was going to get worked on by other people, and the teens would have something to do,” said Erin Furlong, art manager at Fine Line Studios. “This was a great opportunity for us to do something big.”
Furlong brought with her one canvas for teenagers to paint a safari scene and another on which they could do string art in the shape of the continent of Africa.
After the festival is over, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater St. Louis will take the pieces of art back to Normandy High School to showcase them.
But the impact of this community doesn’t end when the festival does. Past members of Let’s Talk who no longer live in the St. Louis area or have gone on to college still try to come back, Jefferson said.
“They don’t want to miss it.”