"Many cultures, One people" was the theme of the Reggae Festival on Thursday hosted by the Pan-African Student Union. At 11:15 a.m. the Clocktower at SMC was surrounded by tents full of African delights in anticipation of the UCLA Reggae Festival this weekend. Some of the tents included PASU membership information; others included beaded jewelry, key chains, clothing, and messenger bags with the Jamaicanflag-inspired black, green and red colors.
"We have hemp bags, which are made from the strongest organic herb," said Biko Kpotufe, PASU member and booth attendant. There were also T-shirts with the likenesses of Bob Marley, Black Panthers, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and even the controversial 1967 Olympic Games photograph that features SMC's Track & Field Coach Tommie Smith. "We are here to uplift our people and celebrate our culture," said Kpotufe.
It didn't take long for students to gravitate to the reggae music blaring throughout the campus. Local Caribbean rapper Mista Cleave inspired the crowd to dance.
"This festival is good, it's positive. Keep reggae alive," said Cleave. Many made their way to the food booth across the stage. For $4, PASU offered homemade stew chicken, curry chicken, jerk chicken, rice and drink. While paying, students came in contact with Thaddeus Mensah, PASU treasurer, who openly told tales of the handcrafted wood artifacts from various countries throughout Africa, such as straw hats and traditional Africa masks - all laid atop a beautiful African cloth.
Within minutes the crowd grew rapidly with students and faculty. A two-some freestyle performance by the Mayes Brothers intrigued more people to come out and dance. Marcos Mayes on African drum and Maurice Mayes as speaker/dancer spoke on Black America to the beat of the drum. With performance quotes from Maurice Mayes such as, "You can't hate a nigga; niggas built this shit!" he sparked some unsettledness with the crowd.
"It's very unusual and interesting. I'm willing to accept cultural differences," said Isaac Profet, speaking on Maurice's performance.
Soon after the Mayes Brothers' performance a live four-piece band with a rainbow of red, green and black balloons entertained the crowds with dedications to Bob Marley and Babylon. Groups of five and 10 relaxed on the grass while eating.
"It's great. The food is awesome. I wish we could have this every day," said student Mesbel Mohamoud. SMC student Casler Johnston said, "I wish this could happen every Thursday. It's nice to get away from the books. People need a break."
Although this is their first grand festival PASU were very pleased. "We try to incorporate reggae in the African culture. We want to expand PASU. It's not just for Africans, but every culture at SMC," said Bibiane Avlessi.
By 12:35 p.m. there was no sign of students leaving for their next classes. On the contrary more people were arriving.
Unfortunately the band had to pack up and leave. Quickly students requested encores. Many yelled out, "One more!" With heavy sighs the festival came to a quick end for such a pleasant hour of relaxation.