The countdown to the 33rd Annual Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival (KKHF) is underway. The tradition of holding the free, cultural celebration will continue in Annapolis, Maryland.

“When I hear the positive stories about how being at the festival made people feel, the connections they have made at the festival, old and new, and the economic impact for our vendors, it must continue. And not only to continue, but grow,” said Jan F. Lee, the festival chair and board president. 

Lee added, “The Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival is such an amazing opportunity for people of all backgrounds to learn and experience the rich culture, the food and the music of the African diaspora. And when you see people of the African diaspora come together in peace and love, smiling the biggest smiles, feeling safe among family and friends, feeling empowered about who they are, you know it must continue.”

Kunta Kinte’s journey of being brought to Annapolis aboard the ship Lord Ligonier, reportedly dates to 1767. The late author Alex Haley introduced him to the public, after digging for his family’s roots. The festival’s inspiration hinges on Kunta Kinte’s legacy.

Lee stated that over 10,000 people attended the KKHF last year. Lee, Danielle Young— the chair of Arts & Crafts and festival co-chair, along with other volunteers have remained committed to keeping the festival’s tradition alive. Lee believes that new leadership will be forthcoming in 2024. 

The KKHF will continue its family-oriented appeal on Saturday, September 23, 2023, from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., at Susan Campbell Park at Annapolis City Dock. Over 100 vendors are expected to participate. 

(L-R) Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival planning committee members Shemeka ‘Meke’ Cole, Enid Collison-Lee, Jan F. Lee, Herb Lee and Keith Rowel with festival host Terrell Freeman.
Photo credit: Christian Smooth, Smooth House Productions

“We have four outstanding young entrepreneurs, who are aged between 7-16, that we are looking forward to having showcase their businesses,” Lee said.

Jewelry, fine arts, authentic African wares, graphic t-shirts, waist beads, henna and natural skin and hair products are some expected item offerings. Soul food, seafood, Caribbean cuisine, pineapple drinks, snowballs and assorted desserts will also be available for sale. Civic organizations Community will attend. Voter registration will be provided by the NAACP. 

 Youth performers will participate on all three performance stages. This year’s adult headliners include The All-Star Purple Party featuring Junie Henderson with special guest Sugar Bear, both of EU.

“The festival has something for everyone, and it is really a family-friendly event. The Children’s Activity Tent is hosted by Chesapeake Children’s Museum and Sankofa Children’s Museum of African Cultures. A special feature will be Tattered Hatters,” Lee said, noting that they will help people make an African-print hat, for free.

Lee added, “The Community Stage has many great features for everyone: a mental health talk about social media; family yoga; African dance demonstration; and a healthy cooking demonstration. The main stage will have all kinds of music— go-go, reggae, funk and an African dance group all the way from the Gambia (Gambia Zimba Cultural Group), sponsored by the African Tourism Union.”

Curtis Sarraqui Smith, founder and CEO of the African Tourism Union stated his Severn, Maryland-based marketing and consulting company works with African countries to promote tourism and investment in Africa.  

“The African Union works with African tourism boards [17 and growing] to get them to pool their resources and come together to market Africa as a whole,” Smith said. “We do this to show the diversity in cultures, history and activities that are on the African continent. We also look to dispel the myths that Africa is unsafe, underdeveloped and unwelcoming to African Americans.” 

Queen Mother Dr. Delores Blakely will introduce the dance troupe, Zimba, that is scheduled to perform at the KKHF. The African Tourism Union has more other contributions in store.

“We also brought in African Ancestry [a company tracing African lineages using genetics] to do two reveals of KKHF board members revealing what ethnic group in Africa they descend from. Finally, we are giving away a trip for two to the Gambia and Senegal for 10 days,” Smith said.

He added that the board members already submitted their DNA swabs. They will receive their results  during the festival. Also, festival-goers may enter the raffle for the trip by finding African Tourism Union’s booth to sign up for it.

Smith also agreed with Lee that it is important to keep the festival going.

“This festival represents our collective history. It is the bridge between us and the motherland. This is a living history lesson for our children to remind them that our ancestors were unbreakable,” Smith said.

Visit to obtain more details about the KKHF and to learn additional information about the African Tourism Union.

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