2015 Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks

Los Angeles, CA (June 2015): Now in its fifth year, Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks is an innovative community event scheduled for Sunday, June 28, 2015 in Leimert Park, the African American cultural hub of Los Angeles. Its goal is to foster cultural education, awareness, and understanding while promoting the rich legacy and offerings of Leimert Park as a neighborhood. The event features a procession, festival and live musical performances at which traditional artists, youth groups, and diverse community members engage in a celebration of the global African village, paying homage to their shared heritage through mask-making and dance.

The Festival originated from son of Urhobo tribal chieftain and master percussionist Najite Agindotan’s desire to share traditional African culture with the Los Angeles community. Participants will have the chance to learn about the cultural significance of the festival in Nigeria, and other parts of the African world, as a basis for connecting with and honoring their own ancestors. Based in the Yoruba tradition, Day of the Ancestors: Festivals of Masks lends itself to engaging the diverse people living in the area. Community participants, mask dancers, giant puppeteers and musicians will join for a procession, and all are invited to wear masks or carry photos of their ancestors or the symbolic ancestor of the festival. In 2013, it was Emmett Till, to honor his memory and draw on correlations between his story and Trayvon Martin. Last year it was the Secret Music of the Middle Passage harkening to the connection between Africa and the Caribbean, and the devastating journey of slaves. As in years past, following the procession, LA bands from across the African diaspora will perform as part of the day’s events.

This year, the Mask Festival seeks to honor the legacy of those who died to achieve the right to vote without racial discrimination. It was 50 years ago that the Voting Rights Act was passed, as a result of an incredible battle.   It is our hope that through exposure to those who sacrificed their lives to claim our right to vote and, to still alive local heros who participated in the struggle, the community will gain a new appreciation for their ability to participate in the electoral process. Voter turnout in Los Angeles rarely climbs above 20% and it is more important now than ever for everyone to make their voice heard at the ballot box.

The #blacklivesmatter campaign lends fuel to this theme as it also speaks to justice and equality under the law for African Americans. We will leverage this linkage to bring people together from diverse backgrounds to use their creativity to speak out and connect based on the shared belief that, in the words of Solomon Burke, “None of us are free, if one of us is chained.”

The Festival is produced in partnership with the Leimert Park Art Walk in an effort to promote the vibrancy, culture, legacy, and economy of Leimert Park. Following the festival, local businesses are asked to display the Festival’s masks and puppets, extending the public’s opportunity to view these ancient and modern artifacts and to benefit from the messages they have to convey. Members of the public will have the opportunity to participate in a series of workshops in May and June. For more information and dates, visit the website at www.lacommons.org.

Both local residents and new visitors are encouraged to come out to Leimert Park, and enjoy this fun and educational event! Celebrations begin at 12:00pm, and the procession commences at 3:00pm, with musical performances in the park until 8pm .

About LA Commons: LA Commons, a project of Community Partners, works in neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles facilitating artistic processes, open to all, that result in highly visible public art projects that tell dynamic neighborhood stories. LA Commons builds community by validating the importance of local narratives, enhancing the sense of belonging felt by a broad range of stakeholders and encouraging stronger ties between the people and places of Los Angeles. For additional information, please visit www.lacommons.org or contact Executive Director Karen Mack at karen@lacommons.org or (213) 705- 4457.