After a two-year break due to a 2019 tornado and the 2020 pandemic, the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival will be held Oct. 1-2 at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Helen J. Karriem Way (15th Street North).
The festival’s Community Impact Awards ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Sim Scott Park Community Center.
Organizer Kabir Karriem, a state representative, noted that this year’s honorees include Johnny Hampton, Martin Andrews, Lavonne Harris, Nadia Colom, Scott Volland, Leroy Brooks, Jeff Smith, Doug Pellum and Johnathan West.
The festival, which Karriem called the South’s largest free block party, also honors people who have contributed to the Columbus community.
After the 2019 tornado ripped through Columbus, Hampton fed families for weeks, Karriem said.
“Fire Chief Martin Andrews is governing over one of the best fire stations in the state,” he said.
Other honorees were instrumental in getting Columbus to remove the Confederate monument downtown. Karriem said the festival also plans to honor the Carter family for its involvement in the festival.
“The late Vanessa Carter, former owner of Carter’s Funeral Home, helped make sure the festival continued,” he said.
The first Joe Edwards Jr. Trailblazer of Excellence Award will be given to Joe’s son, Jabari Edwards.
Joe Edwards Jr. was Columbus’ first Black councilman and was a mentor and community supporter, Karriem said.
“He set a path for future business owners and politicians,” Karriem said of Joe Edwards. “The trailblazer award is for people who go above and beyond in their service to the community. In light of that, we are honoring Joe’s son, Jabari Edwards for all of his work in the state and around the world and his help of the community.”
The festival kicks off at 5 p.m. Oct. 1 with a concert featuring various artists.
Oct. 2, the festival enters its second day at 10 a.m. with the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival Parade. Local music, art, food, and a kids’ village will also be featured that day.
This year’s music headliners are Grammy nominee artists Carl Thomas and DJ Mannie Fresh. Karriem said local artists, such as Jeff Floyd and Angel The Songstress and local gospel choirs, will also perform.
The 39th annual festival celebrates the culture and entrepreneurial spirit of the Columbus district that is one of the most highly profiled business and entertainment districts in the South.
African American entertainers of that era were allowed to play almost anywhere. Still, as they traveled and performed throughout the South, those same entertainers were mandated to stay in “Colored” hotels. During its heyday, Seventh Avenue’s Queen City Hotel hosted entertainment royalty like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fats Domino, B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and Little Richard, to name a few. To embrace and preserve the rich history of Seventh Avenue, the festival began more than 30 years ago.
“We are trying to revive the neighborhood and bring it back to its heyday as the top African American business and entertainment district in Lowndes County,” Karriem said.
This award-winning features features prominent regional and national artists and educational seminars, health fairs and workforce training/skill-building opportunities.
Karriem, of Helen’s Kitchen, and the festival’s chair for the past 18 years, has seen the festival from its humble beginnings with nothing but music playing on a flatbed trailer serving as the stage to this award-winning event.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am about this year’s festival, from the significant entertainment to this year’s Community Impact Award recipients,” he said. “The Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival has come a long way, and it is our prayer the tradition and the celebration will continue for generations to come.”