Just one look at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit (thewright.org) and you know you’re in for a treat. For starters, the 125,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility is the largest of its kind in the world and houses more than 35,000 artifacts and archival materials.
Here, educational programs allow visitors to experience African culture through the arts, including “And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History and Culture,” the museum’s 22,000-square-foot interactive core exhibit, the Ford Freedom Rotunda and the 317-seat General Motors Theater for live performances, film screenings, lectures, presentations and more.
Peruse the museum store for authentic African and African American art, books and merchandise.
Immerse yourself in this rich culture at the 33rd Annual African World Festival Aug. 14-16 on the grounds of the Wright Museum. This year’s theme, “Shining as We Rise,” celebrates the museum’s 50th anniversary with performances by The Clark Sisters and Julian Marley — son of reggae legend Bob Marley — along with a marketplace featuring more than 150 vendors and a variety of “villages.”
At MBAD African Bead Museum in Detroit, the goal is to gather and present collections of beads, beadworks, textiles, sculptures and other cultural relics that represent the vastness of the African people’s material culture. Highlights include exhibitions, public programming and more.
One of the original founders, Olayami Dabls — a fine artist, museum curator and historian — has lectured extensively on African Material Culture to international audiences for over 30 years. Due to a gracious donation from Ardie Reddick, his mission continues at the museum’s original location, which now features exquisite artifacts and outdoor art installations, too.
Though the museum itself is modest in size, the history of the beads — which tell the story of the people who wear them around their necks, waists and ankles — is intriguing, and the art installations are a sight to behold, drawing visitors from all over (mbad.org).
Go On Safari
One of Michigan’s largest cultural attractions, Binder Park Zoo near Battle Creek is not to be missed. A renowned highpoint within the property’s 433 acres of natural forest and wetlands is Wild Africa. Climb aboard a 104-foot-long zebra-striped tram to African Village, Zuri National Park Headquarters and the Zuri National Park African Savannah Exhibit — feeding the giraffes is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Tour de Zoo
On Aug. 20, a fundraiser with Bikes, Beasts and Beers held at Binder Park Zoo invites you to pedal through the zoo and enjoy two “hydration stations” with samplings of New Belgium Brewing’s Slow Ride, being launched this summer in Michigan. Panoramic views of the African Savannah with herds of giraffe, zebra, antelope and more make this a unique event. Afterward, enjoy a variety of New Belgium Brewing Company beers, live music, games, giveaways and tasty treats available for purchase (binderparkzoo.org).
Savor African Flavors
After a splendid day on the savannah, whet your appetite at Jambo African Cuisine in Kalamazoo for samosa-style East African fare mixed with Mediterranean and Indian flavors. Spices from Zanzibar let your taste buds roam to faraway lands. Other spots to savor African/Ethiopian cuisine include:
Kola Restaurant & Ultra Lounge in Farmington Hills, known for authentic African and Caribbean cuisine and music (kolalounge.com);
Little Africa in Grand Rapids, featuring a savory vegetarian and vegan Ethiopian menu (616-222-1169); (facebook.com/little-africa-Ethiopian-cuisine)
And Taste of Ethiopia in Southfield, serving authentic Ethiopian dishes including freshly prepared meat and vegetarian selections and signature bread, injera (tasteofethiopia.com).
— Jeanine Matlow, Michigan BLUE Magazine