Keeping traditions alive

HENRIETTA — "Our music moves the world."

"We are a spiritual people."

"We are the future."

Masquerade celebrates cultural diversity

So began "Barakoa: The African Masquerade" with the voices of Kuumba Kids speaking, singing and dancing about why "Black Lives Matter."

The performance kicked off a series of dances featuring elaborate masks and costumes that connect Africa with cultural traditions around the world, from Latin American to the Caribbean to New Orleans. More than 300 people attended the April 26 event held in the Student Alumni Union at Rochester Institute of Technology. 

The event also was the culmination of a project developed by the Baobab Cultural Center in collaboration with such area groups as Grupo Cultural Latinos en Rochester, Latinos de Corazón and Akwaaba to trace those roots and celebrate them, explained Terry Chaka, Baobab’s director.

"This is past time," she said of the celebration. "People should be proud of who they are and talk about it. And other people should know about it. … This is so exciting."

Masquerade event held at RIT

Last year, the center invited mask makers from Puerto Rico, Nigeria and New Orleans to lead workshops on their customs and creations. The project was funded by a Creative Collision grant from the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation.

"You could have anybody teach how to make masks," Chaka said. "We wanted somebody that this was really a part of their culture. They were living it, which was wonderful."

For Yisell Athill-Fonseco of Panama, the African drumming of such groups as Mounafanyi Percussion and Dance Ensemble sounded familiar. She brought along her 3-year-old daughter, Camila, to teach her about the roots of her native country’s traditions, which is important for the younger generation.

"They learn where we all come from," she added. "So our traditions don’t get lost."

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