A 50th Anniversary Celebration Befitting A Legendary Institution

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By Maitefa Angaza

Last weekend, people living in all areas of the country gathered in Brooklyn to commemorate a tremendous achievement and a profound legacy. They met up at a joyously electric event – the 50th Year Anniversary of the Founding of The EAST–held at the Masonic Temple in Fort Greene. The place was packed with smiling faces and exuberant spirits. Many people had traveled from a distance to reunite and to celebrate the great success that was this Cultural Nationalist/ Pan-African institution founded by Brooklyn’s own activist educator Jitu Weusi.

Adeyemi Bandele, Malika Iman and Ayesha Soaries were among those taking turns hosting on the mic. The EAST All-Stars jazz band, headed by Reggie Workman was masterful, jazz singer Tulivu Donna Cumberbatch set a lovely mood and the Asase Yaa African American Dance Theater brought the house down! Anniversary committee house down! Anniversary committee members Martha Bright, (chairperson); Kweli Campbell, Muslimah Mashariki, Raphael Jackson, Maliki Oluwambe, Segun Shabaka and Shieba Ellerby Watson had clearly done a great job.

“I’d like to give heartfelt asante sanas (thank yous) for the diligent kazi (work) in the past six months to create the cultural extravaganza celebrating our legacy,” said Bright. “The tremendous outpouring of love and support for our momentous occasion of reconnection, rejuvenation and renewal in the Sankofa spirit was deeply moving and much appreciated. Jitu and our many ancestors are well-pleased. We look forward to closing the year out with our Kwanzaa Extravaganza. Don’t miss it!”

Mashariki agreed. “Our 50th Anniversary event was absolutely a Grand Reunion of ASA (African Students Association) members, ATA (African Teachers Association) founder, East family members, supporters and friends, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” she said. “The spirits of our ancestors were in the room as each name was called. It was what we envisioned! Most of the folks had not seen each other in 30-plus years and were overcome with tears of joy. Our book of reflections will be available at the IAAFestival in July. Asante sana to all!”

These former EAST members – still family to one another – were the people who helped to build the immensely influential Black cultural/nationalist institution. And in doing so, they helped to change the way communities in New York City, and across the nation, would come to view themselves. People saw reflected from The EAST the value of cultural grounding, pride, education, hard work, responsibility and self-reliance. We were shown our vast creativity in the arts, our nurturing, our fabulous style, our acumen as business owners, our facility as members of the press, our abilities as nation-builders and our capacity for joy.