The 45th Black Belt Folk Roots Festival goes virtual

By: Carol P. Zippert
Festival Coordinator

The 45th annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival did not go unclaimed, and undocumented. There was no magnificent tent shielding a stage of body and soul stirring musicians playing to hundreds not minding the August heat and drenching humidity. There was not the aroma of the famous Bear Burgers and Chicago Style Polish sausages sizzling on the grill, or the inviting scent of barbecue on the pit. One could not be drawn to the popping sounds of chicken wings and fish or pork skins in pots of hot oil. One could not taste the cooling refreshment of homemade ice cream or myriad flavors of snow cones and Italian Ice. Still, the annual festival did not go unclaimed and undocumented.
The Black Belt Folk Roots Festival went virtual on its 45th anniversary. A special website was designed to capture the usual ole timey blues and gospel sounds of the festival. The link highlights longtime bluesmen and bands such as Clarence Davis, Lil’Lee and the Midnight Blues Band, Jock Webb, Terry ‘Harmonica’ Bean, Jontavious Willis, Russell Gulley, Michael Carpenter and the Roadhouse Blues Band, Willie Halbert and the Fingerprint Band and more.
The ole timey gospel groups noted included Son of Zion, The American Travelers, The Mississippi Traveling Stars, The Golden Gates, The Melody Kings of Starkville, Eddie Mae Brown, Glory to Glory Gospel Singers and more.

One could not finger the fine stitching of the traditional hand crafted quilts and baskets or the intricate designs of hand crafted jewelry, but the authentic photos on the website portray the loving and painstaking care of the folk artists.
The young people did engage in a hands on arts festival experience. The special Zoom link allowed them to follow the guide of local artist Mynecia (Mya) Steele, of Eutaw, in designing their own arts. The young participants were provided with the materials needed to create their projects in Zoom arts program, noted as the Kids Tent. Reportedly, the greatest joy for many young participants was seeing themselves on screen.
The festival’s website also carries a video of the Kids Tent, claiming and documenting the young people’s activities.
The Black Belt Folk Roots Festival, produced by the Society of Folk Arts & Culture, did not go unclaimed and undocumented. The festival website will be continuous, featuring the folk artists of the West Alabama Region, celebrating history, culture and tradition through music, dance, crafts and foodways.
Festival website: blackbeltfolkrootsfestival.weebly.com. Tune in and join a celebration of community.
The major supporters of the virtual festival and the Kids Tent include Alabama Department of Tourism, the Black Belt Community Foundation, the Alabama Power Foundation, Greenetrack, Inc. and the TSP Support League, Inc.
If you would like to support our continuing work of producing the festival
contact
Carol Zippert at
205-372-0525 or email:
zippert.carol79@gmail.com

BBCF awards $80,000 in arts grants across Black Belt region

L to R: Carol P. Zippert and Darlene Robinson, BBCF Board President,accept grant award for annual festival

The Black Belt Community Foundation awarded $80,000 in arts initiative grants to 29 community based organizations in its 12 county service region. The awards ceremony was held Saturday, May 5, 2018 at the Hank Sanders Technology Center at Wallace Community College Selma.
Community projects benefiting through the awards include museums, community theaters, festivals and youth organizations offering concentrated arts programs. Through these individual projects, it is anticipated that nearly 22,000 Black Belt residents will be inspired, affected, or touched in some way – whether by taking a local art class, by viewing a musical or theatrical performance, or by visiting a local folk arts festival.
In Greene County, the Society of Folk Arts & Culture was awarded $2,500 for the production of the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival. Other awards throughout the Black Belt region included: In Bullock County, a total of $3,500 was awarded; in Choctaw County, $1,655; in Dallas County, $11,500; in Lowndes County, $2,500; Macon County, $8,500; in Marengo County, $2,500; in Perry County, $2,500; in Pickens County, $4,975; in Sumter County, $4,500; and in Wilcox County, $15,370.
Two organizations received Art Education grants of $10,000 each – Coleman Center for the Arts and Tuskegee-Macon County CDC.

BBCF President Felecia Lucky stated, “Our arts grant review committee has been incredibly impressed with the diverse spectrum of inspiring arts programs presented to us in application for 2018 grants funding. Being able to reach nearly 22,000 people across our service counties through these grants is a testament to the support we receive from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.“
BBCF was established in 2004 to support community efforts in the Black Belt that contribute to the strength, innovation, and success of all the region’s people and communities. A partnership formed in 2006 with BBCF, the Youth & Cultural Committee of the Black Belt Action Commission, and the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA), which established the Black Belt Arts Initiative.
The goals of this project are; to work in partnership with local community based organizations, to forge collaborations with local schools to advance arts education, to document and promote the region’s artistic assets, to assist arts organizations in becoming more efficient and effective and to Provide opportunities for citizens of the Black Belt region to be exposed to and participate in the arts.
Since 2006, $1,400,671 has been awarded through BBAI Arts Grants to support various arts activities across BBCF’s twelve-county service area. In total, BBCF has invested over $3.8 million from BBAI Arts, Community and other grants into regional nonprofits, based in and serving Alabama’s Black Belt.