It felt like church. The Afri-Shake Festival of Hope exuded this aura in part because it was, in fact, taking place inside St. Philip’s Episcopal Church on June 18. But beyond mere setting, the enthusiasm of the small but dedicated gathering gave the festival a spirited feeling.
Dancing at the Afri-Shake Festival.
They were there to play a unique game called “Afri-Shake” Sabina Stella says came to her in a dream. Contestants shake a sand-filled bottle to reveal colored beads that correspond with six core virtues: freedom, peace, love, joy, hope and courage. The game requires extensive preparation, especially memorization of values symbolized by the colors. Its goal may be peaceful, but MC Lloyd Lyons informed the audience, “You are allowed to take sides and enjoy yourself.” Dancers or speakers followed each round of value recitation, and in the end CJ Casteal was triumphant with 45 points. Afri-Shake may not have fulfilled all of its aims immediately; Santna hopes it will “go all over the world” and spread peace. But many of Saturday’s attendees gave it a thumbs up, including game winner Casteal, who’s been practicing since May. “It felt nice,” she proclaimed afterwards. It was not a festival of shaking alone. Dancers from all over Africa — Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria — shared their talents with the audience. The aim was to raise awareness of African culture and promote pan-African unity. Between rounds of the game, Cindy Ball shared the tale of her visit to research childhood deprivation in Africa. She plans to set up a system of Boys and Girls Club-style centers in Kenya in cooperation with IU’s Kenya AIDS program. Her group, Building Blocks for Tomorrow, is setting up a Web site at nafasi.org. Stella’s vision, which she sees as the antithesis of video games, may be unusual, but she issued a declaration of success after the festivities were over. “The dream is growing.”