By Dawn Scotland
The Truth Reporter
“It’s good to be home” said Suzette Cowell, founder of the African American Festival and Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union, as she glanced at children playing and enjoying activities at Nelson Grace Park. “They are able to experience things here that they wouldn’t normally have the chance to.,” she smiled.
This year the African American Festival and Parade went back to the community. While the festival has expanded over the years and ventured into new locations, Cowell believed it was important to go back.
Nelson Grace Park is in the heart the old Dorr Street Corridor at the corner of Detroit and Indiana Ave –it’s back in the neighborhood that helped foster it to grow.
Following the prayer breakfast Friday at Glass City Metropark Pavilion and the Saturday morning Parade ending at Indiana and Detroit avenues, this free community day Saturday afternoon was the final destination in part one of the 17th Annual African American Festival that will span two weekends this year. (The final event is the music festival that will be held Aug 6 at Promenade Park).
“We decided that we needed to go back to our roots – that’s why we’re at the corner of Detroit and Indiana. Today we’re going to love on the children… so everything that is going on is free for them,” Cowell added.
The joy could be seen on the children’s faces as they enjoyed rock climbing provided by Toledo Metro Parks, bounce houses, art presentations by Toledo Museum of Art, and horse rides to name of few of the many activities that engulfed the park in the center of the city Saturday afternoon.
The parade Saturday morning was truly a sight to see. Cowell was warmed by the support and representation. “Over 60 participants [in the parade]…and some just showed up!” laughed Cowell. The parade started at Detroit and Dorr Street and extended all the way to Dorr and Collingwood. “The community respects it – it’s theres.”
In a celebration that grows year after year this year’s celebration was multigenerational. “I thank the community for supporting us these past 17 years. Without them we couldn’t do this,” said Cowell. “When you ride down Dorr Street and see the families and different generations [grandparents, parents, grandchildren]. They think enough of it to bring generations to see it. That just warmed my heart. It was amazing to see.”
“It’s a day the community comes together- they look forward to it.” The next date to look forward to is the Music Festival Saturday August 6 at Promenade Park. Tickets are available at Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union or tickermaster.com. This year’s lineup includes: The Whispers, Zapp, Lyfe Jennings, Sunshine Anderson, Troop, comedian Keith Bender, a presentation to Zia Cook and Tribute to Rance Allen.
The African American Festival welcomed many new partnerships this year.
The sponsors of the 17th African American Festival are: ProMedica, Metroparks Toledo, WIMX95.7, The Blade, The Sojourner’s Truth, The Toledo Journal, Lucas County Commissioners, City of Toledo, Lucas County Port Authority, LISC, Metroparks Toledo, Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union, PNC Bank, Waterford Bank N.A., Huntington Bank, Toledo Museum of Art, Lourdes University, Mercy College, The House of Day Funeral Home, C. Brown Funeral Home Inc., Grogan Towne, Quality Time Day Care, and The Taylor Automotive Family.
Vendors and support of community day included:
Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), Human Relations Commission, Toledo Museum of Arts, Metro Parks Toledo, Rashawn Jones Enterprises, National Heritage Academies, City Park League, Toledo Zoo, The Fredrick Douglas Community Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Ohio, Brightside Academy, Buffalo Soldiers, City of Toledo, City of Toledo – Department of Parks and Recreation, Coordinated Workers First Campaign, Early Head Start Lucas County Family Council, Explores Academy Science and Technology, Giuseppes Italian Ice, Hope Toledo, Imagine Environmental Science Academy, Lucas County Children Service, OptiGo – Free Youth Eye Screenings, Toledo Public Library, Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union, Urban Wholistics, Zeph Center, Famed Studios, Mud City Angels, Mystery Inc. Drumline, Parker Dance Factory, Reynolds Corner Rams Cheer Team, Squad Goals, Toledo Community Praise Dancers and Toledo Dream Queens.
Cowell still has plans to grow the credit union further in more efforts to revitalize Dorr St. “Our membership has doubled and we don’t have enough room. We’re going to break ground on a resource center soon to provide the community with more resources across the street” stated Cowell. The TUFCU is venturing into 4.8 million dollar project.
“We [are more] than a credit union… we’re like the hub of the community. If you have a problem you come to Toledo Urban. That’s the way it is.” Cowell notes how community members come to Toledo Urban regarding domestic disputes, police reports, children services. She has a plan. “We’re going to put all those resources there and have people to man them.”
For more information on the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union visit www.toledourban.net.