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St. Ann Center’s Fifth Annual Indaba Ball Ushers in Black History Month

By February 15, 2024No Comments3 min read

pxl 20240204 000553686Over 200 revelers enjoyed an extravaganza of brilliant colors, breathtaking elegance, sparkle and style, along with joyful reunions and warm conversations at the fifth annual Indaba African Ball, at St. Ann Center’s Bucyrus Campus. 

The annual event, always on the first Saturday in February, kicks off Black History Month with a celebration of Milwaukee’s proud African community and culture, honoring Black Milwaukeeans who’ve changed the city for the better, and raising much-needed funds for programming at the center’s Indaba Band Shell. Attendees filled both floors of the campus’s beautiful atrium, decorated in the colors of the Pan-African flag, along with authentic African art and images from pilgrimages to Ghana, a nod to the St. Ann Center staff and donors who traveled there recently to provide aid. 

But the real adornment came from the guests themselves, who donned traditional African garb and accessories and filled the hall with color and sophistication.  

The 2024 Hall of History Makers class featured internationally known mental health expert Dr. Lila A. Knox,  founder of Black Space HQ; Dr. Dwight Cobbs, longtime commissioner of the Neighborhood Children’s Sports League and founder of the Milwaukee Steelers youth football and cheer program; and lifelong friends Mac Weddle and LaMarr Franklin who have served Milwaukee youth and under-resourced populations since their youth and now oversee the Garfield Days street festival, which annually draws up to 20,000 people to the Halyard and Lapham Park neighborhood for musical entertainment, shopping, food and fellowship. 

Completed in 2019, the Indaba Band Shell — named after the indigenous African term for an inclusive, communal gathering to resolve social issues and renew common purpose — is home to a free concert series for the neighborhood, plus other family-friendly community events. Acclaimed past Indaba Nights performers include Cigarette Break, Showdown Sound featuring Tony TNT Washington, local jazz legend Adekola Adedapo, local blues icon Christopher’s Project, and the Joe Jordan Soul Trio.  

Christopher’s Project featuring Joe Jordan was on hand at the ball, getting hips and shoulders swaying from the start, and keeping the dance floor filled with revelers throughout the evening. Adedapo joined the band for a sizzling rendition of the Etta James classic, “At Last.”  

Guests also hopped aboard a 360-degree photo booth and got groovy for a fun memento of the evening. 

Attendees dined on Afro-Carribean style food — from jerk chicken wings and tongue-tingling Nigerian Jollof Rice to sweet plantains and cooling parfaits in a host of creamy fruit flavors — all prepared by Events by Day. Shoppers perused authentic jewelry and clothing items from Africa Alive, LLC;  handmade jewelry by St. Ann Center president Sr. Edna Longeran; handmade clothing, wax cloth and accessories by Areewa: The Beautiful You; and handmade body care, tea blends, wax melts and other items to treat yourself from Scintillating Soul, which operates a store out of the Bucyrus campus along with Areewa. 

The 2024 Indaba African Ball raised more than $15,000 to support free community events held at the bandshell, including the summer Indaba Nights, a neighborhood Easter egg hunt and a fall “pumpkin-palooza. “ 

And everyone who participated felt the true sense of Akwaaba, an Africa-wide word for welcome, warmth, love, acceptance, and peace. 

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