New Orleans, LA, (June 18, 2018) –Ashé Cultural Arts Center proudly presents the 18th Annual Maafa Commemoration on Saturday, July 7, 2018, at 7:00 a.m., at Congo Square, Armstrong Park in New Orleans.  The community, Essence Festival goers, and visitors from around the world are invited to participate in this sacred ceremony where we honor our ancestors.  Author, educator, poet Kalamu ya Salaam is this year’s Grand Griot.

Maafa is a Kiswahili word that means “great tragedy” or “horrific tragedy,” referring to the period called the Middle Passage or Transatlantic Slave Trade.   During that time, millions of captives from Africa were brought to the Americas where they were used as a labor force, persecuted, beaten, and many, separated from their families forever.  

At the commemoration, hundreds of people attired in white clothing will come together as one, gathering, primarily, to pay tribute to African ancestors who died during the Middle Passage.   The ceremony includes multi-denominational words of healing, ancestral songs, a tribute to indigenous people of Louisiana, and the releasing of white peace doves, and this year, native Congolese dances and drummers.  

Drummers, Mardi Gras Indians and African dancers will lead the procession from Congo Square through historic Tremé, with a brief stop at St. Augustine Catholic Church, the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Slave.   From there, the procession continues to three recently installed slave trade historical markers that will be formally dedicated during the march.  The procession ends at the Mississippi River, with drumming, dancing, singing and the release of flowers in tribute to the ancestors.  Shuttles will be available to return participants to Congo Square.

Background:  In the year 2000, Ashé Cultural Arts Center’s founders Carol Bebelle and Douglas Redd, engaged by Leia Lewis who coordinated the first Maafa celebration, joined with other similar celebrations around the country.  The vision for the Maafa Commemoration continues to grow. It was influenced by the work of St. Paul Baptist Church in Brooklyn, which was then led by New Orleans-born Rev. Johnnie Ray Youngblood, where annually a month-long series of activities form the Maafa remembrance.

Said Bebelle, “the local Maafa Commemoration offers an opportunity for the whole community to pause and reflect on this great transgression against humanity.  It allows us to personally, and as a community, agree to distance ourselves institutionally, in word and deed, from that transgression, its legacy and the evolved practice of racism in our civic, social, spiritual and personal lives.”


JUNE 29 through AUGUST 23, 2018
Art Exhibition—  Maafa:  Creativity, Faith, Tradition and Resilience
From the Maafa ceremony in Congo Square to drumming on the mighty Mississippi, this exhibition represents years of honoring our ancestors, depicted from paint brushes and camera lenses.  Along with images that poured from his camera, curator Gason Ayisyin puts together those seen through the eyes of other artists. 
Ashé Power House
1731 Baronne Street, New Orleans

Opening reception:  June 29, 2018 – 6:00-9:00 PM
Exhibition hours:  10:00 AM- 5:30 PM
Free and open to the public

The Healing Room – Maafa Edition
Featured Artists:  Michaela Harrison, Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes, Joy Clark, Spirit McIntyre, Bichini Bia Congo Dance Theater Company, and black fashions from Brazil by Madalena Negris.
Ace Hotel
600 Carondelet Street, New Orleans

9:00 PM – Midnight
Free and open to the public

2018 Maafa Concert
Featuring Grand Griot:  Kalamu ya Salaam
Entertainment by Bichini Bia Congo Dance Theater Company, Arrowhead Jazz Band & Special Guests
Ashé Power House
1731 Baronne Street, New Orleans

7:00 – 9:00 PM
Free and open to the public

FRIDAY, JULY 6, 2018
Bichini Bia Congo Dance Theater Company Workshop
Sponsored by Jeanne Lafitte National Park Service
Old U.S. Mint
400 Esplanade Avenue, 3rd Floor, New Orleans

2:00-3:00 PM
Free and open to the public

Maafa Commemoration
Be part of a sacred ceremony in Congo Square; join the drum procession to the Tomb of the Unknown Slave, and visit three newly-installed historic slave markers.  The procession ends at the Mississippi River.
Congo Square /Armstrong Park
701 N. Rampart St., New Orleans

7:00 AM
Free and open to the public

Support for the Maafa comes from Ashé Cultural Arts Center, Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve and New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, the City of New Orleans-Office of Cultural Economy, and the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University. The Maafa is partially funded by the Kellogg Foundation (America Healing), Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) the Ford Foundation, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.  Sponsorship comes from Southwest Airlines, the official airline for Efforts of Grace, Inc./Ashé Cultural Arts Center.

For more information call (504) 813-9008 or (504) 569-9070.


Media Contact: 
Viola T. Blunt
(504) 813-9008 - cell
(504) 569-9070 - office