Africatown festival preserves heritage

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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Black History Month is over, but one local community continues to focus on its heritage; this year, the Africa Town Festival had a double meaning.

Community leaders joined many others with ties to one of Mobile’s most historic communities Sunday for the annual Africa Town Festival.

Organizer Robert Battles Sr. said it’s important to preserve the legacy of the community established by those Africans who founded it.

“It’s the last place where the last recorded Africans were brought to Mobile and to Alabama for the purpose of slavery, but they were freed, and they built a free community. They kept their language, and they retained their customs,” Battles said.

Battles said the focus was also on another important event for all African Americans.

“It was 1965 that African Americans were attacked at the Edmund Pettus Bridge when they tried to cross for voting rights,” Battles said.

George Simpson grew up in the area. He said he’s glad the history is being passed on to younger generations.

“I was in school during that time, and we’re trying to recognize Bloody Sunday to let people be aware of this, because the younger generation they’re really not aware of all of this. They take a whole lot of things for granted, but we try to do whatever is necessary to keep them in touch with what is going on,” Simpson said.

A march began in Selma to commemorate that event and will span six days and 50 miles until the marchers reach Montgomery. There they will hold a rally at Dexter Avenue King Baptist Church, the church where Martin Luther King Jr. was the reverend.

A Spirit Award was also presented Sunday in honor of Reverend Wesley James who died in 2010.

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