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Black History Month Festival helps ‘ensure our legacy is known’

Updated February 19, 2024 - 7:21 pm

The typically tranquil atmosphere around the Springs Preserve natural habitat was awash Saturday with live music and an abundance of smiling faces at the 15th annual Black History Month Festival.

“We like to say that we offer something for everyone — from 8 months to 88 years old,” said Damon Hodge with the Las Vegas Valley Water District, which organizes the event with a plethora of local sponsors.

In tepid and sunny elements, the hundreds of attendees enjoyed a variety of activities throughout the habitat’s facilities, which hosted comfort food and all-local vendors, artists, exhibits, and arts and crafts opportunities.

Posters that showcased past and present Black leaders and trailblazers, and their contributions to Southern Nevada, were sprinkled throughout the Springs Preserve.

Jeanine Dixon, a longtime local who hails from Detroit, took her two granddaughters, Laniyah and Layah, ages 5 and 7.

The grandmother said that they had tickets to last year’s festival but couldn’t make it.

“This year we made it,” she said, “and it has been an amazing time.”

Dixon, who usually has to traverse across town to indulge in the highly touted food from Mario’s Westside Market, was able to buy some onsite.

Saturday’s outing, Dixon said, was also a chance for her granddaughters to learn about their history, which they don’t always get in school.

Asked about their favorite festival activity, both girls were succinct: “face painting.”

Members of the Las Vegas Raiders’ cheer squad were available for pictures and autographs. Inside a packed arts and crafts room, children and their guardians chose from a pile of various hats, and they made their way around tables attaching an assortment of artsy items.

Long lines waited to snag a meal from the half-dozen local food trucks. Elsewhere, a chef did a live cooking presentation.

Scot Wiggins had worked the event in previous years. But on Saturday, he was there to take it all in.

“I love it,” he said, noting that it was similar to an annual festival held in his native Michigan.

Teaching Black history is particularly crucial in current political headwinds because it has become a topic in the culture wars, he noted.

“I think it’s highly important that we do everything we can to showcase what Black America and Black Americans have contributed,” Wiggins said. “So, it’s critical to ensure our legacy is known and we don’t forget our history.”

Bianca Wilburn proudly carried a caricature portrait a local artist scribbled for her.

She said that her family attends the festival every year and that it’s a good chance “to get to know my ancestors and history behind Black history.”

“Pretty good so far,” she said Saturday. “I got my picture.”

Hodge has worked the event for years.

“This is really a community event,” he said. “It belongs to the community.”

Entrance cost $5 for children and $10 for adults.

“We want to provide affordable, family-friendly entertainment,” said Hodge, who described the event as “the biggest and best Black History festival in Nevada.”

America’s story is not complete without its Black history, he said.

“In every movement and every significant era in American history,” Hodge noted, “African Americans have played a vital role, have fought in every war on American soil, have been in every rights struggle in American history as well.”

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com.

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