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Delray Puts Down Roots All Year

Delray puts down Roots all year long

By Patty Pensa
Staff Writer

June 29, 2001

DELRAY BEACH + It started as a one-day festival 24 years ago, grew to 30 days of summertime activities and now has become a year-round celebration of African-American and Caribbean culture.

For the first time, the Roots Cultural Festival has expanded its programming to offer arts education in the winter, spring and fall. But starting today, summer activities will begin as usual. Organizers are hoping about 50,000 will attend the various events between now and August.

In May, a Kwanzaa seminar introduced this year's theme, ujima, which means collective work and responsibility.

"Together we are building and maintaining our community," said Programming Director Elizabeth Wesley. "Together you accomplish so much, and it's up to us to keep that community going."

For the essay and oratory contests, children are encouraged to focus their writing on that theme.

The festival ranges from academic competitions and educational workshops to recreational activities and entertainment events. For the oratory contest, the theme is "Standing Together to Build and Maintain Our Community."

"It's all our responsibility," Wesley said. The Aug. 6 workshop "Strategies for Serving the Homeless" also will look at ways of helping others in need, he said.

The culminating Festival in the Park in August features popular and hip-hop music, but Roots organizers wanted to round out children's exposure to music with its "classical series" the rest of the year. The program, which began in December and will run through July, holds concerts and brings music and theater instructors to introduce different arts disciplines to the children. For example, about 30 children started learning the violin last month.

To continue the program in October, Roots organizers are waiting to hear whether they've won a $120,000 grant from the Children's Services Council so about 100 children can gain the same exposure.

"A lot of the stuff children listen to have violent themes, and we feel [the classics] will give them a more gentle outlook on life," Wesley said. "It helps make you a more well-rounded person."

Patty Pensa can be reached at or 561-243-6609.

Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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