In celebration of African Heritage Month, the Fredericton Playhouse will host the show Amplifying our Stories and Voices on March 21, which will feature local artists and performers, highlighting poetry, Congolese music and Afro dance.
One of the performers will be Saa Andrew, a St. Thomas University graduate. Andrew said the goal of this show is to amplify Black stories and voices. He said with systemic racism towards African and Indigenous Peoples, events like these are needed to uplift voices.
“It’s good to be able to walk with allies who want to partner with you, amplify your voice [and] hear your stories,” said Andrew. “That way, we can make our community a better place.”
Andrew is the chief creative officer for Battle of the Arts, an organization that helps create opportunities for young artists to share their talents. He said he was happy that the Fredericton Playhouse was willing to host the show.
Andrew will play Afrobeats with his drum at the show. He also has released two CDs of his work and the latest one was released in 2010.
Andrew began drumming when he was a kid. He said drums are common for wedding ceremonies and other events. Andrew also makes drums from scratch and teaches people how to make their own.
“We want the world to be able to be part of something that’s so cool,” said Andrew. “When you go to different cultures, you learn something different. It just makes the world a beautiful place.”
Andrew graduated from STU in 2010 with a major in human rights. He is originally from Sierra Leone and lived in Gambia before moving to Fredericton in 2004.
Andrew said he moved to Gambia with his family as a refugee, fleeing the war that was taking place back home. The Sierra Leone Civil War lasted from 1991 until 2002 and over 50,000 people died as a result. One factor of the war derived from an abundance of natural resources including vast amounts of diamond mines.
Growing up in war and chaos, Andrew said those experiences shaped him and encouraged him to tell his story. He said the things he saw growing up got him to study human rights.
“In front of me, I saw the killing of children … In front of me, they cut off the hands of people,” said Andrew. “The only way I could fight against those things was to learn about human rights.”
The New Brunswick African Association and the Battle of Arts are organizing the show at The Playhouse. Yusuf Shire, the president of the NBAA, said the show was supposed to take place last year but didn’t because of COVID-19.
After a year of lockdowns and isolation, Shire said the show is a way to bring people out and lift their spirits.
“Our message really is about unity,” said Shire. “Why do we say African Heritage Month? It’s because this is where we all come from. We want to acknowledge our heroes and ancestors that came before us.”
The show will also aim to educate its audience. Shire said he wants to teach the rich history of Africa and African people beyond the framework of slavery.
Shire has been part of the NBAA for 14 years, starting out as a youth coordinator. He said when the NBAA was formed in 2002, the mission was to bring all people of African descent and the African diaspora together.
“Today, that goal is more important than ever, for us to come together [and] to try and educate and to own our narratives.”
To create change in the community, Andrew said he would like to see more representation of Black and Indigenous Peoples in key positions. He said that way, people can make decisions to make the community grow.
“We want to bring educational programs, we want to talk [and] create dialogue,” said Andrew. “[We] want to let people who make decisions hear what we are saying and be part of the solution.”