The Cultural Academy for Excellence Kicked Off Its 15th Year With a Bang

Me and CAFE's newest board member, Melissa Johnson

Last Saturday the Cultural Academy for Excellence (CAFE), a local non-profit, kicked off its 15th year in operations with the fundraiser Folklore on the Greens. It was an extremely successful event that, as a board member and a 2004 graduate of the program, I am still giddy about!

The Cultural Academy for Excellence was birthed in the basement of a woman named Lorna Green who was determined to find a way engage with the youth in her community. The idea to develop this arts-in-education program stemmed from her desire to utilize the steel drum, an instrument developed in her native country Trinidad and Tobago, as a tool to help students excel in school. It didn’t take long before her idea took off; within a few years the program had grown way beyond her basement’s capacity.

With her passion, she turned what was originally a small endeavor into something that has made a lasting impact on the lives of the youth it reaches as well as the local community it serves. It was only fitting that we started our yearlong celebration of our accomplishments with such an unforgettable program.

Folklore on the Greens was held at the home of CAFE's Executive Director, Lorna Green. It was a lovely fall afternoon perfect for entertainment and mingling with both old and new friends. The afternoon's lineup included a diverse and absolutely amazing group of artists. Among the performances there were two that particularly stood out for me. The first was the folklores told by Dr. Merle Collins accompanied by Abby Charles with interpretive dance. Both the story and the storyteller were captivating and the dancer kept our attention with her graceful moves as she brought the story to life (shown on the left). The second was the performance by Akua Allrich. She literally wowed the crowd with her tributes to Nina Simone and Miriam Mikeba, a South African singer. When she was done performing, not only did she receive a standing ovation, but she was also spontaneously given a necklace by the Ambassador of Senegal to the US, Fatou Danielle Diagne, out of appreciation for the tributes to Miriam Mikeba. (The picture to the left shows Ambassador Harriet Elam-Thomas, Akua Allrich, and Ambassador Fatou Danielle Diagne.) Overall, the event was incredible. Before the night was even done, the raving reviews were pouring in.

Just like so many other nonprofits, CAFE is fighting hard to provide quality programs despite various cuts in funding as a result of the recession. Folklore on the Greens was our first attempt to truly step out of our comfort zone of fundraising through concerts featuring our very own students, particularly our award winning Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Orchestra. For me, it was extremely exciting to see how successful we ultimately were as I know it will only get better each year.

For more information on CAFE, visit our website at For more information on our concerts and other events, "like" us on Facebook, check out our calendar of events or - even easier - feel free to email me!