By Ameera Steward
The Birmingham Times
The City of Birmingham’s inaugural Freedom Fest on Saturday drew thousands of people for a day long series of entertainment and empowerment in the heart of the Civil Rights District in downtown.
The festivities began at noon beneath a bright sun that illuminated colorful tents and food trucks that sold goods to the diverse crowd around Kelly Ingram Park.
The festival offered a balance of entertainment and education. Performers included Birmingham talents Ruben Studdard and Alvin Garrett as well as Huntsville hip hop artist Translee. Others included gospel artist Kristen Glover, neo soul artist Love Moor, soul group Midnight Star, hip hop soul artist Musiq Soulchild, and hip hop duo 8Ball & MJG.
The fest also gave attendees a chance to hear leaders and innovators in business, technology, beauty, the arts, and urban planning during seven empowerment sessions held in places such as the historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Panel discussions included “Justice, Empathy and Advocacy” panel with Mayor Randall Woodfin, U.S. Senator Doug Jones, and Prison reform advocate Anthony Ray Hinton.
Visitors came away pleased by what they saw and heard.
“I love it,” said Jeremy Scott, 24, of Birmingham. “It’s brought out everybody in Birmingham, I hope they continue doing it so we can do this for years to come. I know it’s the first annual, I want it to be annual.”
“I have been encouraged by seeing the turnout,” said Jay Williams, 25, of Birmingham. “I think that opportunities likes this should come more to Birmingham [because] it’s just an opportunity for us to show what we got and extend a hand to see if there’s more opportunity in the future.”