By Audrey Spencer

Killeen Daily Herald

Starting tonight, the Songhai Bamboo Roots Cultural Association, a local nonprofit that promotes African and West Indian heritage, will kick off its annual Caribbean Afr'am Festival at the Killeen Amphitheater.

Gathering cultural exhibitions, entertainment and vendors, the festival is a chance to experience a variety of food, music and performances from several countries.

"It's a cultural exhibition," said Darlene Golden, the festival's director of organization.

Golden said there will be performances from Belizean culture, recognition of Jamaica's fifth year of independence, as well as a variety of food, including Cajun, Hawaiian and African cuisines.

Performers also focus on getting the audience involved with the performance.

"We like to have fun that day. Celebrate independence or whatever's going on at that particular time," said Golden. "I think people will come out and see a different aspect of the culture."

Incorporated with the performances and activities will be a sense of Carnival.

Golden assured though that the nod to the street parades would be family appropriate.

"Ours is to teach pride. We don't want them to just show their skin," she said. "They'll wear appropriate dresses, headdresses, Carnival masks."

Last year's festival brought out about 1,000 people, but Golden said she hopes to see attendance double because Songhai has put triple the effort into advertising, purchasing billboards as far away as San Antonio.

Starting tonight at 5 in the Killeen Community Center, three workshops will be held on topics including benefits of natural hair and use of herbs for health.

In the amphitheater, D.J. D Nice and emcee Jah Ray will provide entertainment from 5 to 7:30 p.m., followed by Caribbean Sensation's performance from 8 to 10 p.m.

All times and schedules are subject to change, but current lineups include events starting at noon Saturday and running until midnight. A children's drum circle event will start about 1 p.m., Songhai youth princess flag twirlers will perform at 5:15 p.m., and Sammie with the steelpan will perform at 8 p.m.

Contact Audrey Spencer at or (254) 501-7476.

If you go

What: Caribbean Afr'am Festival

Where: Killeen Amphitheater, at 2201 E. Veterans Memorial Blvd.

When: 5 to 10 p.m. today, noon to midnight Saturday.

Admission is free, but participants are asked to bring two nonperishable items for the Killeen Food Care Center.

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