Wednesday, June 20, 2001

150,000 expected at Ujima festival

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Organizers have added events to this year's Ujima Cinci-Bration and expect an estimated 150,000 people to attend the fourth annual street festival next month.

        New events include a car show, three-on-three basketball tournament and a “Mr. All That” pageant to complement the long-held “Ms. All That” pageant.

        At a press conference in downtown Cincinnati on Tuesday, Mayor Charlie Luken said the city and event organizers have “worked very hard to open our arms” to festival-goers.

        Unlike last year, that means most downtown area restaurants will remain open during the festival.

        Last year, of the 34 high-end downtown restaurants that normally are open on weekend nights, 20 were open during the July festival, which is geared toward a mostly black audience.

        That led to a series of protests in August outside downtown eateries by the Black United Front, a grass-roots organization led by the Rev. Damon Lynch III, pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church.

        After the protests, several prominent downtown restaurant owners promised to remain open for Ujima and the Coors Light Festival, which are to be held simultaneously July 20-22.

        But riots, a citywide curfew and general unrest spurred by the April 7 police shooting of an unarmed black man have created an environment that led the Rev. Mr. Lynch to organize a boycott of another popular festival, the Taste of Cincinnati.

        Considering the political climate, will there be a boycott of Ujima and the Coors Light fest?

        Juleana Frierson, chief of staff for the Cincinnati Black United Front, said Tuesday that no decision has been made by the group on whether to boycott either event.

        However, she did say the Black United Front “will continue to take some very strong actions this summer.”

        “Our position is that it is still not a time to party in downtown Cincinnati until we see some things change,” said Ms. Frierson.

        “These are not normal times in our city, even though some people want to pretend that they are.”

        She said the Black United Front doesn't feel it risks losing credibility if it does not support a boycott of the African-American events as it did Taste of Cincinnati.

        Ms. Frierson said there have already been some events in the city, both black and white, that the Black United Front has chosen not to boycott.

        “We don't risk losing credibility because we know exactly what we are doing and why we are doing it,” she said.

        “People are going to question us one way or the other, so that is not going to be a determining factor in what we do.”

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