Monday, July 23, 2001

Ujima crowd diverse, organizers say

Turnout smaller, police say, but more peaceful

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Isatou Secka of Gambia sorts through necklaces.
(Steven M. Herppich photos)
| ZOOM |
        The celebration of African culture that is Ujima brought a diverse crowd downtown again Sunday, even if in slightly lower numbers than last year.

        “Diversity was the order of the day,” said Ujima event coordinator Lajuana Miller. “Everyone blended very comfortably.”

        Event organizers say about the same number of people as last year — about 150,000 — attended the three-day party downtown, despite the upswing in street violence since April's riots and the recent call by African-American activists for a downtown boycott.

        Cincinnati police said Sunday that the Ujima Cinci-Bration attendance might have been slightly smaller than organizers' estimates. And attendance at the Coors Light Jazz Festival at Cinergy Field was down significantly - little more than 40,000 for three days.

        The total of 75 arrests for the weekend was significantly lower than last year's 304, police said.

John Aidoo of Batavia dances with daughter Adia, 2.
(Steven M. Herppich photos)
| ZOOM |
        Three people handing out boycott literature were arrested on misdemeanor charges Sunday. Two were charged with littering and resisting arrest; a third person was arrested when he put a boycott bumper sticker on a police cruiser. Most of the other arrests were of juveniles out after curfew and street peddlers without permits.

        Some vendors grumbled about the smaller crowds.

        “I would have been better off staying at home,” said Ellen Bah, whose store sells African jewelry in New York City.

        Irene Harrison beat the 85-degree heat and humidity Sunday afternoon with a cup of chocolate ice cream. The 81-year-old Bond Hill woman said she had a grand time.

        “The heat is nothing a little water and ice cream can't beat,” Ms. Harrison said. “It's been a great day.”

        Tonia Thomas and Larry Baker drove from Louisville for a relaxing weekend.

        “We've had a great time,” said Ms. Thomas, 44. “We hope to do it again next year.”

        Mac and Marva McElroy of Southfield, Mich., ducked under the Lazarus awning during a downpour. They've attended the jazz festival since 1989.

        “My biggest complaint is the sound quality,” Mr. McElroy said. “It's getting worse.”

        Some Ujima-goers hadn't heard about the boycott. They said it wouldn't have changed their plans.

        “I think it's unorganized, actually,” Nate Jackson, 51, of Toledo said of the boycott. “They should have been more specific about why there were doing it and what they want to accomplish.”

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