The Saginaw African Cultural Festival
We are proud to proclaim the Saginaw African Cultural Festival as the oldest ongoing Black Arts Festival in the country. The SACF began in 1969, as the Inner-City Arts Exhibit (ICAE). It was begun as a joint project between a grass-roots organization and a community-based service agency. This was United Power (UP) and the Community Action Committee, Inc. (CAC).
Although the Black Power activists of UP and the staff professionals of the CAC had many differences, they shared a common interest in raising the consciousness of the African American community as well as the community at large. UP and CAC put their differences aside to work for operational unity. They identified a common goal and worked out an agreement on the action steps and proceeded to make it real. Moving from theory to practice, the Inner City Art Exhibit was held on February 14, 1969, in the old St. Rita’s building on Narloch Street.
The Sphinx Artist Guild (SAG) was organized the following year by the ICAE artists. This seemed to be a natural step because UP and the CAC saw community organization as key to the healing process so badly needed in the African-American community. Later that year, UP evolved into Poverty Peoples Alliance (PPA) with a focus on organizing in the Black community to address community problems. In 1972, the Umoja Arts Council replaced SAG. What began as an art exhibit began to take form as the Annual Black Arts Festival.
With tradition and reason as the guideposts, the BAF has been institutionalized over four decades by an evolving group of dedicated community volunteers. In 1989, tradition gave way to reason. The Black Arts Festival became the Saginaw African Cultural Festival. The new name distinguishes Africa as the place of our origin, our historical reference, and our cultural base. It’s been a great ride. Join in and let’s keep it going.
Mr. Arthur Smith - Founder
Elder - deceased