While the visual arts were scaled back this year as the NBAF shifts to include year-round programming and events that will encompass more fine art, there were still opportunities to take part in the citywide NBAF Gallery Crawl featuring the Hagedorn Gallery Opening Reception. As a music lover, I was drawn to the World Music Stage for the live performances that dominated the festival. While some of the other events worthy of attention, like the film Soundtrack for a Revolution, weren’t as heavily populated, Centennial Olympic Park pulled in the people. Dodging raindrops was worth it as we were treated to several soul-stirring performances by the Saturday lineup, including a set by actor-turned-singer Leon, the front man for the group Leon & The Peoples. As the evening headliner, Roy Ayers performed a riveting tribute to Fela Kuti with the Common Ground Collective. Anchoring the NBAF are two of its signature events: the Gala and the Legends Celebration. This year’s gala, ”A Gathering of Colors,” took guests back to the roaring 20s as they enjoyed an evening of entertainment ”supper-club style,” hosted by honorary gala chair Lynn Whitfield.
”The Legends Celebration: To Curtis with Love,” honoring the late icon Curtis Mayfield, took guests on a soulful journey through some of R&B’s most poignant and classic tracks. The tribute included showstopping performances from The Impressions, Eddie Levert, Van Hunt, Frank McComb, Dionne Farris and Joi Gilliam. The eclectic crowd sang and swayed to some of Mayfield’s most celebrated hits, from ”People Get Ready” to ”Pusherman” to ”Superfly” to ”Something He Can Feel.” Mayfield’s widow and children were there to receive the 2010 Legends Award. His son graciously thanked the crowd, smiling and adding that he was sure his father was looking down on everybody, saying keep on movin’ up.