Martha’s Vineyard is an island off the coast of Massachusetts known around the world as a beautiful destination that attracts celebrities like Sylvester Stallone to Oprah Winfrey and world leaders including President Obama and President Clinton plus millions of families and travelers seeking a summer getaway!
The island’s natural beauty, relaxed atmosphere, and secluded location make it a perfect getaway spot for those seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood life.
Martha’s Vineyard has cemented itself as a beacon of hope and change for Black Americans to grow and live in comfort. Being a pioneer in abolishing slavery, Massachusetts had already set a precedent, with prosperous African-American communities flourishing in the state. Nancy Gardella, executive director of Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, points out that Martha’s Vineyard had its roots in the Underground Railroad, establishing itself as a haven where African Americans felt secure and embraced. This distinguished it from other coastal getaways where a sense of belonging might not have been as readily extended.
Today, the island allows Black Americans to create a relaxing space that many are proud to call their summer haven. The African diaspora, which includes foreign-born Africans who immigrated to the States, first and second-generation Africans, and so on are also having an awakening interconnected with the plight of African Americans and having placements in spaces promoting Black joy like Martha’s Vineyard.
For example, this year, two short films— Her Perfect Life and Iyawo Mi— directed by respected Nigerian Media Mogul Mosunmola Abudu or Mo Abudu for short, premiered at the 21st edition of the Martha Vineyard African American Film Festival. The invitation for Abudu’s directorial debut to screen at the festival is a big start and a huge win for the Africans on the continent and for the creative industries across the continent and diaspora, considering that the festival is reputed as one of the most respected Black film festivals in the U.S and also an Oscar-qualifying festival.
Summer 2023 had an explosion of notable events that brought key Black Americans and African diaspora personalities into communication over panels, dinners, lunches, and brunches. Here are a few of the events that took place at the Vineyard this summer:
Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival
Celebrating 21 years of cinematic excellence, the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, affectionately known as “Black Hollywood” for its ability to bring in celebrities, took place again this year on Martha’s Vineyard on August 4, 2023. The island buzzed with excitement as filmmakers, industry professionals, and film enthusiasts came together for this noteworthy event.
The event featured MC Lyte, Chuck D, Mara Brock Akil, Storm Reid, George C. Wolfe, Benjamin Crump, Blitz Bazawule, Misty Copeland, Yolanda Adams, D-Nice, Michael Bivens, W. Kamau Bell, Lisa Leslie and more!
Stephanie and Floyd Rance, the founders of the festival, and the dedicated MVAAFF team faced the annual challenge of selecting an array of films that would show the beauty of rich storytelling. Amidst a staggering 850 annual submissions, they curated a lineup that held captivating narratives, universal appeal, and high levels of technical skill.
The festival stands as a beacon for new voices, supporting emerging Black filmmakers and amplifying their presence in the industry.
In 2023, the festival lineup resonated deeply with pressing societal themes. Films addressing mental health, Black women’s health, the lives of Black farmers, and the iconic 50th anniversary of hip-hop took center stage, highlighting the festival’s commitment to relevance and diversity. This year the 21st edition of the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival cemented itself once again as a cultural game-changer. The festival’s impact was clear, maintaining the perfect mix of filmmaking, enhancing opportunities for real-world connections, and providing an inclusive space to curate ideas with like-minded creatives.
Martha’s Vineyard Inaugural Next Africa Now Event
On the African diaspora front, Akunna Cook, the founder of Next Narrative Africa shared they partnered with the Black Economic Forum to produce the first Next Africa Now, a salon-style conversation on investment opportunities in Africa and across the diaspora. The gathering was held at Martha’s Vineyard on August 22nd, 2023, and brought together investors, entrepreneurs, and executives.
Martha’s Vineyard Black Fashion Weekend
India Rose, the creator of the Martha’s Vineyard Black Owned Business Directory, co-founded the Martha’s Vineyard Black Fashion Weekend. The Black Fashion Weekend Pop-Up Event was held on August 17th and stood as a triumphant celebration of Black fashion designers, Black-Owned Brands, Female Designers, and visionary entrepreneurs.
At its heart, Black Fashion Weekend embarked on a crucial mission: to not only commemorate but amplify the talents of Black fashion designers, providing them with a long-overdue platform to shine. By spotlighting the ingenuity and skill of Black designers like Kameo Vintage by Melissa Carter, and Superarstrike etc. The Pop-up event aimed to rewrite the narrative of the fashion landscape. Black Fashion Weekend offered more than just a platform; it served as a medium for connection. Designers could unveil their latest creations and connect with potential clients, eager consumers, perceptive investors, and influential voices.
This ecosystem of interaction fostered new relationships, collaborations, and opportunities, setting the stage for a renaissance of Black talent in the industry. In essence, this event that focused on showcasing the creativity and talent of Black designers was a success, pushing a great inclusive platform for designers to be seen and appreciated.
Martha’s Vineyard Flavors
A weekend-long program that explored the past, present, and future of the Island’s diverse food cultures took place from June 2nd to 4th 2023.
The program covered the captivating journey of culinary heritage at Martha’s Vineyard Flavors: A Food History Symposium. The enriching program delved into the Island’s intricate food cultures across time. With Dr. Jessica B. Harris as the keynote speaker.
Dr. Harris is a renowned scholar, educator, culinary historian, and author of twelve cookbooks documenting the foods and foodways of the African Diaspora. Her book High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, informed the 2021 Netflix hit series of the same name. She is also the author of The Martha’s Vineyard Table and The Welcome Table: African American Heritage Foodways, into the depths of Martha’s Vineyard’s culinary story, from the earliest harvests to the modern farm-to-table movement. The symposium boasted a dynamic lineup of local and national visionaries—thinkers, writers, chefs, advocates, farmers, and fishermen. Guests engaged with experts through insightful panels and roundtable discussions, enhancing their skills in hands-on workshops, and savoring the Island’s essence through thoughtfully curated meals.
Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival
Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival, which took place this year on August 4th-6th, highlighted amazing authors and inspired a love for reading in all.
This annual celebration of literature invites book enthusiasts to indulge in the magic of storytelling, engage with beloved authors, and immerse themselves in the world of reading. The festival ignited conversations, grew connections, rekindled a passion for books in many who attended and sparked a renewed love for literary creativity.
TIME Impact House Inaugural Event
Time Inc. held its inaugural Impact House series in Martha’s Vineyard, marking a pivotal moment in the realm of inclusive innovation. This multi-day event was hosted by leaders in sports, government, business, the arts, and more.
The audience was treated to a remarkable lineup of speakers, including the inspiring Olympic medalist Allyson Felix, the distinguished former Attorney General Eric Holder, and the visionary Time CEO Jessica Sibley and CMO Sadé Muhammad.
The event was held in an intimate setting and was not open to the public which according to TIME CEO, allowed for an exchange of ideas, experiences, and solutions that are often impeded by the constraints of larger audiences. By recognizing the achievements and contributions of individuals across sectors, the Impact House series underscored the importance of diversity in shaping our collective future.
Editorial Team Credit: Adedayo Fashanu & Imani Edusei