It’s been 29 years since MOJA hit the local art scene, encouraging local residents to recognize and celebrate African-American and Caribbean arts. Hosted by the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, the festival includes everything from music to visual arts to theater. It’s accessible, with almost half of the events being free and the rest averaging $35. Here are our top picks for MOJA 2012. Check out for the full schedule.

Caribbean Street Parade, Opening Ceremonies, and Reggae Block Dance
Fri. Sept. 28, 6-11 p.m.
Brittlebank Park
MOJA officially kicks off with a high-energy parade that starts at Hampton Park and winds down Ashley Avenue to Fishburne Street and then Brittlebank Park. African dancers and drummers lead the procession, which ends with the festival’s opening ceremonies and a reggae block party by the river from 6:30-11 p.m. There will be music from EVER-G and Reggae Infinity, plus African drummers and dancers, ethnic foods, and international crafts.

Poetry and Storytelling Series
Sept. 28, Oct. 6, Oct. 7
City Gallery at Waterfront Park
The City Gallery exhibit Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore is a fascinating glimpse into African-American legends about these underwater goddesses. Curated by Cookie Washington, the exhibit includes quilts and cloth dolls made by artists from across the country. There’s also a literary element to the exhibit, reflected in the MOJA series featuring storytelling from Washington, Minerva King, and Julian Gooding.

Art Forms and Theatre Concepts Presents: The Trial of One Short-Sighted Black Woman vs. Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae
Thurs. Sept. 27, 8 p.m. Fri. Sept. 28, 10 a.m. Sat. Sept. 29, 3 p.m.
Dock Street Theatre
Local theater company Art Forms and Theatre Concepts takes a look at African-American female stereotypes with The Trial of One Short-Sighted Black Woman vs. Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae. Written by Marcia L. Leslie, the satirical courtroom drama pits a female executive against two unfavorably stereotypical black women: the servile Mammy and the super-sexual Safreeta Mae.

Classical Encounter with Denyce Graves
Sun. Sept. 30, 7 p.m.
Dock Street Theatre
Due to family connections in the Lowcountry, world-renowned mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves occasionally makes appearances in Charleston, most recently at Opera Charleston’s production of Carmen. And now she’s back for MOJA’s big-ticket event, an intimate night of classical music accompanied by maestro Louis Salemno.

DeWayne Sykes and Curtis Stephens Invitational Art Exhibition: Art of Pyrography Defined By Heritage
Opening reception Thurs. Oct. 4, 4-6 p.m.
On view Sept. 27-Oct. 30
The Art Institute of Charleston
You might think that painting with fire would result in nothing more than a scorched canvas, but that’s not always the case. Lowcountry artists DeWayne Sykes and Curtis Stephens are skilled in the fine art of pyrography, a.k.a. fire-painting, and they’ll be showing off their craft during MOJA at the Art Institute. Sykes is inspired by his cultural heritage, travel, and religion. Stephens started doing wood burning as a hobby, and he hopes to make it into a full-time career.

From Classical to Contemporary: Violinist Seth Gilliard in Recital
Thurs. Oct. 4, 6-7:15 p.m.
City Gallery at Waterfront Park
Recent Furman University grad Seth Gilliard has gotten a lot of buzz in recent months for his local performances, and now you can catch his delightfully diverse violin performance at City Gallery during MOJA. He’ll be playing everything from Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins and Continuo (assisted by his former teacher Rex Conner) to more contemporary hip-hop selections. You can find him on Facebook at

The Charleston Boxing Club Annual MOJA Cup
Sat. Oct. 6, 7-10 p.m.
Arthur W. Christopher Community Gymnasium
Under the direction of Al “Hollywood” Meggett, the Charleston Boxing Club has been providing a safe haven for youth for nearly 30 years. From their King Street base, they teach kids the basics of boxing along with more serious life skills like discipline and respect. The MOJA Cup adds an athletic bent to the festival schedule every year, and this time around they’re including boxing teams from Georgia, N.C., and the Upstate. You can find out more about the organization at

Maze featuring Frankie Beverly and JOE
Sat. Oct. 6, 8 p.m.
Johnson Hagood Stadium
The headliners at this year’s big MOJA blowout concert are Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, a soul outfit founded in 1970s San Francisco. You might recognize them for their songs like “Lady of Magic,” “Back in Stride,” and “Can’t Get Over You.” They’ll be joined by Southern R&B crooner/music producer JOE. For a more jazzy stadium-style concert, head to the Family Circle Cup Stadium on Sat. Sept. 29 for a show from Will Downing and the Oscar Rivers Jazz Quintet. Tickets for that show are $21.

MOJA Finale
Sun. Oct. 7, 3-9 p.m.
Hampton Park
Always a popular event, the MOJA Finale fills Hampton Park with food and craft vendors and music from bands like Tropical Steel Vibes and DJ Luigi and Latin Groove.

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