Photo courtesy of Afro Nation.

Interview: Afro Nation Festival's Smade On Unifying Africans Across the Continent & Diaspora

As the festival prepares to make its Puerto Rico debut this spring, we sat down with Afro Nation co-founder Adesegun Adeosun aka Smade to talk about how it all started and what the future holds.

Within minutes of speaking with Adesegun Adeosun, it's apparent that Afro Nation is much more than an urban music festival.

The Afro Nation co-founder, better known as Smade, talks passionately about connecting Africans across the globe. In less than a year since its debut edition, Afro Nation has successfully done this and gone on to establish itself as the largest festival celebrating African culture on the continent and in the diaspora.

This year, Afro Nation will touch down in Puerto Rico for the first time over spring break—from the 18th to the 21st of March—on the beach of Balneario de Carolina. Headliners will include Burna Boy, Chronixx, Davido, 2Baba, Naira Marley and many more.

As the festival prepares to make its Puerto Rico debut this spring, we sat down with Smade to talk about Afro Nation, how it all started and what the future holds.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Smade. Photo: Michael Tubes Creation/MTC. Courtesy of Afro Nation.

What's the story behind creating Afro Nation?

Smade: It felt like the culture had been missing this kind of festival where we could celebrate our own superstars and culture. Afro Nation was created to do that, to bring Africans in the diaspora and Africans in the continent together and to celebrate our own. We did it first in Portugal, which is central to every European country, so it was very accessible. The country is also very used to music festivals, so it felt right to do it there first, especially as the government was very welcoming.

For a lot of festivals like this funding is usually a problem, how did you go around securing finances for the first edition of Afro Nation?

We've been doing this for a while. I've been throwing parties and promoting club events for about 13 years, since my first year in university. I've been able to build great relationships with many celebrities like Davido, Yemi Alade, Adekunle Gold, so it was easy to pitch to them to get them to attend and perform. Promoting it ahead of time also helped gain financial resources. Between myself and my business partner—basically my business partner is the biggest talent manager in the UK and maybe Europe, if I can say so—there was enough repertoire to put this together and make it happen.

Photo courtesy of Afro Nation.

What goes into picking the acts that perform at Afro Nation?

Honestly, it is mainly talent. We also find out who is doing well, whether they are superstars or not. We identify who needs to be onstage to be celebrated around the world. So we identify who people want to see and we reach out to them. I'm talking about people from the Caribbean, Ghana, US, Europe. For the first edition of Afro Nation, we had the legendary Buju Banton, Busy Signal, Jidenna, Femi Kuti and other superstars from Nigeria like Davido, Wizkid, and Teni, all showcasing great talent from around the world.

What where the Ghana and Portugal editions of Afro Nation like?

The excitement was on people's faces in Portugal. They all came in numbers with their family to celebrate the culture. Some people were in ankara, kwente with their flags to celebrate where they're from—and it wasn't just black people but also people from all over the world. Asians, Caucasians and people from different parts came down to Afro Nation to celebrate. With the one in Ghana, we had people who had never been to Africa so we took it upon ourselves as promoters to show that Africa is more that what they see on the television, or on social media and what has been projected. It was really great to see people come back to identify their roots.

Photo courtesy of Afro Nation.

What should people expect from Afro Nation's next stop in Puerto Rico?

It's becoming like a world festival, where people from all over the world come to so they should expect something like a love festival. You come to Afro Nation to become one, to celebrate oneness, that's what we stand for. I still have people DMing me "take me back to Afro Nation" and "it was the best time of my life," people should expect to have fun and have the best time of their life and people should look forward to celebrating African culture and connecting with everyone.

What does the future hold for Afro Nation?

That's a great question. We are going to keep doing what we are doing, we are going to keep creating more superstars, we are going to bring people more, we are going to keep celebrating ourselves, we are going to keep creating more Wizkids, more Davidos, more Tenis, more Burna Boys. We are also going to celebrate the culture more, preach love and unity amongst ourselves. Afro Nation is a brand, a movement. Afro Nation is beyond just a festival, in the future we're going to have merchandise, a label, and we're going to own everything we can own to spread African culture, both in Africa and the diaspora.

Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.

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