Community celebrates African culture, Mayor Jackie Elward at Rohnert Park’s Soul Festival

The alluring scents of soul food wafted through the air, children squealed as they ran through water fountains and loud funky guitar riffs Saturday filled the park in front of the Rohnert Park Police Department, where about 70 people gathered for the African American Soul Festival, a free community-strengthening event.

The festival was also meant to serve as a celebration for Rohnert Park Mayor Jackie Elward, who in 2020 became the first Black, immigrant woman to win election to Rohnert Park City Council.

The festival was hosted by the Community Equity Foundation, a Rohnert Park-based nonprofit founded in 2021.

“The African American Soul Festival is focused on the health and wellness of the entire community,” the foundation wrote in a news release. All were welcome to enjoy a “day of togetherness, love, and culture.”

Although it was hot, the 90-degree heat didn’t stop people from enjoying a day full of soul food and live music by Yolandra Rhodes and the Rhodes Scholars, Prayer Chapel, The Bobby Young Project and Remain in the Light.

Comfort food of all kinds, from desserts to chicken tenders to macaroni and cheese, were served by vendors like Smackin’ Soul Food, Red Rose Catering and Short Momma’s.

There were also a handful of booths selling handcrafted, colorful African clothing and trinkets. Some of the booths, like Phausee Fashion, were selling affordable garments and jewelry made in Africa and then shipped to the U.S. for purchase.

Other booths displayed art, stickers and tasty treats made by local artists and caterers.

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