3rd Annual Day of  Renewal

A Celebration of African American Culture & Diversity

Join us as we Reveal Honor & Celebrate Newport's African American Heritage on Saturday June 15, 2019

at the Great Friends Meeting House

 Newport, RI

Look who will be there this year June 15, 2019


Contessa Brown

Spoken Word Artist/Motivational Speaker

Contessa Brown is a Newport, RI native, currently residing in Providence, RI. She is a spoken word artist, local influencer and motivational speaker who goes by the name of Countess B. Contessa Brown is the Founder/CEO/Director of Café S.O.U.L. She began Café S.O.U.L. to serve as a positive platform for the community to creatively meet. Born September 4th, she has always been determined to deliver happiness to every person she meets. She is a grad of Roger Williams University, holding a Master’s of Science in Leadership and Bachelor's in Psychology. Her next endeavor is receiving her Masters in Holistic Clinical Counseling from Salve Regina University. In which she started Fall 2017. She expects to lead the current and future generations to a new level of experiencing art and lead through Café S.O.U.L


Christopher Johnson

Spoken Word Artist/ Poet

Known mostly for his constant evolving style Christopher

Johnson without complaint, combines the experience discord of his past, the wisdom of now and the hope of the future to give voice to a universal message of human spark that 

connects us all.


African Treasures



Our only vendor with beautiful, items directly from Africa. Stop by to see what he has to offer.


Rhode Island Black Storytellers

Valerie Tutson

RIBS tellers will present stories and songs that celebrate Black history, heritage and culture.  Support for RIBS participation is made possible through the Newport County Fund.

Click here to visit their site and to learn more information.


Sidy Maïga

Master Drummer

A native of Mali, West Africa, Sidy Maiga has been drumming since he was in his early teens. He learned to play in the traditional African way, by apprenticing with Master Drummers Alassane and Fouseiny Sissoko. Sidy was a gifted student and soon began playing professionally. He has played with two national touring companies in Mali and many internationally known Malian artists. In 2003, Sidy was a member of Fakoli Percussion Troupe, which placed 2nd in the Mali National Drumming competition. In 2006, Sidy moved to Rhode Island, USA. Since then he has become a regular on the music scene, playing not only traditional Malian music, but also a fusion of Malian music with Latin, Blues, Brazilian as well as alongside house music DJ’s for events throughout New England and around the world. In addition to performing, Sidy teaches djembe and dundun drumming to students at schools and universities throughout the country. Sidy loves to share his culture. Since 2009, he produces the annual West African Dance and Drum Festival: Afrika Nyaga which has been funded primarily by the State of Rhode Island. This annual event brings together both local and international musicians and dancers to perform in Rhode Island. Sidy is the winner of multiple awards and fellowships. Most notably, he won the prestigious MacColl-Johnson Fellowship in 2012. He has also been the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Rhode Island Council on the Arts. In January of 2011, Sidy recorded and released his first album Malidén. In 2014, he recorded and released his second album Africa United which includes musicians from across the world, including Grammy Award winner Oumou Sangaré, world renowned Malian singer Nampe Sadio, and Malian traditional singer Saran Ba Kouyaté. In this album, Sidy ingeniously creates a very unique approach by infusing traditional African styles with modern music. In September 2016, Sidy started studying at Berklee College of Music focusing on production, business and arranging.


Jerrell Grimes

Musician/Poet/ CEO

Jerrell Grimes (also known as Aaron J. Hampton) is a Songwriter, Poet, & Hip Hop Recording Artist who creates and is based in Tampa, Florida. Knowing no limits, he is also a dedicated Entrepreneur. Hailing from Newport, Rhode Island, his passion for all things music and writing began early on and it has stayed with him ever since. As a childhood cancer survivor, Jerrell Grimes never allows any obstacle to get in his way and tackles his fears head on. For as long as he can remember, he has been on a mission to empower as many people as possible through the written and spoken word.

Currently, Jerrell Grimes serves as the CEO of Ten19 Media Group, a growing media brand, supporting and representing music, books, film and more. Recently, his company published a children's book “My Big Natural Hair” by C.J. Baker, a motivational poetry book “The Perfect Image of an Imperfect World” by Chantel Walls and released a Spoken Word recording, “Hearts Mind” by Matthew J. Keefe. Throughout his creative career, Jerrell Grimes has authored a number of books, including “True Emotions of a Man: The Boy, The Man & His God,” “Confessions of a Nice Guy,” and “True Emotions of a Man: Rewind & Fast Forward.” He is currently preparing for the release of his fourth book, “Black Boys Don't Speak”.

While life (in and of itself) is his main inspiration, Jerrell Grimes is deeply influenced by daily events, personal experiences, relationships, political movements, and history. When he isn’t writing or preparing for the release of his 2019 mixtape, “King Jerrell”, Grimes loves to discover new places, try new things, experience different cultures, and inspire others.

Photos and Videos from 2017's Event

Our Day of Renewal was a celebration of culture and diversity. This is what one of our participants had to say.
Thank you  Melody Lee O'Brien for your heart felt sentiments!

"Today as I looked around and saw a blend of different races and faces, skin tone and ethnicity all enjoying such a rich, vibrant, beautiful culture my heart was beyond joyful. To hear drumming and watch black people feel free and comfortable to dance and celebrate in that historical space, it comforted me. At the end of the tree dedicated I held on to a branch of that powerful, mighty tree said a quiet blessing and then left a medicine offering to respect the life within that tree, to respect the roots and life force it represents. I pray that in our lifetime we see the change."

Take a look at the photos below.  



Dr. Edward E. Andrews
Associate Professor
Department of History & Classics
Providence College

"On this day, as the community gathers together in a celebration of life, renewal, and African American culture here in Newport, it is important to reflect on those that came before us: the lives they lived, the challenges they faced, and the spaces they inhabited.  This particular space, known for generations as "The Liberty Tree" because it served as a site of symbolic protest during the American Revolution, was also an important site for the black community as well.  This triangular plot of land, on the outskirts of town, near the common burying ground, and marked by a large tree, was the site of African cultural ceremonies during an age of slavery.  Let this space be a reminder of the inhumanity of slavery in our midst, but also a testament to the preservation, survival, and continual renewal of Newport's African American community."


"We are looking forward to coming again this year! The kids had fun learning about the history and contributions of African Americans in Newport as well as experiencing fun cultural activities."

Julie Mashaw DiBari

"Yay looking forward to it! So important for all folks to come together and learn about and celebrate the incredible black heritage and history here in our city. All of the performers last year were incredible too 😍"

Tara Gragg

"Much needed and WELL DONE! - a beautiful day. So gratifying to see the City Council declare it to be an annual event. Thank you,  and company. Looking forward to Day of Renewal '18 with happy anticipation <3"

Bari Freeman

"Had a great time at last year's Day of Renewal - beautiful community of people, fabulous music, fun participatory dancing, and uplifting speakers. Looking forward to attending again this year."

Katherine Carbone

"It was a wonderful day filled with Newport that I grew up in. Community unity and rich cultural diversity."

Jessica-Patrice Dorsey Coulter

"This event is necessary and I’m glad my city is hosting it. We to the top 🌠👑🥇🏆💯."

Lamont Scott

"We will be there with our head wraps on and new addition!!! 👶🏿"

Latisha Michel


Jim Brows

"This was amazing last year. Rich and engaging!"

Ruth Taylor

"This is definitely needed in our community, and I'm pumped to see our culture and history represented I this type of event that brings all ppl together. I loved the music, poetry, hair wraps, and resources. Can't wait until next year!"

Nichole Smith

"I concur!! Thank you, Niko and all who made this happen! Love our hometown Newport!! Look forward to partaking in the 2nd Annual- Day of Renewal 2018 in June this year!! Look forward to speaking with you soon. ;)"


"This is such a great event! I'm grateful for the opportunity to gather with the community and celebrate the culture. Looking forward to seeing my little girls enjoy the event too."

Malcolm Smith

"This was such a moving and powerful event last year. The Day of Renewal created a very special and sacred space in which education, inspiration, and celebration took place. I look forward to bringing my family back again this year. Thank you, Niko Merritt for everything that you have brought to so many who live in Newport. "

Susannah Strong

"I absolutely loved this event! It is so important for us to celebrate our rich heritage and history. The vibe was so warm and welcoming and I appreciate my beautiful sister Niko Merritt for bringing the community together. Everyone in New England needs to come out for this sacred celebration."

Lovely Hoffman

"This was an amazing event that I was honored to be a part of last year. We had powerful spoken word presenters, uplifting testimonies. I really felt proud having an event to celebrating our culture, heritage, and our future."

Seneca Pender

"There were so many great things about this event last year. The speakers, the music, the knowledge, the traditions, the vendors, the community...As a white woman, it is really easy for me to not think about the amazing contributions POC have made to Newport's history (my privilege) and this helped me see. This event was such a great example of what Newport CAN BE (and should be). Looking forward to seeing how many more people take the opportunity to check it out."

Amanda Minor

"My family had an awesome time last year! We will definitely be there this year with more friends and family! The dancing, music, singers, great speakers, all the activity, positive atmosphere was just a great inspiring experience for my family. What a way to start our day with family! We met some really awesome people that touched our souls. Cant wait to see whats in store for us this year😀"

Vanessa Soares

"I can't wait for the Day of Renewal! I participated in the March, dancing, and even got to meet new people! It was a great time to gather with like minded people from all different walks of life..everyone had something to give and take away! Count me in Niko!"

Angela Lima

"I am so excited! This brought the commUNITY together across all ages, genders and races. It brought awareness to the rich history Newport has in America and help to continue to stories of our ancestors who fought for such freedom and celebration. I look forward to the experience again this year!!"

Contessa Brown