Sweet 16, and doing just fine.

Some familiar faces from West Virginia University will in Charleston Aug. 5-7 for the 16 th annual Multifest gathering on the grounds of the State Capitol Complex.

Representatives from WVU s Presidents Office for Social Justice will once again be present at the festival that celebrates diversity with international vendors and eclectic music.

This years musical lineup features funk, gospel, jazz and classic R&B by a host of journeymen bands and internationally known headliners Nappy Roots, Mighty Clouds of Joy and The Delfonics.

Multifest annually transforms the Mountain States capitol city into a real soul stew: one where Appalachian fiddles comfortably coexist with hip-hop and funk while showcasing artisans and cuisine from the world over.

For Jennifer McIntosh, the Universitys executive officer for social justice, the weekend presents a prime opportunity to showcase the accessibility and world-class offerings from WVU all from right within the states borders.

This will be our sixth year there,she said,and Ill tell you: Multifest is such a great opportunity for us, because we can get out and listen to the people. We get to listen to their concerns and insights. They tell us what theyd like to see more of at WVU , and we tell them just what we have to offer.

Thats a critical message, she said, since Multifests core audience is comprised of blacks between the ages of 15-25, a segment of the population thats traditionally disenfranchised, both in West Virginia and nationally.

McIntosh and her WVU colleagues will put the welcome mat out for the states flagship university by talking about the Universitys Minority Doctoral Colloquium and the mentoring thats done at the Universitys Center for Black Culture and Research.

Theyll also be talking about the innovative and renowned training opportunities for budding teachers in the College of Human Resources and Education.

And theyll be joined by their fellow WVU representatives from the Health, Science and Technology Academy (HSTA), which offers an introduction to the hard sciencesand a collegiate experienceto low-income, junior high- and high school-age West Virginians who otherwise might not feel compelled to go on to college.

Everyone has a place at the table at WVU ,McIntosh said.We want folks to know that about us.

A place at the table is exactly what Charleston newspaperman Steve Starks had in mind when he and his wife, Debbie, founded Multifest in 1990.

Steve Starks by then had long been reporting on West Virginias black population and communities as the owner and publisher of The West Virginia Beacon Digest , the states only minority owned and operated newspaper.

Multifest, Debbie Starks said, is an offshoot of that editorial mission.

We just wanted to celebrate community, culture and family,she said.Its working so far. We average about 20,000 people a year, and a lot of them are families.

They come back from California, South Carolina, everywhere, really. West Virginians might have to move away, but the thing is, they never really leave. And this one is Sweet 16 for us, so were going old-school this year.

And a little old-school these days is more than OK, McIntosh saidespecially in a world beset by war and economic uncertainty.

I want to encourage people from the WVU community and north-central West Virginia to drive south for Multifest,McIntosh said.It really is a celebration, and we need events like thisnow more than ever.

Parking and admission to Multifest is free. For other information, call Steve or Debbie Starks at 304-347-7663 or 304-776-1282.