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A new home for the African Diaspora

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If water and rain are a sign that the spirits are looking down kindly, then the spirits were very very happy–there was a deluge–on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at the formal groundbreaking for the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI). A former East Harlem firehouse built in 1889 is being transformed, becoming a major cultural hub for the community. Its 8,500 square feet will be a gallery, community performance spaces, and home to educational workshops and programming.

It takes a city and foresight to build a cultural center and the vision of two women is responsible for what will be a major contribution to the mecca of arts on Harlem’s 125th St. and to the East Harlem community. By its locale, 120 E. 125th St., between Park and Lexington avenues, CCCADI will connect the African and African-American communities of Harlem with the Latino community, further east.

In 2008, City Council Speaker (then member) Melissa Mark-Viverito assured that five decommissioned firehouses would be taken off the auction block by the Bloomberg administration and turned into cultural facilities.

Marta Moreno Vega had founded CCCADI to connect the African Diaspora communities to their root communities. Its center had been for 25 years in a brownstone on West 58th St, which it sold last year. The tenure there saw exhibitions, public programs, research, and advocacy and arts education programs, all to be continued and expanded.

CCCADI was selected as the developer for the East Harlem firehouse site.

The road to developing has been challenging with a plethora of city and state partners including the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

During the groundbreaking ceremony and moving closer to her dreams, an emotional Dr. Vega shared the continuity of the Center, “People who grew up coming to CCCADI are now on the board.”

Acknowledging the public figures present she remarked, “We are so grateful for all the elected officials, government agencies, local non-profits and businesses that helped to bring this project to life.” It was noted that the center will employ 130 full/part-time and contracted positions for artists, educators, administrative and managerial staff.

Following libation from Angela Fontanez and welcoming remarks from CCCADI President and Founder Dr. Vega, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, NYS Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, NYS Bill Perkins, NYC Economic Development Corp’s Mr. Benjamin Branham and Kenneth Knuckles of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone spoke.

Daniel Dromm, City Council Member from Queens emphasized, “This will be an anchor for the neighborho­od.” CCCADI is scheduled to open September 2015.

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