African Marketplace reopens in Brooklyn for holiday

Obdine Wright with his statue he purchased at the festival some years ago.
Photo by Lem Peterkin, File

It has been 50 years since masses of Black families first converged on Brooklyn in July to fashion Ghanian Kente cloths, embroidered Nigerian fabrics, South African beads, Senegalese hair twists and display a myriad of Africa mores.

Instead of sporting outfits decorated by the traditional red, white and blue stars and stripes, culture-conscious Black celebrants of the long July 4th Independence Day weekend flocked to the borough in order to enjoy cuisine, music, dance, entertainment, books, artifacts, and a wide variety of uniquely distinctive items sold by vendors in a marketplace tended by African and Caribbean vendors.

Half a century later, International African Arts Festival is returning after a year off due to pandemic restraints.

The theme – Hamsini Ni Dhahabu – interprets from Swahili to “Fifty is Gold” as this year’s mantra marking the 50th annual commemoration of Brooklyn’s premier cultural event.

Regarded to being the longest consecutive cultural arts festival in the nation, Caribbean and African foods, unique African clothing, culturally-correct T-shirts, jewelry, leathercrafts, hair braiding, massage centers, media centers, specialty soaps from the continent (Shea butter specialist) and a multitude of unique items are usually available for purchase.

Dr. Julius Garvey at a town hall meeting in Queens. Photo by Vinette K. Pryce, File

Slated to be held at Commodore Barry Park at Park Avenue and Navy St. with an entrance at Flushing Ave. from July 2 thru July 4 — two performance stages will provide continuous entertainment. Guaranteed there will be a fashion show.

This year’s festivities will demand that all patrons wear masks and are being asked to practice social distancing,

Organizers have exceeded expectations by booking reggae favorite, Johnny Osborne, as well as r&b A’ngela Winbush, formerly of the duo Rene &Angela.

Special events will feature a dance party with DJ Debonair spinning the discs on Saturday and Sunday.

Dance contestants can compete in categories of stepping, salsa, dancehall, hustle etc.
The actual opening event will spotlight special guest speaker Dr. Julius Garvey on Saturday at Restoration Plaza, 1368 Fulton St. where a tent will provide an ambiance for the pouring of Libation and a tribute to women.

From 4 pm to 8 pm a program of discussion — “Women Holding Up Half The Sky and the Heavens” as well as performances by Eto”O Tsano (Congo) Razia Said (Madagascar) Fara Fina Kan African drummers and dancers, Charisa the violin Diva, The Drifters featuring Magic, Mollywop, Broadway In Brooklyn Theater, Diaspora Meets Afrohorn and the Heart of Steel Band orchestra.

For information, call 718-638-6700 or log onto www.iaafestival.org or www.libation2021.eventbrite.com

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