Today I attended a press conference for the African Cultural Alliance of North America’s (ACANA) weekend-long African festival taking place at the Great Plaza (Penns Landing). ACANA was founded in Southwest Philadelphia in 1999 in an effort to “bridge the gap between African immigrants and the existing African-American communities in Philadelphia.” Since 2005, Voffee Jabateh, an African immigrant, has led the organization. ACANA provides culture-sensitive immigration services in addition to community based services.
The press conference provided the opportunity for us to interview key people involved in the African Fest, including Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell.
In 2005, Councilwoman Blackwell and others formed the Mayor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs. They celebrate with ACANA via the African Fest (and other events) in addition to working with 38 African and Caribbean countries who have representation here in America.
“It is wonderful for us to be able to realize–as brothers and sisters, some from the motherland and some here–that we still have to work together to protect everyone and to make sure everybody has a right at the tree of life that America has to offer,” she said.
When I inquired about the importance of such an event given the violent climate in Philadelphia she responded, “It’s invaluable. Whenever we promote unity, whenever we talk about independence, whenever we talk about being together it makes all the difference because it is only when young people and members of the community see that we are unified that they realize we have to love one another–that’s what it’s all about. When we show through our example and our wellness to do business ventures and social interactions that we’re together, it makes all the difference in trying to promote peace and unity.”
Voffee Jabateh shared how the vision for the African Fest has somewhat changed this year. The theme is “Connecting With Our Roots”.
“We want to see more African-Americans identify themselves with what we’re doing,” he said.
They also made another slight shift in their focus.
“We wanted the festival to focus on the youth. Mainly from 14 up to 25 [years-old]. So this year is going to get a little bit wild [laughs]. We look forward to seeing 5,000 screaming youth on Sunday!” he said.
Check out the list of events for the weekend below. The main event on Sunday is free so therefore: GET YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES THERE!
I love what ACANA is doing and the extensive level of unity that they’re promoting.
I look forward to the festival!
– Sincerely Syreeta