The Bedford-Stuyvesant YMCA held its first-ever South Africa Festival on Saturday, a fundraising event for the YMCA branches in South Africa.
Under a soft white tent in the lot next to the Bed-Stuy YMCA building, close to 100 people sat in the shade and nibbled on food. Children donning face paint chased each other playfully, as authentic South African drumming envelopped the corridor of Bedford and Gates Avenues.
Festival participants had the unique opportunity to meet South African YMCA members, enjoy live South African music and dances.
“We had a lot of foot traffic going through here,” said Areial Mathis, Bed-Stuy YMCA’s membership and communications coordinator.
Mathis said the fundraising goal was $20,000, money that would help fund programs and activities for teenage YMCA members in Cape Town, South Africa.
Chad Nico Hiu, a director with International YMCA, said many South Africa branches don’t have funding for programs and activities for its teenagers in Cape Town. Because of so few YMCA programs, South Africans teens are loitering in the Cape Town streets with nothing positive to do, Hiu and Mathis said.
Dailen Jacobs, 19, works with young teens in a South African YMCA. He was one of four South Africans who attended the fundraiser Saturday. Jacobs explained the teen situation in Cape Town more vividly.
“We try to get to them at a young age and teach them leadership and team-building skills,” said Jacobs, who has been visiting New York City since May. “But you see, what will happen is [drug dealers] will say ‘Hey, sell this for me and I’ll buy you some sneakers.'”
Jacobs said the teens he works with “are in impoverished areas – kids with no father or a mother that drinks.” With more teen programs, Cape Town youth will be more inclined to stay away from drugs, violence and crime, Jacobs said.
Saturday's event was capped by a Zulu dance performance by New York City dance group Juxtapower. The group’s artistic director Sduduzo Ka-Mbili led the dance and then invited festival participants to join the performance.
Dozens of people sprang up and took a position behind the dancers. No sooner had the drummers started playing before there was a crowd of people dancing in stride, smiling and laughing, chanting, as children scampered and adults clapped along to the rhythm.
The four-hour event raised just under $1,000, Mathis said. “So we’re going to keep going until we get that amount,” said Mathis, adding that the YMCA will organize other fundraisers for South Africa later this year.
Hiu said the Bed-Stuy YMCA plans to make the South Africa Festival an annual event that benefits South African YMCA members “because the more money we raise, the more we can support them.”
Sindisa Mrulekana, 22, another South African YMCA member agreed:. “Hopefully we’ll have a bigger event next time."