By Maitefa Angaza
The International African Arts Festival (IAAF), one of the community’s seminal annual events, returns to Commodore Barry Park on Saturday June 30th and runs through Wednesday, July 4th, from 10am to 8pm each day. Visitors will enjoy the IAAF’s legendary African marketplace, great entertainment, spontaneous pocket-parties and cultural fashion-on-parade. All this for a $3 suggested donation ($1 for children). Kids will have their usual big fun in the open air and teens will socialize in a positive and safe environment from 10am to 8pm each day at Park Avenue and Navy Street in downtown Brooklyn. This year’s theme, “Baadenyya,” (Brotherhood and Sisterhood), is fitting, as the Festival looks to its extended family of supporters and salutes loyal vendors during a challenging year.
Longtime fans will notice a few changes, but they can help things to run smoothly by arriving a bit earlier to catch our entertainment and by giving a bit more generously at the gates. A segment of the park is undergoing renovation and Festival needs the conscious support of all those who value its unique contribution. Two park gates, (one a major vehicular entrance) will be closed, as well as the Muntu marketplace area. This means that large equipment used to build and power both the main stage and some larger vendor stations will have to be carried into the park by hand. In addition, close to 100 longtime vendors will be moved to other areas. Vendors will call on family and friends for help in carting materials into the park. Those who are displaced hope customers will make the effort to locate them at their new stations.
IAAF coordinators are proceeding despite the challenges, but there’s a lot of extra work to be done and a strong showing of volunteers is needed. A great turnout this year will help offset financial fallout from the renovation. Most importantly, it will demonstrate community support at a critical time – many will remember what happened when the Festival’s previous venue (Boys & Girls High field) was renovated.
Chairperson Basir Mchawi says there is, “no cost-effective solution.” “But this is the nation’s original outdoor African cultural festival and it can continue on for another 41 years if we come out, support and participate.”
Participation can mean many things Festival fans can volunteer for one of several work assignments and support positions. They can spread the word, bring along first-time attendees and, as mentioned, give generously at the gate and encourage others to do the same. After all, where else can one enjoy a full day of entertainment, visual art and crafts, networking and celebrating, at these rates? Donations are also accepted before and after the Festival on its website (www.iaafestival.org).
“Through all our challenges and adversity, the longevity of the Festival is most important,” says Vendor Marketplace Coordinator Salima Moyo, “The Festival is about supporting community artists who create for us. Many vendors are staying strong; we cannot give up on them. This is our culture, our future and a way that we imprint history. One hundred years from now there will be a marketplace if we support it. ‘A Luta Continua!’ (The Struggle Continues!)”
The good news about this year’s IAAF is that it can be counted on to deliver, as people from across the tri-state area and beyond gather once again to celebrate the creative genius of artists, artisans, designers, jewelers, craftspeople and chefs in the African Marketplace. They’ll enjoy live jazz, reggae, gospel, R&B, Hip Hop and World Beat music, a marching band, a children’s rock group, poetry, African dance, fashion, clowns, a magic show and more.
Things kick off with the festive annual IAAF Parade, assembling at Vanderbilt Ave and Fulton St at noon and proceeding to the Festival site with members of the Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy and the Soul Tigers Marching Band. Later that day, during a Tribute to Women in the Arts, audiences will groove to Latin Jazz by Cita Rodriguez and to the music of the Daughters of Makeba Ensemble, performing a tribute to the late international treasure Miriam Makeba.
On Sunday, IAAF celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence and honors the global influence of Bob Marley and reggae. The day opens with gospel by Sister Betty, followed by The NY Brass Band, reggae by K-VIBE and Ruff Scott, music by Uganda’s Destiny Africa, Clarissa, The Violin Diva and more reggae by Secouba (Ivory Coast) and Melame Gange, (Virgin Islands). The evening closes with a fabulous performance by the Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble. Monday, dedicated to seniors, opens with clowns, a puppet show, folklore and youth jazz group, Q-City Sounds. R&B by Stephanie Bates & Co. follows as well a tribute to saxophone giant Rahsaan Roland Kirk by his original band. Next up are The Phillies Intruders, featuring Tony Strong and the Brandon McCune Quartet with dance by the fabulous Camille A. Brown.
Tuesday, which honors Motown, Etta James and Whitney Houston, starts off again with clowns and puppets for the young ones, followed by a magic show for everyone by Phillip Jennings, drama by the Urban Theater Group and world beat music by ReSuRa. There’s also a tribute to Motown by the LA Blacksmith Review and a rousing performance by the Kow Teff African Dance Troupe. Wednesday, closing day at the Festival, is dedicated to youth and to the memory of activist poet Louis Reyes Rivera. The day opens with youth entertainment, including the children’s rock group, Tears of Blood, the teenage rock group, Graveshift and hip hop group, Blak Orfan. The Afrikan Poetry Theater will present a tribute to Rivera and Congolese music by Diblo Dibala and theatrical African dance by Mamadou Dahoue and the Ancestral Messengers will close out the 2012 programming.
Learn more and donate at www.iaafestival.org. Reach the office at 718-638-6700 and send donations via mail to IAAF, 1360 Fulton St. Ste 503, Bklyn, NY 11216. See you at The Festival!