Post by Evelyn Owen
Last month, our friends, neighbors, and partners flocked to The Africa Center for “Top of the Mile” Community Day.
The event was a wonderful celebration of culture and community, filling our ground floor and plaza with the smells of African spices and the sounds of Afrobeats.
We were especially excited to invite people to walk around our building, check out our virtual-reality tour, and learn more about our vision and plans.
Here, in no particular order, are some of our favorite images and videos from the day. Enjoy!
Djembe drumming group Bolo Bolo Blauweh got the day off to an energetic start, with thrilling drumming and dancing on our plaza.
Their performance was followed by a traditional Ghanaian libation ceremony directed by Dr. Kofi Boateng of the West Harlem Development Corporation. Dr. Boateng led the crowd in a traditional prayer addressing the ancestors with a display of respect, and requesting guidance and support for The Africa Center.
Next came a welcome address from The Africa Center’s Interim CEO, Dana Reed, and from our lead event supporter, Brussels Airlines, delivered by their North America Director, Christophe Allard. Mr Allard spoke about the importance of building partnerships to promote a contemporary and successful Africa, a vision that is shared by The Africa Center and is reflected in our mission and plans.
Brussels Airlines were kind enough to share a 20% discount on their flights to Africa from NYC’s JFK airport with visitors at Community Day. We’re delighted to announce that this offer has been extended to visitors to our website, too! Use the code “WegotheextrasmileVIP” and start planning your next trip. We’ll be sharing some destination ideas on this blog soon…
A series of speeches from important guests, friends, and supporters of The Africa Center rounded out the ceremony.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio sent a kind letter of support, recognizing The Africa Center’s role in enhancing the “cultural dynamism” of New York City and wishing everyone an enjoyable afternoon. The letter was read out to the crowd by Famod Konneh, Bronx Borough Director in the Office of Mayor. You can read the full text of Mayor de Blasio’s letter here.
Serving and Strengthening Our Harlem Community
We were thrilled to welcome so many of our friends and partners to participate in Community Day, especially those based nearby in Harlem.
Educators from our neighbors on Museum Mile, El Museo del Barrio and Museum of the City of New York, put together fun activity and information tables, and representatives from Harlem Park to Park let guests know about all the exciting things happening locally.
Advisors from Prudential were on hand to offer free financial advice, and Brightpoint Health provided free health screenings. Elsewhere on the plaza, the NYC Commission on Human Rights and the Office for New Americans informed visitors about their rights as New Yorkers, and offered voter registration to engage our community in the election process.
All through the day, officers from the NYPD 23rd Precinct were on hand to share about their work in our neighborhood, and keep everyone safe.
Tours of The Africa Center
For many visitors, the opportunity to tour The Africa Center’s building and learn more about our plans was a highlight of the day. Two different types of tour were on offer: a hard-hat tour of all three floors of our building led by members of our Executive Team, and a virtual-reality tour showing what the space may look like once complete.
Music and Activities
Music and performance was a huge part of Community Day, with acts coming from Harlem, Africa, and around the world.
DJ Stormin’ Norman set the tone with his sweet and soulful sounds on the plaza. Harlem-based songstress Samira Gibson wowed the crowd with her rendition of the South African national anthem, as well as her latest single, while poet Cynthia Amoah delivered a powerful spoken-word piece about ancestry, belonging, and strength.
Later in the afternoon, musicians from the Manhattan School of Music jazzed things up, before dancers Izzy Odigie and Samuel Kyei broke things down with their Afrobeats class.
Meanwhile, our younger visitors were getting busy with a range of engineering experiments and games presented by our friends at Uncharted Power (formerly Uncharted Play.)
With names like “Marshmallow Challenge” and “Egg Drop,” the experiments transformed fun, kid-friendly activities into tools for teaching principles in structural engineering and team building.
Uncharted Power’s mission is to democratize energy access around the world, and they have been using our building as a maker space to generate incredible, innovative solutions that will power and empower communities in Africa and beyond. Learn more below.
Food and Drink
African flavors were front and center at the food stands, and the plaza’s picnic tables were filled with guests enjoying the range of delicacies on offer from our vendors: DF Nigerian Gourmet Food Truck, Settepani, Egunsi foods, Limation, Shadeesha Sweets, Snacks of Africa, Essie Spice, Ginjan, Harlem Seafood Soul, The Egg Roll Queen, and Mama Pops Popcorn.
A highlight of the day was the brilliant and informative presentation from Chef Pierre Thiam, who introduced the ingredient “fonio” to the audience, and demonstrated how to cook with it.
Fonio is an ancient grain that grows in the Sahel region of West Africa. Thanks to its highly nutritious and drought-resistant properties, it is a promising crop for people living in this area as they struggle with effects of climate change. Chef Thiam is campaigning to raise awareness of this “supergrain” and make it a popular choice for cooks and foodies around the world.
Renowned Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam gave a fascinating presentation about "fonio" at our Community Day on Saturday.Fonio is a drought-resistant, nutritious, ancient grain from West Africa's Sahel region that he hopes will grow in popularity as the area struggles with the effects of climate change. Huge thanks to Chef Thiam for sharing his expertise with us. Learn more at his website: http://www.pierrethiam.com/#WorldFoodDay
Posted by The Africa Center on Monday, October 16, 2017
Ethiopian fashion designer, stylist, and model Salome and Congolese designer Fanny Hickman exhibited some of their latest looks, and even staged an impromptu catwalk show in our atrium! Meanwhile, Harlem-based fashion outlets Harlem’s Heaven Hats, And And NYC, and Royal Jelly Harlem presented a range of their stunning designs.
Community Day wouldn’t have been Community Day without you, our visitors. Thank you so much to everyone who joined in the fun. We can’t wait to see you next time.