Bronx African Family, Health and Cultural Fair a Success

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

First generation African families from throughout the Bronx thronged the borough’s first African Family, Health and Cultural Fair on Saturday, September 6th.  The fair, which ran from 12:00 noon until 5:00 PM, was held at the Shakespeare Park and West Bronx Recreation Center at 1527 Jessup Avenue in the Highbridge section of the borough.

Like the nearby Morris Heights, Mount Eden, Mount Hope, and University Heights neighborhoods, Highbridge has experienced a surge in first generation Africans in recent years.  While many initially came from Ghana and Nigeria, in recent years a growing number of these immigrants have come from Guinea, the Ivory Coast, and Mali.  They have helped make the Bronx a truly international borough and have added greatly to the uniqueness of many of its communities, establishing retail outlets, specialty shops, and hair salons, among other businesses.

“We hope now that the foundation has been laid, and the event is on the radar of local organizations and officials, that the fair will grow significantly when we repeat it next year and establish it as an annual event,” commented Tyler Curtis, program developer at BronxWorks who oversaw planning for the event.  The African Advisory Council as well as BOOM! Health also played major roles in the planning and implementation of the fair.  Emblem Health provided major underwriting support.

The fair throbbed to an African beat from Cumbe dance and the Wassa PanAfrikan Dance Ensemble who were invited by the Ghana Parade Council.  BOOM! Health and BronxWorks provided health screenings, while both also provided information on their programs and services.  The BronxWorks health screenings were done via a mobile medical van that was acquired through a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and is staffed by a physician from the Montefiore Medical Center.

Public Advocate Letitia James and Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson were the elected officials who came to the fair.  Charles Cooper of Bronx Borough President’s African Advisory Council was also in attendance, as were June Faulk and Stanley Bridgeman from the New York City Department of Youth & Community Development.  Robert Cordero, the President and Chief Program Officer of BOOM! Health, attended as well.

“The overall goal of the event is to raise awareness of the assets of the growing African population in the Bronx as well as to encourage engagement with this and other emerging foreign-born populations,” said Mr. Curtis.  “We believe that we accomplished our goals and are excited to see what the future holds as we work to serve the entire Bronx community.”

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