Community and Culture Come Together at the African Marketplace
By Lauren Foote
Members of Youngstown State University and the Youngstown community came together to celebrate the beginning of Black History Month in Kilcawley Center on Saturday by attending the African marketplace.
The marketplace consisted of a variety of vendors selling clothing, food, jewelry and crafts related to black culture and tradition.
Kimberly Phillips, a well-known Afro-Caribbean dancer, came to Ohio for the first time to perform at the event. She included the crowd and encouraged community members to participate in the performance.
“I am really grateful to do my work here,” Phillips said. “My first dance is Ejesa, a dance that the people of Nigeria brought to Cuba. It is a dance for Ashun — the god of love, dance and happiness. The dance is her energy in the physical world.”
Tiffany Anderson, director of the African studies program, organized the event. She was happy to incorporate Phillips into the event.
“She made culture accessible to people,” Anderson said. “We are trying to create this multiculturalism this month, and she made that possible. I liked that she tried to have everyone included in the dance and have them learn the dance with her.”
Harambee of Youngstown — showcasing students of Youngstown city schools — also performed dances focused on welcome, happiness and coming together.
“This event opens up our tour. Harambee (let’s all pull together) is based on the principles we practice. It is all rooted on the principles of Kwanzaa,” Miller said. “This group has been in existence for 35 years.”
Guests commented that this year’s celebration was the best attended in years. There were more than 40 vendors present, and Anderson said more than 200 people were in attendance.
“I was very pleased with the attendance, pleased to see that people came because they heard about the event in different ways,” Anderson said. “People came because they heard about it, and they seemed to enjoy themselves.”
The Art of Freshness with Carla and Larry Brown make traditional dolls that cover household air fresheners.
“I have been making these dolls for 20 years,” Carla Brown said. “I am a crafty girl and the Lord gave me the inspiration to move these forward.”
Anderson said the process of picking vendors was difficult.
“I had community leaders meeting with me all last week,” Anderson said. “I had people calling to the Africana studies office, everywhere just to come to the African marketplace. Some of the vendors have been coming here for over 20 years.”
YSU student Carrie Mitchell said she had a lot of fun at the event.
“This was a wonderful time,” Mitchell said. “The dancing of the performers was my favorite part.”
William Blake, director of student diversity and programs, and Julian Jones, president of the student diversity council, supported the meal served at the event, which was newly implemented this year.
Blake said the African marketplace is a multi-generational celebration.
“Everyone enjoys it together, from the little babies to the adults,” Blake said. “The event was fabulous. This year it was programmed a different way. It was more compact and it moved along nicely, which is why I think people enjoyed it.”