International African Arts Festival returns to Brooklyn

Well, it’s officially summer, and it is time for the 44th Annual International African Arts Festival. From Thursday, July 2 to Sunday, July 5, the International African Arts Festival (IAAF or Festival) returns to Commodore Barry Park, located on Navy Street between Park and Flushing avenues in the Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Talib Kweli will headline the 44th annual festival during July 4 weekend. From 10 am. to 9 pm. each day (rain or shine), world class performers from the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and the United States will perform and entertain the thousands of people who attend the festival each year. Also scheduled to perform are GRAMMY Award-winning rock band Living Colour, Norman Connors (famed jazz and R&B musician), Kaïssa (Cameroon-born world renown vocalist), Cita Rodriguez (talented Bronx-born Puerto Rican vocalist), and New Kingston (new hit reggae band). This year will also feature the return of the Youth Talent Competition after a hiatus. Other highlights include a children’s program, an arts and craft zone, a chess tournament, a natural hair show, a barber competition, a fashion show, and many other attractions.

The festival is a family oriented event, appropriate for people of all ages, backgrounds, and musical preferences. The schedule for the main stage is:

Thursday, July 2

•Cita Rodriguez

•New Kingston

Friday, July 3

•Talib Kweli

Saturday, July 4

•Living Colour

•Norman Connors

Sunday, July 5

•Kaïssa (

In partnership with Non-Stop Production Multimedia and Youth Services, IAAF will present a youth talent competition during July 4 weekend. This two-level competition is for children ages 8 to 12 and 13 to 17, with cash prizes for the winning acts. Performers are required to present family-oriented material.

The International African Arts Festival (IAAF) began in 1971 as a fundraiser for the Uhuru Sasa School, a community-based initiative that educated youth and adults about African culture. The fundraiser was a small festival with about 20 arts and crafts vendors, local entertainers, and food prepared by parents of the students who attended Uhuru Sasa School. Almost 2,000 people came to the event and the fundraiser was a major success. That early format of integrating entertainment, food, and marketplace drew increasing crowds annually and the event became known as the African Street Carnival. Four years later, the carnival was moved to the field at Boys and Girls High School in the Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. There, the event became the African Street Festival.

Today, the event is known as the International African Arts Festival and has an estimated annual audience of 75,000. While still held in Brooklyn, The Festival is now in its third transition to a larger venue. The original approach of showcasing local folk arts and entertainment has remained, yet has simultaneously grown to include artists such as The Mighty Sparrow, Fela Kuti, KRS-1, Doug E. Fresh, Third World, Erykah Badu, India Arie, Ms. Lauryn Hill, and many other nationally and internationally revered artists.

As an adjunct to the festival and in conjunction with the International African Arts Festival (IAAF), the New York Chapter of the National Association of Kawaida Organizations (NAKO) will host its 26th Annual Symposium on Culture, Community and Struggle on Saturday, July 4, 2015, from 10 am to 4 pm. The symposium is designed to bring together outstanding scholars, intellectuals and activists to discuss, dialogue as well as go over solutions to the myriad of challenges confronting the global African community.

For more than two and a half decades, the Symposium on Culture, Community and Struggle has served as the intellectual component of the International African Arts Festival, which will host its 44th annual event over four days this same weekend. Panelists will speak on various subjects addressing education, health, Pan Africanism, world affairs, and developing your end of life will.

Some of the participants are: Debbie Almontaser, Ph.D. candidate, founder and former principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy and a lecturer on Arab culture; Samuel E. Anderson, former education director at the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, and founding member of the New York Algebra Project and of Education Stats You Can Use; Dr. Jamila Codrington, a psychologist specializing in children, adolescents, and families, and past President of the New York Association of Black Psychologists; Dr. Georgina Falú, the first female dean of the Management School at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, and creator of AFROLAA (Afro-Latinos of the Americas) Project which is established to mobilize Spanish speaking Afro-Latinos throughout South & Central America and the Caribbean to learn their African heritage and history; Dr. Aliyah Morgan, the second Black woman graduate from Stony Brook Medical School, who is also a lecturer on medical disparities as well as the former Director of Community Medicine at the Brooklyn Hospital Center for the Department of Family Medicine; Khaleelah Shabazz, cancer survivor and founder of Women Conquering Cancer, Inc.; and Vicki Thompson Simmons of Lawrence H. Woodward Funeral Home.

The symposium will be held at PS 287 located at 50 Navy Street in Brooklyn, New York 11201 (between Park and Flushing Avenue, near the Manhattan Bridge in downtown Brooklyn).


The International African Arts Festival is a 501c3 non-profit organization supported by marketplace vendors, festival volunteers, and patrons with additional support from public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), and with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, New York State Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, the New York City Council Brooklyn Delegation (Councilmembers Inez Barron, Robert E. Cornegy Jr., Laurie A. Cumbo, and Darlene Mealy; and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams), the New York City Department for the Aging, and Consolidated Edison Company.

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