LOS ANGELES - The Annual African Marketplace and Cultural Faire may have its roots in its native city of Los Angeles, but the world has its roots in it. A community institution conceived and produced under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs by James Burks, The African Marketplace and Cultural Faire has been selected twice to the list of top 100 events in North America in the last ten years and is perhaps the nation's longest running cultural event.
Currently, the African Marketplace (AMP) is in imminent danger of losing its location at Rancho Cienega Recreation Complex, where it has found a home for many years. The annual affair, which was absent from last year's calendar of Los Angeles' events because of economic constraint, is also threatened with being totally dissolved this year, due to increased financial burdens. If a group of concerned citizens, uniting asFriends of the African Marketplace Committee, have their way though, this year will mark the event's 25th celebration under the banner of African Marketplace Inc., on August 28, 29, and September 4, 5, 6, 2010.
Organized by Gail Deculus-Johnson, owner of Sable Image and a long-time small business, The Friends of the African Marketplace Committee recently gathered at the office of the African Marketplace to meet with the leadership in an effort to create solutions toward resolving the issues.
"The Marketplace needs all of us and needs us now!" cites Deculus-Johnson. "Because of the city's recent decision to no longer recognize events and festivals with special event status, specific city services will now have to be paid for. The Department of Recreation and Parks is asking for fees of $158,000 to $185,000 this year. So there is now a barrier of money for the three-weekend event that requires that we all (vendors, friends and leaders) take a hand in reaching our civic leadership to ensure the park is a facility owned by the public, and to see that something is done to ensure that the Cultural Faire continues to exist in this community."
The June 16 meeting held by Friends of the African American Marketplace stressed methods for support and participation. The committee advocated protesting the efforts by the Department of Recreation and Parks by sending letters to Recreation & Parks General Manager Jon Mukri, and to elected officials Herb Wesson, whose district Rancho Cienega Park is located in; Councilman Bernard Parks, whose district the office of AMP is located in; to Council members Janice Hahn, Jan Perry, Tom LaBonge, Ed Reyes; to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, California State Senator Curren Price and Roderick Wright, and California State Assembly leaders Mike Davis, Isadore Hall, and Steve Bradford; and to Congresswomen Maxine Waters, Diane Watson, and Laura Richardson.
The committee also seeks contributions from financial donors and help marketing and promoting information to increase paid corporate sponsorship and attendance via Face Book, Twitter, email campaigns and flyers. Event attendance is also critical to help pay for the AMP as total costs range from $650,000 - 1.2 million dollars. The African American Marketplace has an estimated 40 - 50 million dollar impact on the City and creates 1500 - 2200 jobs annually.
Concludes Deculus-Johnson, "We cannot allow the African Marketplace to die, nor can we allow the bureaucratic system to dismantle this key activity for African American communities by saddling it with astronomical charges for the use of what is supposed to be a public facility owned by the tax payer. We must understand and recognize the AMP leadership for their remarkable growth and survival, given the challenges they have faced over the years."
About the African Marketplace:
The African American Marketplace is iconic in the Pan-African American community, having firmly established itself as an advocate for promoting urban communities as tourist destinations to regional, national and international audiences. It has become a source of pride not only in Los Angeles, but also throughout the African Diaspora and has partnered with many other ethnic groups and cultures in Los Angeles.
The AMP has been a huge city-wide celebration tracing African Diaspora cultures and experiences of people living in the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Pacific Rim, Europe and Africa. More than forty five countries have participated including Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, Uganda, and Ethiopia. With an annual attendance record of well over 100,000 people, food, music, dance, theater, photography, arts and crafts, health exhibits, business workshops, film festivals and more encompass the annual three weekend event in August/September.