For some time, staff at the Mission-based African Advocacy Network (AAN) have been asking themselves how they can go beyond offering essential services and start building a stronger community and a stronger voice for African immigrants in San Francisco. Their answer: The Mission’s first African Street Festival, which takes place Sunday. The event will be held in front of Marco Senghor’s restaurant, Bissap Baobab Village, on 19th Street between Mission and Capp streets.
The organizers teamed up with some of the area’s popular African performance groups. Event co-organizer Duniya Drum Dance Company, directed by Bongo Sidibe of Guinea, will share the street with the Chinyakare Ensemble from Zimbabwe, the Shabbal dance group from Sudan, Fua Dia Congo of Central Africa, and the Afoutayi Dancers of Haiti. Ensembles from Ghana and South Africa will also perform.
The festival represents a leap into a new phase of organizing for the AAN, which became an official program of Dolores Street Community Services in March. Program Director Adoubou Traoré explained that creating community is much more difficult than for other immigrant groups, because Africans come from such diverse cultures.
Unlike most Latin American immigrants for instance, Africans have not inherited a common colonial language, Traoré said. An immigrant from the continent may speak French, English or Portuguese, along with any of numerous African languages.
“Our diversity is both a wealth and a handicap,” he said. “We don’t have a community per se.”
The arts are “universal tools that cut across differences to make a message very strong,” Traoré said.
Clementine Ntshaykolo, the AAN Fund Development Manager, also expressed the organizers’ desire to welcome people of all ethnicities. One feature common to African cultures is a strong family orientation, she said. “Everyone is there, from the grandparents to the grandchildren. This festival is for everyone.”
The festival will take place on July 21, from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This article was corrected on July to 24 to identify the Duniya Drum Dance Company as a co-organizer of the event.