Uhuru Health Festival and Market: a staple of African self-determination

PHILADELPHIA—On the sunny April 22 day at the pollen-overrun Clark Park, African business owners and health groups came out to vend and partake in the struggle to build and maintain dual and contending power with the One Africa! One Nation! Marketplace (OAON).

The Health Festival provides the space for African people to buy and sell goods within our own community. It also informs and educates African people about health and wellness.

Among the health vendors and co-sponsors were Moravia Health, Oak Street Health, IAMM Science, and Clover Health. Attendees and vendors had the opportunity to get free STI testing and other health screenings.

By midday, people from all walks of life came to the park. Gloria Kingcade, a nationally renowned line dance instructor, drew in the biggest crowd when she taught people the steps to the Mississippi Mudslide and hits like “Jerusalema.”

Vendors and organizers from the Northern Region of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) came early to help set up the stage, speakers, tables, and chairs for the dynamic program prepared by Comrade Cota, stage manager for the Uhuru Health Fair and Book Fair.

MC Solyana Bekele kicked off the program with salutations of Uhuru Movement leaders, co-sponsors and introduced the first act of the day: percussionist, playwright, and longtime OAON Marketplace performer, Karen Smith.

Artists like Sinnia Brown serenaded attendees and vendors with her R&B vocal riffs. And syncopated beats from Comrade Cota’s turntable kept the mood high—even as the pollen attacks grew worse.

Health and Yoga instructors like Jean-Jacques Gabriel, Rasaq Lawal and Nate McIntyre also appeared throughout the program to get people moving and the blood flowing. Regular vendors like Shawn Alleyne of Pyroglyphics and Rasheed Bey, a revolutionary poet, and maker of hammered and twisted copper jewelry, also attended.

This Uhuru Health Festival and Market was especially noteworthy because of the two keynote speakers who provided unparalleled testimonies and political education with their speeches.

President of the All African People’s Development and Empowerment Project (AAPDEP), Dr. Aisha Fields, and Chairman of the APSP, Omali Yeshitela, gave riveting talks about the state of the world, the FBI attacks on the APSP and the importance of economic institutions like the Uhuru Health Fair and Market.

“I want to salute all the vendors out here showing what black people can and want to do for ourselves,” said Dr. Fields, “We want economic independence. We don’t want to depend on other people to feed and clothe ourselves and our families, so we are out here showing what we got and what we do…This health fair and market is black people saying that we can and must do for ourselves.”

Chairman Omali Yeshitela opened his fiery speech with salutations and the history of the APSP’s coming to Philly:

“This market is one of 52 economic development institutions that the APSP has developed over the years. The leader of that process is Comrade Deputy Chair Ona Zené Yeshitela sitting right here. The woman is an artist, a genius when it comes to the issue of economic development and projects.

“I cannot come to Philadelphia without acknowledging what brought us to Philadelphia in the first place. And that was the attack on this African community. I come to Philadelphia, and I see so many wounded warriors, people who are still here, who have engaged in the struggle for our people for so many years.

“Pam Africa is here…Rasheed Bey is here. These are people who were engaged in that struggle after they bombed MOVE. And I want to be clear: they bombed MOVE. They went to a place where they got military-grade explosives and dropped them from a helicopter on our community, our people.”

Chairman then closed with this:

“We have these institutions here because African people here are colonized. And colonialism is when a foreign and alien power comes and takes over your life—destroys your ability to feed, clothe, and house yourself. This is what colonialism is, and this is why it’s important to understand that this market is a statement by African people that we will feed, clothe, and house ourselves.

“This market is a statement that we intend to see money circulate inside our community as opposed to seeing it come in one door and leave out the next…This is black people saying we’re tired of colonialism, and we’re not gon’ live like this no more.”

We want self-determination

This festival came days after the U.S. government indicted Chairman Omali Yeshitela; Penny Hess, Chair of the African People’s Solidarity Committee; and Jesse Nevel, Chair of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement.

The bogus charges laid out in the indictment attempt to give credit to Russians for the temerity, the will and agency of African people to be free and self-determining. This desire for freedom for African people is exemplified through our work to build and maintain this Marketplace, and the other 52 economic institutions of our Movement.

Despite these efforts to keep African people locked in an economic stranglehold, to drive us underground, and concede the struggle for freedom, we will continue to build.

Build African Self-Determination!

Learn more about the One Africa! One Nation! Marketplace in Philadelphia at OneAfricaMarketPhilly.org.

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