African American Heritage Day Celebration Draws Thousands
The weather was perfect for the 37th Annual African American Heritage Day Celebration on Sunday, June 25th, with a clear blue sky and lots of sunshine!
The community gathering drew more than five thousand to this annual event, which is one of the largest of the ethnic festivals held each summer at Kensico Dam in Valhalla, NY. As vendors set up their tents, the crowd streamed into the park, setting up their chairs under the big tent, awaiting the exciting and fun-filled activities of the day. Dez Drummers of Greenburgh set the stage as they lead the procession to the center of the plaza with lively, pulsating African drumming. Sister Delphine Burton and Brother Joseph Muhammad, the mistress and master of ceremonies for the day, kept the show moving and kept the crowd entertained as they introduced the performers. Joe Boykin and Friends from Greenburgh, entertained the audience with smooth sounds of R&B and oldies, followed by the Boyandeye African American Dance Theatre of Yonkers, that drew the audience in to join them on the plaza to learn African dance movements, Entertainment was also provided by Ton Campbell. A vocalist from White Plains, The Untouchable Band from Harlem, Revelators Dane Troupe from Mount Vernon, as well as the crowd pleasing, Music with a Message, a youth group from the Bronx. The XFactor Drumline from Mount Vernon, had everyone moving to the beat as they performed their rhythmic drumming and dance routine. An exciting new addition to the entertainment was the “40+” Double Dutch Club Exhibition, which also drew audience participation.
However, the day was not all about entertainment, but to bring to the forefront. mental health issues and its impact on the community and the world, especially communities of color. Mindful moments were shared throughout the day by Symone Lassic and Karim Spaulding who shared coping mechanisms to reduce stress and anxiety. The theme for the 37th Annual AAHDC was “Mental Health is Preserved Wealth” and agencies and dedicated individuals and health care professionals were honored for their service to the Westchester community by providing health care and resources. Honorees included NAMI of Westchester, Westchester Community Opportunity Program, Inc, Westchester Community Center (all sites), Sunriver Health Center (formerly Peekskill Health Center), and the Westchester Association of Black Social Workers, Inc. In addition, individuals who have reached out to the community to address the mental health issue were also honored, including former Knicks basketball star Allan Houston; Rev. Daphne S. Swinton, Pat White and Rev. Kimberly Murray Cruse, who worked together on the Faith Based Mental Health Initiative; and Damon Jones of Mount Vernon..
Physical health matters were also in the spotlight with free prostate screenings being provided by Mount Sinai Hospital; breast cancer awareness, mental health services and resources, HIV awareness and hepatitis C prevention, blood pressure screenings, and overdose prevention awareness, as well as information on funeral arrangements. The day was filled with health information and resources for all free of charge.
The African marketplace, with vendors from Westchester, New York City, and surrounding areas, provided a pleasant experience for shoppers with an array of clothing, artifacts, jewelry, soaps and fragrances, tee-shirts, books, and so much more for those who wanted to :shop ‘til they dropped!” The aroma from the Food Court drew all over to purchase the delectable food treats as they enjoyed all that the day had to offer.
The African American Heritage Day Celebration was started by the late John H. Harmon and continues to this day to celebrate the history, culture and contributions of people of the African Diaspora - Africans, African-Americans, and Caribbeans. The festival is co-sponsored by Westchester County Department of Parks and the African American Heritage Celebration Coalition.