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Civic Impact

Scarborough Afro-Caribbean Festival "bigger and better" in second year

The Scarborough Afro-Carribbean Festival 2013

In 2012, when the staff at Scarborough's Heritage Skills Development Centre (HSDC) decided to throw the region's first Afro-Carribean arts and culture festival, they were pressed for both time and money.
"We just had this idea and we had to put it together in three weeks," says Madeline Nwokeji, program director at HSDC. "The only funding we had was a very small amount from the Canadian Heritage Department."
But despite the small budget and quick time frame, the turnout was impressive and the community receptive. After a reassuring first year, the HSDC decided to make the festival an annual event. 
This weekend (August 24-25) is the second annual Scarborough Afro-Caribbean Festival (SACF). And with more time, a bigger budget and a marketing campaign, the festival, says Nwokeji, "will be bigger and better."
"We have funding from the [Ontario] Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, we're working with radio stations…and we have a lot more acts, artists who have won international awards. These are acts that we just weren't able to get last year." 
"Last year it was hard to get volunteers and performers and this year it's been amazing. People are calling us, we're getting emails, people are going on the website. We're getting a lot of questions: How do I get in touch? How do I perform? How do I volunteer?"
"We're expecting a much larger audience from the Afro-Caribbean community and outside."
Part of the excitement around the festival no doubt stems from the fact that there's nothing quite like it in the GTA.
Not only do most art and culture festivals tend to be centred downtown, but, says Nwokeji, the festival is the first in the city "that attempts to bridge African and Caribbean communities."
"Many other festivals are catered to one or the other, we thought it would be unique to combine different cultures and also showcase Scarborough."
While it's been in operation since 1993, the HSDC--a grassroots nonprofit that serves refugees, new immigrant women, and at risk youth--didn't start planning festivals until the first SACF last summer.
"We realized [a festival] was important because there's not a lot of festivals in Scarborough and especially with some of the negative ideas about Scarborough and the violence portrayed in the news we though 'why not create something positive to showcase the positive side of our community," says Nwokeji.
"We wanted to build a festival that reaches out to the community and celebrates our culture, diversity, pride and heritage. And we wanted to invite everyone from the GTA to come see our talent and our culture."
Full list of Scarborough Afro-Caribbean Festival acts and event here.
Writer: Katia Snukal
Source: Madeline Nwokeji, Program Director, HSDC
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