Asbury Park Universal African Festival 2017 - NXUP
After losing my oldest son, ZamirAhsaad Allah Dunbar at the age of 14 on July 31, 2009 I vowed I would start a nonprofit memorial foundation in his memory. This would be to provide youth with additional academic, social and emotional support to encourage them to be all that they aspire to be in their quest for greatness. This vision came to fruition this summer and to kick off the foundation I decided to bring back the African American Festival to my hometown of Asbury Park. Once hosted by Sister Isis (RosaLee McNair) during the 90’s, which I felt my community was in dire need due to the lack of culture awareness, self-love, creative learning, and community building. In less than 8 week my amazing A Team Committee and I (Shout out to Donna Puryear, Jennifer Conover, Letiticia Dortch, Frances Bennett, Knowledge Bennett, Cee Allah Bennett, Tyrone Laws, Keemah Solomon, Kyle and Kelly Weedon for going above and beyond their delegated responsibilities) who helped organize a fun-filled day with an awards ceremony that recognized each individual for their community service. Total were 11 individuals and 2 organizations homegrown in Asbury Park ( Mention Sister Isis, Cazzeeks, Jacqueline Tillman, Isiah Jones, Reginald Mirthil, Donna Puryear, Nina Summerlin, and Beverly Smith).
The festival contained 40 food and non-food vendors whom traveled near and far to participate. children’s section that included face painting, jewelry making, a bouncy house, and touch a fire truck courtesy of Asbury Park fire department. Local performers of different musical genres, spoken word ( you can mention Stewart Davis, MostDope, HD Picasso, Joe College, SJ Dup, The Universal African Dance Ensemble, Capoeira Sol Nascente USA, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc). Steppers, KYDS, Michelle White Jones and Higher Ground, and the St. Stephen AME Zion Youth Choir.
The highlight of the day for me as a naturalist, and also for many who witness seeing a beautiful black butterfly with yellow spots fly back and forth in front of me then landing on the ground in front of me. Many say that was my son, Zamir-Ahsaad showing up for his big day, I strongly believe that as well. Another highlight was the fact that 1000 people locally and from the tristate area came out to support, in which several were reunited with others they hadn’t seen in years. It was truly an honor and I look forward to doing more to uplift the community alongside of all the contributing parties.
Story By: BiBi Bennett