Dance Africa is the unofficial Memorial Day event commencing Brooklyn, New York’s summer festivities. For the last 34 years, The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) has successfully organized this dynamic festival celebrating the African Diaspora. We had the pleasure of attending the dress rehearsal to this year’s dance performance, “Expressions and Encounters: African, Cuban and American Rhythms.” Lively dancers and musicians in colorful costumes danced, leaped, sang, and pounded drums in a fluid choreography of grace and strength. The other large attraction to Dance Africa are the various vendors selling furniture, vintage music, clothing, West African musical instruments, jewelry, and food.
Waiting in a long line for a plate of jerk chicken*, peas and rice, and steamed cabbage from one particular vendor that doesn’t have a restaurant is worth the wait. The people’s love of sorrel tea (another name for hibiscus tea) is clearly evident of the large plastic cups full of tea seen everywhere. Most teas offered at the festival are too sugary for my personal taste, for adding water dilutes the tea’s strength, too. Although, the recent abundance of coconut water in cartons is common, I still look forward to fearfully watching a vendor use a machete to hack off the top of a coconut for its juice. After quickly slurping the juice through a straw, the coconut is returned to the vendor, in which he chops it into large pieces to enjoy the meat of the fruit. It’s a refreshing drink to a spicy meal of jerk chicken. Walking around the festival greeting friends and family follows such a heavy meal. We’re there at the festival from Saturday to Monday.
As the festival closed on Monday night, we walked to one of our favorite Senegalese restaurants for a dinner of Jollof rice, ginger-sorrel tea, and fried plantains. That evening, we knew our Memorial Day weekend was one of the best times we’ve had in quite a while. Our summer is off to a great start, and I wish everyone a safe and happy summer, too.
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