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If you take a stroll through the heart of West Philly and peek into the many grocery stores and businesses, it's easy to see the African influence in the neighborhood. The local chapter of Nation of African Peoples Unity seeks to unite these businesses and people culturally, spiritually and economically. Each summer, the group reinforces its mission with African Independence Day, a celebration of culture and unity.
Now in its third year, the day has evolved since its beginnings as an economic movement. "The first program was centered on the importance of buying black," explains Brother Khaz Ali, NAPU member and spokesman. While that idea is still stressed, the event now includes a dose of cultural entertainment. Universal Dance and Drum Ensemble will perform traditional dances, songs, drama and stiltwalking. Also taking the stage will be MCs Hezekiah, Gillie Da Kid and Wise Intelligence of '90s super group Poor Righteous Teachers. MOVE member Pam Africa, a prominent supporter of Mumia Abu-Jamal, will take to the podium and vendors will supply African-inspired jewelry and fashionable threads.
In response to the current violence now plaguing West Philly and other communities, the day will also address peace through unity. "We selected participants that we feel will reflect the positive images we are trying to deliver," says Ali. "We are trying to deliver to the people in the hopes that it will bring us closer."