African Festival of the Arts offered a pleasant surprise

The 26th annual African Festival of the Arts opened Friday in Washington Park at Cottage Grove Avenue. The festival runs through Labor Day. 

The African Festival of the Arts is sponsored by Africa International House. The mission of the organization is to expose and educate people on the works and contributions of African cultures. The African Festival of the Arts is their yearly flagship program.

There were over 300 vendors this year. Most vendors displayed wares from various African and Afro-Caribbean cultures. The rest were the usual fashion, jewelry, and tee shirt vendors found at most art festivals.

The food area was a mix of traditional festival fair along with soul food and Jamaican cuisine. I had a taste for the Jamaican curry goat but none of the vendors had it ready yet. I settled for the Jamaican braised oxtails with rice and beans, sweet potatoes, and plantains.

The gallery shows the many vendor's wares and some vendors creating their wares along with the food area.


Abbagale Grant. 13-year-old entrepreneur and student.

The festival offered a pleasant surprise. I was approached by a young lady with a big smile and pleasing personality. She was carrying a basket full of bracelets. She told me her name was Abbagale Grant, she is 13-years-old, and she makes bracelets. Would I like to buy one?

I inquired about her craft. Ms. Grant told me she spends the summer and her free time during the school year making the beaded bracelets and other jewelry items. The DuSable Museum of African American History and a few other places sell her wares. She took me to her vendor tent to meet her mother.

Abbagale's mother told me the teen earns enough money to buy the things she needs. She is also a good student.

Her business is Coco Creations-Designs by Abby. According to her promotional material she makes and sells beaded jewelry, bracelets, necklaces, lanyards, key chains,and medical alert bracelets. She sells her wares on the internet too.

It gives one hope when a young person like Abbagale Grant starts a business instead of doing the wastrel things ordinary teenagers do or working some menial minimum wage job. Chicago needs more teenagers like Abbagale Grant. It needs more supportive parents like her mother. It needs more communities who can support and nurture young people like Abbagale Grant.

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