PATERSON, NJ - Under bright, sunny skies the 12th annual observance of New Africa Day was held at Barbour Park Sunday. Various non-profit organizations were represented along with food and fun for families in a celebration that included music, a bounce house for kids, pony rides, and more.  

Sponsored by Paterson resident and community activist Bilal Hakeem, along with The Elombe Brath P.O.W.E.R. Coalition, the event’s purpose was to, “bring the neighborhood and families together in hopes of inspiring them to help transform fractured neighborhoods into caring communities and stay rooted in our identity.”  

Forums for education concerning historical and contemporary contributions of African Americans are vital, according to Hakeem.                                                                       

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“African Americans must recognize their great legacy after being subjugated to three centuries of brutal slavery and being made insensitive to exploitation and disempowerment with the consumption of materialistic things,” Hakeem explained.  

Student members of the Silk City Youth Based Services of John F. Kennedy High School, led by directors Raheem Smallwood and Anthony Wilson, participated in the event by passing out literature about the various clubs the program offers.  Teen group members, Onisty Garrett and Chrisliynn Johnson, interacted with both vendors and visitors.  

“We’re taking temperatures of people to make sure nobody is passing on the coronavirus,” Onisty, a 14-year-old freshman at Harp Academy stated with a noticeable smile despite wearing a protective mask.  “We came today to give back to our community.”

Chrisliynn sported a sweatshirt with her high school’s logo and name, Passaic Community Technical Institute. “The focus of our clubs is on issues that confront teenagers today,” she added.  “We want to learn how to build healthy relationships.” 

Tenee Joyner of the city’s Department of Health & Human Services said she stopped by to support the initiative. “We were in front of the Good Shepherd Mission, across the street, giving free COVID-19 tests this morning,” Joyner said.  

Zellie Thomas and members of Paterson’s Black Live Matters movement also participated by passing out flyers in the neighborhood encouraging residents to fill out census forms and vote.  

Long a haven for drug users and other nefarious activity, Barbour Park has been transformed over the past years into an oasis for local families and children, and is often the site of community activities such as previous New Africa Family Day celebrations and Paterson Cares’ Books and Breakfast. The park is open daily from 7:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. and features a beautiful garden, complete with small, bright colored flowers and large plants called, “elephant ears,” and a playground for children.

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