Upper Darby International Festival Promotes DiversityFeb 17, 2019 08:00AM ● By Joseph Warkreh T-Toe
Celebrating cultural diversity has now become a tradition in the township of Upper Darby, a suburb of Philadelphia. In its second year this September, the Upper Darby International Festival show cased how diverse and welcoming the township has become under the leadership of Mayor Thomas Micozzie, who is equally focused on rebranding the township’s image and improving its business climate.
The day’s cloudiness never deterred the festival from going on nor did it stop the attendees. For most of the immigrants in attendance this was part of the process of self-interweaving into the fabric of a community they now call home. With spontaneity, the crowd gathered in a festive atmosphere while students from the local high school dressed in yellow T-shirts passed out the day’s program.
The yearly festival brings to the township what the merchants of 69th street have been wishing for – a bump in retail sales fueled by festival goers.
With the historic Tower Theater, and an array of retail stores such as Ashley Stewart, Old Navy, Modell’s, Gap, and Studio Movie Grill open for shopping, local vendors also occupied the sidewalks on both sides of the street with traditional cuisines and merchandise from their countries of origin.
As Mayor Micozzie walked around pumping hands and chit-chatting with some of the attendees in the crowd, he told FunTimes staff, “I’m happy things are going on well. Each year the number of participants is growing; this year we have more food vendors, faith-base groups and cultural organizations in spite of the weather conditions.” Ms. Marley Tanneh, a Liberian vendor selling African prints and dashik is said, “It is good to be here. I enjoyed it last year and I’m enjoying it this year. I will be here next year.”
Esther Kayoda of SA Cafe, a Nigeria food vendor, said, “The festival is good and enjoyable despite the weather; we will come back every year.” We also met Fanta Sidibe, a Liberian who owns Fanta’s African International Restaurant and had a slightly different
iew about the attendance.
She said, “I think last year more people came to the festival compared to this year, perhaps because of the weather. However I will come every year.” With the sound of music wafting through the air, the daylong festival showed how transformative the township has become in recent years.
From a community that once took policing to the extreme, one could not overlook how friendly and cooperative the township’s men in blue have become. Similarly, not lost amongst the attendees was cultural tolerance and diversity appreciation that permeated the event as they networked and interacted with one another, eating, drinking and having a fun day.
The highlight of the festival came when Mayor Micozzie lead the Parade of Nations from the top of the hill near Walnut Street to the bottom of the hill by the Tower Theater. As the music played, hundreds of residents, visitors, students, and councilmen carried various flags and banners representing various countries joined the parade. The colorful parade painted a cultural mosaic that this growing metropolis is laying claim to.