Union Settlement provides social services for the vibrant community of East Harlem through educational courses, counseling, business development, child and healthcare services, meal delivery, and opportunities to participate in the arts.
This Saturday May 18th from 11am to 5pm, they will be hosting the East Harlem Ethnic Festival on East 104th Street between 2nd and 3rd Ave. We talked with Lissa Southerland, Chief Operating Officer, who can tell you everything about it!
NYXT: What are the main activities offered at the festival?
There will be a wide array of activities and entertainment for all ages throughout the day! Firstly, there is our outdoor stage which will have a lineup of exciting entertainment all day hosted by Aurora Flores and her foot stomping, funk based classic salsa band Zon Del Barrio. Other acts include Chinese dancers, The Afro-Latineers, R&B singer Emilie Surtees, and the multi-cultural educational band Funiki Jam.
We'll also have dozens of local merchants lining the street to sell and offer unique merchandise and experiences. There's so much more too! There's a petting zoo, pony rides, a fashion designer pop up shop, a slime-making zone, STEM activities for kids, a velcro climbing tower, a garden coffee cafe, Aikido demonstrations and a whole host of more food, music and fun!
NYXT: What is the history of the festival and the message that Union Settlement wants to share through this event?
This is the 27th Annual version of the festival. It started as a small event meant largely for the people directly involved in our programs. Now, it's a full on celebration of East Harlem and we welcome 3,000 to 4,000 guests from all over the city and beyond! People come because they know that every member of the family is going to have a great time.
At the event, we want to celebrate the importance of multiculturalism in communities by highlighting our own here in East Harlem! We also want to highlight the services Union Settlement has been providing for nearly 125 years to this neighborhood where we currently serve over 10,000 residents of all ages each year.
NYXT: How are you working with the community to organize this event?
Many of the vendors, entertainers and exhibitors are directly from East Harlem. There are several merchants at the festival whose shops you can visit right here in the neighborhood. We also receive support from local officials, the police department and other city-run entities. Furthermore, many of the booths, activities and acts are ran directly by East Harlem children, families and seniors who are served by Union Settlement.
NYXT: Do you partner with other non-profits for this event?
While the festival is entirely run by Union Settlement, we are happy to welcome local non-profits who will have a presence on the street to share what they do.
NYXT: After this event, what’s coming next for Union Settlement?
Our Business Development Center who educates and nourishes local small businesses in East Harlem will present an event called East Harlem Nights on May 31st, and we will also be hosting the 2nd Annual Taste of East Harlem on June 21.
NYXT: Would you like to add anything else?
Just that we encourage you to come to the festival no matter where you live in or around the city! We promise that it will be a great time for everyone in the family, and a wonderful showcase for the neighborhood of East Harlem. Come to the festival and find out a little bit about what "El Barrio" has to offer! For more information visit unionsettlement.org/ethnicfest.
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