HUDSON — People of all backgrounds came together at Henry Hudson Riverfront Park on Saturday to celebrate the diversity of the city at the Black Arts and Cultural Festival.
The festival that started as an end-of-summer block party for the neighbors in the Second Street community has changed a lot, organizers and attendees said.
“There is a little more structure now,” said Gregory Mosley, president of Operation Unite, which organized the event. “We have been organizing the event for 23 years, but before us it was the Woman’s Progressive Club.”
Operation Unite was also celebrating its 25th anniversary.
“This is about families getting together, and look at where we are and where we came from,” Mosley said. “The festival now has a more diverse presentation.”
The Rev. Edward Cross, of Endless Love Temple and Second Ward supervisor, said he remembers the festival being about looking back at the past year and moving forward.
“My parents were a part of the festival, I was a part of the festival. It was about fun and camaraderie,” Cross said. “Neighbors were closer back then, and looked out for each other. Now it is more spread out and people keep to themselves. This event brings people together to tear those walls down and become part of a group.”
The festival took place Saturday and continues on Sunday, kicking off with a parade down Warren Street and then a performance from kids and a community dance performance of “Water Dances,” organized by Elena Mosley and choreographed by Lynn Neuman of Artichoke Dance Company.
On Saturday evening there was a performance of West African drumming performed by High Peak Drummers, of the Catskill Mountains, and then a Kuumba dance and drums performance, also organized by Mosley.
The night ended with a back to school giveaway.
“We also brought back the cooking contest this year, with two categories: professional and home styles cooking,” Mosley said. “You know everyone thinks their mom’s cooking is the best.”
Fourth Ward Supervisor William Hughes Jr. said it is great to see the youth in the community growing and taking action as the Youth in Action, a program Operation Unite leads, has teenagers present plans for activities at the festival.
“This festival is a pillar of the community,” Hughes said. “It shows the diversity of Hudson. People can mingle with other people of different backgrounds from their own.”
Willette Jones, who is looking to take her father’s place as the Second Ward supervisor, said she is very proud of the festival.
“Our family cooks for the event every year as a way to give back,” Jones said. “I look forward to this festival all year.”
There will be an annual Gospel Festival on Sunday as part of the greater cultural festival, with gospel music and a sunset service at 5 p.m. in the park,
If there is rain on Sunday, the event will take place at the State Street AME Zion Church at 201 State St.
“I come here every year and I love it. It is great for anyone who wants to come learn more about the community,” said Second Ward Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga, “There are a lot of kids out here on a nice day, and I love it.”