The International African Arts Festival began in 1971 as the African Street Carnival, a PTA’s block party fundraiser for an independent school in Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn with local entertainers, about 20 arts and crafts vendors, along with food prepared by the parents. Almost 2,000 people came to the event and it was a success. The International African Arts Festival (IAAF) has been part of the Brooklyn’s cultural landscape for 40 years. Each year a committed team of Board members, consultants, part-time seasonal staff and volunteers, work together to transform a city park into an outdoor African cultural oasis that celebrates traditional and contemporary expression of various African cultural art forms.
Today, the IAAF is a community-based, non-profit organization that produces an annual event attracting an estimated 75,000 attendees from all over Brooklyn, New York City, the United States and from around the world.
In 2001 the IAAF relocated to Commodore Barry Park which is the third transition to a larger venue to accommodate its growing audience. The original line-up of local folk arts entertainment which has included dance companies such as Dinizulu African Dancers and Drummers, Marie Brooks Pan-Caribbean Dancers, emerging singers like Martha Redbone and many others continues to be an important part of the Festival’s programming
Over the years, the stages of the Festival have featured renowned artists such as Blue Magic, The Mighty Sparrow, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, KRS-1, Lauryn Hill, India Arie; artists who grew to achieve national and international acclaim.
The small vendor market has grown into an African Marketplace with over a hundred micro-enterprise vendor/small business membership database of entrepreneurs. The market place offers an array of one of a kind, handcrafted, original designs of merchandise ranging from jewelry, urban fashion, t-shirts, body oils to imported African fabric, artifacts and furniture, original paintings, hand-carved marble sculptures and much more. In addition, the outdoor Food Court offers the community an array of talented cooks and chefs preparing a wide variety of scrumptious foods. The savory favors range from traditional soul food to spicy Caribbean dishes, to African, Latin, vegetarian food, seafood and even gourmet style raw foods
The IAAF offers family focus entertainment and resources to the community.