September 26, 2018
The first-ever African Heritage Reception held at Gracie Mansion welcomed New York City's African community, one of the largest African communities in the country. At the event, Famod Konneh, Bronx Borough Director for the Mayor's Office Community Affairs Unit, stated, "Tonight is to celebrate the contribution, the accomplishment, this history, and the rich culture of the African community in the City of New York."
Under an array of 54 different country flags representing the diversity of the nations of the African continent, Mayor Bill de Blasio welcomed nearly 1,000 guests, stating, "I have had the joyous experience of going through the great communities of this City and seeing the vibrancy of the African communities and neighborhoods. And seeing the how many wonderful people are now a part of the fabric of this city… Over 50 nations of Africa are now represented in New York City—with all the joy, the energy, the prosperity, the entrepreneurship, the creativity—all making this city better."
The event recognized Tsidii Le Loka, a singer, actress, composer, and philanthropist who was born and raised in Lesotho and currently lives in New York City. In 1997, Le Loka became the first actress to play the role of Rafiki in The Lion King on Broadway, earning her a Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk Award, Drama League Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award. Furthermore, Le Loka performed solo at Nelson Mandela's first press conference in Johannesburg after his release from prison and sang alongside some of the world's most influential artists, including Harry Belafonte, Miriam Makeba, Madonna and Elton John. Additionally, as the Founding Director of the Tsidii Foundation, she brought her passion for philanthropy to the fight against AIDS in South Africa and helped direct health services to people in need. In recognition of these achievements, Le Loka received a proclamation from Mayor de Blasio naming September 26, 2018 Tsidii Le Loka Day.
Upon receiving the proclamation, Le Loka performed Umhome and Pata Pata, both original songs by Miriam Makeba. She also noted in her acceptance speech, "My hope is that the sustainable element that we get from this day will be to celebrate the wealth and vitality of heritage without losing our universality and that we extend and strengthen the bond with our extended family and world around us and continue to offer something of healing and beauty. Thank you for this great honor and validation"
Live entertainment for the evening included Nkumu Katalay & The Life Long Project, a New York-based band that performed Congolese music. Additionally, Yacouba Diabate Griot performed on the Kora for guests as they entered the event.
Video description: Watch the livestream of the remarks from the African Heritage Reception 2018.
Join us at Gracie Mansion for the African Heritage Reception! https://t.co/50EK4LKr1X— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) September 26, 2018
We would like to acknowledge and thank our sponsors for their generous support of the 2018 African Heritage Reception: