“Most people do not understand the logistics and dynamics of putting together an event like the African Marketplace. They see all the tents and vendors, know what the fees we charge are and think that we have a coffer full of money. But that couldn’t be further from the truth,” explained James Burks, founder of the African Market Place and Cultural Faire.
“Because of the event founder’s long association with the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), we were housed in the William Grant Still Arts Center, a city agency, for 20 of our 23 years. Consequently, many believe that the city is the sole source of the more than one half million dollars it has taken annually to produce the Cultural Faire each year,” added Debra Winters, a former director with the 23-year-old cultural event. “The DCA was a strong supporter in launching the project, and we have had grants of $10,000 and in-kind technical and artistic support of its founder, James Burks, an employee of DCA.
Burks said corporate donations have been very low all over the country. Many special events have either shut down or postponed their operation until further notice. To prevent shutting down this great event and institution and possibly having to struggle to resurrect it again is the key reason why the staff, volunteers, suppliers, artists and supporters have launched a grassroots fundraising campaign.
Burks said the marketplace is urging people to purchase admission tickets in advance and to become a friend of the African Marketplace by buying a $75 Friends of the African Marketplace membership.
“We estimate it will take about a quarter of a million dollars to pay all up front fees we need to produce this year’s event. Then the balance of our gate money and various fees will help pay the salaries of the artists, parking and grounds attendants as well as the other employees we hire each year.”
According to its organizers, the African Marketplace in past years has created nearly 1,000 jobs. It has also served as a launching pad for many small businesses.
“The marketplace has a significant financial impact on Los Angeles, particularly South Los Angeles,” added Winters, a dancer, who also talked about the cultural connections made as well. “Over the years, we have been able to bring in performers from Australia, Jamaica, Cuba and South Africa.”
The 2008 African Marketplace is slated to open Aug. 16 at Rancho Cienega Park, and those who make donations to Friends of the African Marketplace Inc. will receive discounted admission passes, an invitation to the annual gala as well as other gifts.
For more information, visit www.africanmarketplace.com or call (323) 293-1612.