At the second annual Bronx Celebration Day on April 21, a Mexican folk dance troupe, Marzarte Dance Company, held hands with Fordham students and local residents for an energetic chain dance around the Walsh Lot of the Rose Hill campus.
Folklorist and choreographer Martha Nora Zarate-Alvarez, who heads the Bronx-based ensemble, said the group’s lively performance represented the traditions of the Huasteco and Jalisco regions of Mexico.
“We wanted to showcase the importance of Mexican culture in the Bronx and traditional Mexican dance,” said Zarate-Alvarez, who was dressed in a multicolored tiered skirt. “Mexican culture is more than just mariachi music.”
Bronx Celebration Day was presented by the Bronx Collaboration Committee, a division of the Fordham Club, and co-sponsored by Bronx Community Board 6, Fordham University Commuting Students Association, Fordham Road BID, and the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer at Fordham University.
Fordham College at Rose Hill senior Michael Ortiz, a member of the Fordham Club, said the mission of the Bronx Collaboration Committee is to integrate the Bronx with the Fordham campus.Though last year’s inaugural Bronx Celebration Day was held in McGinley Center, organizers took this year’s festivities outdoors.
“Having this year’s event at the [entrance]of the campus where it’s visible and audible beyond the gates was important connection that we wanted to make,” he said.
In addition to supporting local vendors selling t-shirts, handmade jewelry, art, books, and other items, Bronx Celebration Day featured several local music and dance groups, such as Dominican performers Yasser Tejeda & Palotrév; Afro Puerto Rican ensemble Bàmbula; Italian percussionist-dancer-singer Alessandra Belloni; Honduran cultural music group Bodoma Garifuna Cultural Band; and Latin, funk, and hip-hop group Boom Bits.
“The local groups demonstrate the creativity and beauty of the Bronx,” said Rafael Zapata, Fordham’s first chief diversity officer. “The event is really a great way for students who aren’t familiar with the community to learn about the roots of the borough, and also to be affirmed and inspired by the music, dance, art, and culture.”
Wakefield resident Hoay Smith was selling graphic baseball caps and hard copies of Bronx Narratives, a magazine he helped to launch with Dondre Green, the magazine’s founder and creative director. He said events like Bronx Celebration Day invites those who aren’t familiar with the borough to see the community through a fresh lens.
“Our underlying goal is to reinvent the story of the borough and this event helps us to spread brand awareness,” he said.
Nearby, local artist Evelyn Ray of Parkchester was selling vibrant collages and paintings. The work highlighted her Puerto Rican and Bronx pride.
“This is my life, my passion,” she said pointing to a painting bearing the Puerto Rican flag. “I think of this event as my little pop-up shop.”
South Korean artist Sohhee Oh brought along her mobile communal art project called “The Golden Door.” The three-dimensional cardboard door had the American flag painted on the side panels. During the event, she asked Fordham students and local residents to write down where they were from on Post-it notes, which were then placed on the golden door.
“The project is for the immigrants of the Bronx, but I also wanted people at the event, who are not immigrants, to know that the project widens the meaning of what an immigrant is.”
Looking out at the diverse group of attendees who gathered in the lot, Fordham College at Rose Hill senior Abigail Kedik said Bronx Celebration Day has helped to deepen Fordham students’ relationship to different ethnic groups that continue to make their mark on the borough.
“We’re guests in the Bronx and we should be open to collaborating,” said Kedik. “This is a great experience that helps students learn more about the community that we are a part of.”