Voffee Jabateh, U.S. Based Liberian Pushes For Southwest Philly’s Africatown
According to a dispatch from the United States, a U.S. based Liberian, the Chief Executive Officer of the African Cultural Alliance of North America (ACANA), Mr. Voffee Jabateh’s dream seems to come through giving name to an area long established as a destination for African immigrants.
“It’s been Africatown since almost 2005. It’s just now being branded,” he said of the hub of African restaurants and businesses, according to Mr. jabateh, ACANA, the nonprofit leading the Africatown effort, is expected to start work on its new headquarters on the 5400 block of Chester Avenue in November.
The headquarters when completed will cost more than $16 million, and will include a community center, banquet hall and health center. The nonprofit will also provide immigration and social services from the building.
In addition, according to the dispatch, ACANA is in the process of acquiring an existing grocery store and land on the same block, which is part of a plan to develop much of the street, the Southwest Philly is home to a vibrant and growing African immigrant community, including those from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.
African immigrants were the fastest-growing group of foreign-born Philadelphians between 2000 and 2016, according to a study from Pew Charitable Trusts, the
Africatown when completed would stretch from around S 47th Street and Baltimore Avenue to S 74th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard, and include the Woodland Avenue business corridor, which is already known as “little Africa.”
According to the ACANA CEO, the second phase of the plan for the block is expected to take two years and includes renovating the grocery store, building an office tower, and developing low-income housing. The 5400 block of Chester Avenue is expected to be known as Dolakeh Square, which means “people working together to achieve a shared goal” in the West African language of Mano.
ACANA hopes to place an arch identifying Africatown around S 60th Street and Woodland Avenue, it would be the first of its kind and be a place where those from the African diaspora in the region can identify and connect with each other as a larger community, said Ahsan Nasratullah, president of JNA Capital Inc., a developing partner with ACANA on the project.
“The project will become the launching pad to create that community connection,” he said