Shoppers hunting for bargains in West Philadelphia had an opportunity to do so on Saturday at the Uhuru flea market held annually at Clark Park in the University City area.
Organized by the Uhuru Solidarity Movement — an organization founded in the 1960s to support African liberation and independence — the movement has held flea markets to raise funds to finance projects and programs designed to support African people around the world.
“The Uhuru Solidarity Movement is an organization of white people and other allies who work directly under the leadership of the African-led Uhuru movement,” said Harris Daniels, a Uhuru organizer.
According to Daniels, Uhuru is an international organization with a presence in Africa, Europe, the U.S. and wherever African people can be found around the world.
“We in the Uhuru Solidarity Movement have the opportunity to break free from the historic complicity that white people, Europeans and North Americans, have had with the resources we have access to,” said Daniels, who was at the organization’s booth erected at the site of the flea market.
Through various actions, institutions and fundraisers such as the flea market, Daniels noted the movement can directly contribute to the economic self-reliance programs said to support African people’s independence.
This is Uhuru’s eighth year at Clark Park and is attended by a broad mix of residents including youth and seniors, students and educators, neighbors and out of town visitors.
People of all nationalities and cultures visit the vendors who provide a wide array of products such as clothing, jewelry and art, according to Daniels.
“I think one success of the Uhuru Freedom market in Clark Park is that we have been able to bring the community together under the banner of freedom, self-determination and economic development to the African-community,” he said.
According to Daniels, the displacement of African people can be seen in the University City area of West Philadelphia where the park is located.
“West Philadelphia, which is a community that is primarily Black or African, has been heavily gentrified by University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, corporations and the city itself,” Daniels said. “Where there used to be African markets all of the time, people would come together, vendors would sell things, people’s livelihoods were supported by the community.” This has change, he said.
“It’s [the Uhuru flea market] has been a success in many different ways and it also gives the vendors the opportunity to have economic rights which the city is constantly cracking down on,” said Daniels in reference to the fees levied against vendors by city officials, the permitting process and, most recently, the decision to remove awnings from the 52nd street business corridor, which some believe to be burdensome to the vendors who traditionally peddle their wares there.
These things, according to Daniels, makes it much more difficult for vendors who are already facing hard economic times.
“This is one place where people can still come and have that kind of economic activity and it’s also something that really embraces the diversity of the community and have opportunities for everyone to deepen their understanding of what they can do to support social justice for African and other oppressed people,” Daniels said.
Future Uhuru flea markets will be held at Clark Park, June 16, Aug. 4, Sept. 22 and Oct. 20. For more information, about vending opportunities or to volunteer, call the Uhuru Solidarity Movement at (215) 387-0919.