The African Cultural Alliance of North America (ACANA) has stood as a focal point in the Southwest Philadelphia community for the past 15 years. Founded in 1999, the nonprofit organization started out with the goal of being an institution based around arts and music, but over time ACANA has grown into something more.
From providing child care for those without means to creating public awareness videos aimed at changing the behaviors of disenfranchised youth and even providing free legal services, ACANA is one organization in the neighborhood that is truly dedicated to helping the public.
“When folks come here, if the need is there we tend to look into our resources and see who can help this person,” Executive Director Voffee Jabateh said. “So if you come here and say ‘I want to apply for public assistance,’ we are not going to say that we don’t have social workers to help people apply for public assistance, we automatically find somebody on staff who can do it.”
Throughout the seasons, the organization at 5530 Chester Ave. works to make sure that their food bank is sufficient to accommodate the large number of visitors who cannot provide for themselves. Similarly, they regularly offer free health screenings to the general public to help those without feasible access to health care.
However, not all of the services provided by ACANA are focused around health or other issues relating to poverty. As was mentioned before, ACANA was created with the goal of being an arts and music driven organization, a goal which they have managed to maintain all this time.
Currently, the group is in the process of integrating a new recording studio on the premises which will be available to any residents who have felt the drive to explore their musical talents but lack the means to do so. In the summer, ACANA holds an annual festival to celebrate African and Caribbean culture, which regularly boasts over 4,000 visitors.
Although the majority of the residents that utilize ACANA’s services are of either African or Caribbean origin, the organization is welcoming to people of all races and ethnicities. Over 1,400 visitors in search of services visited ACANA in the last year alone, which is a testament to the dedication of the organization.