By Ken Hare
Chicago Defender Staff Writer
Today is the last day of the 4-day celebration of the 24th International Festival of Life (IFOL) The IFOL is more than bringing nations together to celebrate food, music and arts and crafts. According to CEO, Ephraim Martin, the IFOL is also about giving back to the community. For the past several years, the FOL has given a portion of the proceeds to certain not-for-profits that share his vision of uplifting the Black community.
The festival in its third year at Union Park is the gateway to the trendy West Loop area which host some of Chicago’s top restaurants like Embeya (progressive Asian), Chef Paul Kahan’s Blackbird or Graham Elliot’s Bistro. Sandra Macintosh and her fiancee Jason Dell from South Shore both loved the new location and says it heightens the experience.
“We like the outdoor bazaar and the music,” she said. Jason said they had planned for months to attend the event but was thrilled they could walk a few blocks for a Michelin-rated fine dining experience. “You couldn’t do this when it was in Washington Park,” he stated.
The Chicago Defender shopped the bazaar and met quite a few of its vendors, many who happened to be from out of town such as Jay and Ramila Khatau, originally from Africa, who are certified Acupressurist and Reflexologists that studied under Thai Master Tieng Yampho. They had many items geared towards relieving stress and stimulating blood circulation including some magnetic and acupressure sandals.
Nicole Harry of Nicole Designs All (NDA), says she started designing jewelry after the 2008 economic crash when she lost her job. Nicole who holds a B.A. in Interior Design bills herself as a travel and fashion lifestyle designer. Her unique pieces are hand-made out of semi-precious stones and geared towards women but has a surprise for men as well. A black onyx and agate bracelet that clears negativity and writers block. “I design for fashion but it’s made for healing,” she shared.
If you like unique fragrances and are bored of oils then you might like Christella Spry from Maryland’s latest fragrance, Beautifully Chaste. A former educator, she was inspired to change her life in 2014 when she read the book ‘The Alchemist’. She then became a full-time entrepreneur and hasn’t looked back since. Beautifully Chaste is a complex fragrance that contains a blend of fruity, floral, woodsy and spicy scents. The notes are tangerine, orange, black currant, ylang-ylang, orchid, vanilla, and ambrose. Very French.
A couple of festival attendees caught the watchful eye of the Defender with their outstanding coifs like Brother Santario Simpson who was visiting Chicago from Ohio, with his lovely wife Ashlie Simpson. And entertainer/singer CoCo Holiday, definitely a Nubian Queen.
All the way from Lois, South Carolina, was Brother Skip Gainous, whose family has been making toiletries “since the days of my great great grandmother,” he proclaimed. What makes Puresheastore’s soaps different from everyone else is they only use three ingredients in every formula – shea, essential oil and coconut oil for lather – no lye or preservatives. This is soap as it was meant to be and the sugar scrub for elbows, knees and feet were a hit as well. Followers of the loyal brand attended the festival just to purchase their favorite products which some had already sold out by day three of the festival.
Adam of Soma Fashion wowed us with his family’s hand-made tote and handbags made in Senegal, Africa. The bags are made out of recycled plastic and recycled fabric for the necklaces. The eye-popping designs are bursting with color and the necklaces stopped festival goers in their tracks. Adam said his sister Aminata who makes the necklaces takes great pride in her work. This is why you can’t beat Africa for its creativity. Wow, what a talented family.
If you are a serious art connoisseur, then you might want to see what art broker Sehou Sakho has from West Africa. According to Sehou, this statue from Mali, West Africa, sat outside the king’s palace and all who entered had to pass it in the outer court. The imposing statue is over 100 years old and can be had for a mere $25,000. If you’re on a more modest budget, there’s the Gobo Mask from Burkina Faso or the Toma from Sierra Leone.
Save the best for last and stop by and chat with Jerry Parker. The Chicago native and self-published author whose latest book ‘Ancient Egypt and the Secrets of the Sun’ is stirring controversy. “In Egypt, they left a legacy in a very grand manner,” he said. “Everything created in Egypt is still there.”
The Texas Southern University grad who studied psychology said he also took a course in Persuasion and it helped him to analyze complex ideas. Parker was inspired by another Chicagoan, Walter Williams, who wrote ‘The Historical Origins of Christianity’ and became his mentee from 1985-1997. Read all about the hidden relationship between the moon, the earth, and the sun. Truly enlightening.
There’s plenty to see, do and hear with Vo (Rap), Carl Brown (Reggae), and Supa G (Punta) appearing on the main stage later today. There’s plenty of other acts and parking so grab the kids and head out for a fun-filled event and tell them you read it in the Chicago Defender. For more details, visit their website at www.internationalfestivaloflife.com