Bronx Celebration Day Brings Community Together


Local Bronx performers offered samplings of Afro-Dominican jazz and Mexican folkloric dance (Photo courtesy of Natalie Wodniak).

By Erica Scalise

Local Bronx performers offered samplings of Afro-Dominican jazz and Mexican folkloric dance (Photo courtesy of Natalie Wodniak).

Live music, food, art vendors and local community organizers united the Fordham and Bronx communities this past Saturday at the second annual Bronx Celebration Day.

Natalie Wodniak, committee chair, Rafael Zapata, Fordham’s Chief Diversity Officer, Public Safety and the Office of Student Involvement (OSI) worked closely together to organize the afternoon’s festivities.

The Commuting Students Association also provided 60 feet of sandwiches from Barino’s Market, which attendees ate alongside ice cream cones from a truck parked outside of Walsh Hall.

The event was headlined by Grupo Bámbula, Yasser Tejada & Palotré, Bodoma Garífuna Cultural Band, Alessandra Belloni and other local Bronx performers. Vocal and instrumental performers offered a sampling of Afro-Dominican jazz, local hip hop and Mexican folkloric dance.

Local vendors sold original art and community organizations such as Run 4 Fun and the Bronx Children’s Museum were in attendance, informing students of the many ways they can get involved outside of campus.

Also performing was Tammy Lopez, a Dominican writer and spoken word poet from Brooklyn. Lopez, who has won a number of different poetry competitions in New York, stirred an emotional response from the crowd, who listened to her recite poems about familial conflicts and the struggles she experienced growing up as a Dominican woman.

Wodniak was pleased with the event’s turnout, which she said was made possible by the support of Dean Maura Mast. She said planning the event has taken months of preparation.

“Starting in January, we began contacting Bronx-based organizations to see if they would be interested in participating. We acquired a lot of our contacts from last year’s list of vendors, as well as recommendations from Dr. Mark Naison,” said Wodniak.

Among those in attendance was Nicoletta Nerangis, GSS ’08. Five years after graduation, Nerangis started Run 4 Fun, a running program that supports youth across the city in 10 different schools, including the Bronx.

“I wanted to volunteer with kids because I saw kids who had anxiety and kids who needed guidance. This is why I started my own program in 2013,” said Nerangis. “We started out with seven kids and then became a non-profit and gradually started growing from there.”

According to Nerangis, Run 4 Fun is currently waiting on grants to expand its program to two more schools in the Bronx. She also said this year will be the organization’s third year that its members will have the opportunity to travel internationally to Greece for running.

“I’m working to promote wellness and improve self-esteem,” said Nerangis. “Kids will do better in school if they are active and have an outlet like running so we’re really working to expand education and overall wellness through this as well.”

Hoay Smith, Art Director at Bronx Narratives, an online and print publication designed to depict the beauty of the Bronx and free the borough from its negative stigmas, also attended the celebration.

“Our goal at Bronx Narrative is to change the perspective and reinvent the story of our borough,” said Smith.

Smith said all of the work done at Bronx Narratives is sourced by local creatives.“Dondre, our founder, started Bronx Narratives when trying to explore his borough.

Once he had the idea, he recruited other young people interested in cultivating art from the community,” said Smith.

Independent vendors, such as Cathy Beauchamp, were also present. Beauchamp, born in Utuado, Puerto Rico, immigrated to New York City and has lived in the Bronx since 1969. After Cathy retired as a detective from the New York City Police Department, she began making jewelry as a hobby in August 2015.

“I made my first piece for $29.00 and sold that same piece for $70.00. This is when I realized I wanted to start doing this and teaching other women in the Bronx how to make jewelry so that they could profit from this beautiful hobby,” said Beauchamp.

Beauchamp currently teaches jewelry-making classes to women throughout the Bronx, including free classes at the Morris Park Branch Library.

Several students and Bronxites said they enjoyed the day’s festivities.

Molly Brodowski, FCRH ‘20, said the celebration far exceeded her expectations.

“I am such a huge fan of art and jewelry so the fact that there was so much of that here today was really amazing,” said Brodowski.

Brodowski also stressed the importance and responsibility of the Fordham community to host events such as Bronx Celebration Day.

“A lot of students really don’t know much about the Bronx so it’s really eye opening to see all that it can offer,” said Brodowski.

“It’s important that Fordham gets involved with the Bronx and sponsors local creatives beyond days like today so that we can ultimately help integrate the two communities into one.”

Wodniak said that the Bronx Celebration Day is not going anywhere and hopes the event will grow each year and become one that both the Fordham and Bronx community can look forward to.