Building Community in South Florida with Mangoes

(3BL Media and Just Means)--In light of recent police shootings, the exposure of racial tension in many cities in the United States, and the discrimination many religious groups face because of extremists, our determination and pursuit of a colorblind narrative must endure. We have to focus our energies on discovering our commonalities, the things that bring us together. Often, it can be the small gifts which create unity. In Northwood, an artsy village in West Palm Beach, Florida, this gift is the mango tree. Mangoes have united this community for decades, and this year, local residents have determined to bridge cultural, socioeconomic and racial gaps by honoring this historic identity. This June 26th and 27th, local residents of all cultures, economics and professions, are coming together to celebrate one another at the Mango and Music Festival.

“The Northwood area is home to people from a diverse array of cultures, many of which also have a deep mango heritage. ” says Betsy Dorn, Northwood Resident, Mango Fest Volunteer Coordinator and Consulting Director of Reclay StewardEdge.  “A primary goal of this festival is to unite us in celebration of our shared mango heritage.”

The first fruit-bearing mango tree in the United States was grown by Reverend Elbridge Gale in downtown Northwood. Today, the community is so abundant with mango trees that there is an incredible amount of waste.  To reduce this waste, Northwood Greenlife, an organization dedicated to sustainable living practices in the community, is collecting unused mangoes to donate to the Palm Beach County Food Bank. The mango drive will be held during the Mango and Music Festival and prior to the event on Saturdays in May and June. Donations will be accepted at the Village Greens Community Garden located at 441 25th Street, between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

Mangoes in Northwood also bridge a shared heritage amongst a variety of South American, Latin American and African American cultures who different varieties of the mango in their cuisines. Local chefs will highlight these cultures through mango-inspired recipes in the Chef Showcase. Mango tastings includes a shrimp and mango ceviche from Chef Roberto Villegas from Table 427; mango gazpacho from Chef Alan Ponze from Bistro Bistro;  and mango cheesecake from Chef Anthony Marone from Obo. Local vendors will sell mango-themed products and South Florida bands like Mixed Culture, Jimmy Stowe and the Stowaways, and Moska Project Band will provide Latin, reggae and Caribbean beats to get the crowd moving. There will also be opportunities for attendees to participate in a mango recipe contest, judged by Mayor Jeri Muoio, local celebrity, Aaron Wormus and Chef Roberto from Table 427. The “village will be aglow with mango.” 

“We passionately believe in bringing together our community members of diverse cultures in celebration of our shared mango heritage and bringing people to the Northwood area to get to know what a great community we have here in the North End,” says Dorn.

Sometimes it’s the little gifts that can offer the most meaning to a diverse community. Thank you, mangoes, for giving that to the village of Northwood.

Attend the Mango and Music Festival. Enter the Mango Recipe Contest. Read about why mangoes matter to Northwood.