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African delights in Harlem

African fabrics at the Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market

The more I hear the word "shithole" regarding places like Africa, Haiti, and El Salvador, the more I want to march out onto the streets and give every immigrant from these areas a big, welcoming hug.

Since that would be physically impossible, I'll just say this:

Thiebu Djen at Africa Kine restaurant

Harlem, this city, and this country would be so much poorer without the Senegalese community that has settled in and around 116th Street (it's often called Little Senegal) and shared with us their hearty peanut soups and thiebu djen, their national fish-and-rice dish. Every so often food writers from New York Magazine, The NY Daily News, and The New York Times come uptown and rave about the Senegalese fare they've eaten at places like Africa Kine and Pikine. It's not a coincidence.

African baskets at Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market

Harlem, this city, and this country would be so much poorer without the Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market, where immigrants from Ghana, Nigeria, and other West African countries gather to sell a colorful array of African clothing, jewelry, baskets and beauty products. Talk about artisanal and small-batch. No proper tour of Harlem is complete without it, including the one-hour narrated walk Red Rooster chef Marcus Samuelsson created for Detour.

Harlem, this city, and this country would be so much poorer without the Ethiopian immigrants who have introduced American tastebuds to dazzling new flavors through their spicy stews and spongy bread. Upper Manhattan boasts at least five great Ethiopian restaurants, including my personal favorite, Abyssinia, but also Tsion Cafe, Zoma, Massawa, and newcomer Benyam–also a critic's pick.

Now's a perfect time to stop by these businesses, show them your support, and let them know you want to see more people like them–not less–in Harlem, this city, and this country. Because that's what this land is all about.

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