Intergenerational West Philadelphia business sourcing, producing cultural products for community

Tamala Edwards Image
Thursday, February 23, 2023
West Philly family business providing cultural products for community
African Cultural Art Forum has been sourcing and producing cultural products for the West Philadelphia community for more than half a century.

WEST PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Brothers Rashie Abdul-Samad and Sharif Abdur-Rahim have been in business together for 54 years as two of the founders of African Cultural Art Forum, or ACAF, located at 221 South 52nd Street.

"We're a community store," said Abdul-Samad. "And we only sell products manufactured by us as a people."

He says they do that mainly "to represent our culture."

"We carry products from throughout the diaspora," says Abdur-Rahim.

At its start, ACAF focused on producing art locally.

"We managed the artists that came to us," said Abdur-Rahim. "And we sort of directed the sales."

They also sourced items from around the world, like the sculpture they have on the wall from the Dogon people of Mali in West Africa.

As the business evolved, the company added its own line of products. The first product they started producing themselves was incense room deodorizer to freshen people's homes.

"We started distributing this product in the supermarkets in 1975," said Abdur-Rahim.

Abdur-Rahim's children grew up in the business and are working to expand it for the next generation.

Currently, Kaddi Abdur-Rahim and Rashaun Abdur-Rahim both work as managers at ACAF.

"We specialize in home décor and natural products that we produce," said Kaddi Abdur-Rahim.

They carry shea butter products and body wash/shampoo products. Some of their products, like the Black soap, is imported from Ghana.

"We provide culture to the community - one of the only stores like this in the Delaware Valley," said Kaddi Abdur-Rahim.

"We actually provide a sales portal for a lot of different small manufacturers in the community," said Sharif Abdur-Rahim.

They carry jewelry, fashion, and even musical instruments.

"The mission of African Cultural Art Forum has always been that we was gonna be self-sufficient and educate people," said Abdul-Samad.

Many items in the store have meaning. Some of the incense packages are marked with an Adinkra symbol from Ghana.

"This symbol means 'but for God, I fear none,'" said Sharif Abdur-Rahim. "Like to strengthen the faith."

"I'm extremely blessed to be working with my dad and my uncle; to gain the knowledge and information he passed onto us," said Kaddi Abdur-Rahim.

Abdul-Samad says the next generation is "doing a good job" and that they're looking forward to them doing more at the business.

"It's been a wonderful journey," said Sharif Abdur-Rahim. "We're very grateful that the community has supported us all these years."

For more information:

African Cultural Art Forum (ACAF)

ACAF on Instagram

ACAF on Facebook

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ACAF on TikTok