SO cafe to host fundraiser to assist hurricane victims

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Truly embracing the idea that laughter is the best medicine, a local woman is hosting the “Laugh for a Cause” fundraiser on Friday, Nov. 17, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Inkosi’s Cafe on Irvington Avenue in South Orange, with proceeds benefiting victims of the recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Orange resident Alexandra Akcire McLeod, a recent graduate of Montclair State University, is hosting the event, which will feature a variety of local standup comedians as well as a live DJ. McLeod’s business is Akcire Enterprise, and it is through the philanthropic arm of the company that she will be running the fundraiser.

“I’m an event producer and music manager, and philanthropy has always been a huge part of who I am. In fact, the name for the charitable giving part of my company is ‘Pangaea,’ which is the name of the supercontinent that existed before earthquakes and other natural disasters over many years created the seven continents that we now know,” she said in a recent phone interview with the News-Record. “To me, the name signifies diversity, but also unification and that we are all one human race.”

According to McLeod, she knew after the hurricanes devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico that she wanted to do something to help, especially when media coverage revealed how little assistance the two tropical islands seemed to be receiving from the United States.

“When I saw the damage that hurricanes Maria and Irma did, I knew it was time to do something, and I wanted to start domestically,” she said. “I have friends and family in both places, and many people I know also have loved ones in both places who are suffering.”

McLeod also focused her donation efforts to these two places because she felt that neither was receiving the help from the U.S. government that it should, especially considering the fact that they are both U.S. territories. This knowledge bothered her a great deal.

“I feel like people know that they are part of the United States, but we don’t treat the people that live there that way. They aren’t seen as Americans, and they are treated like second-class citizens,” she said. “For me, this was even more of a reason why we should take the initiative to reach out and try to show that we care.”

Finding a location to hold the event was a process that came together almost as easily as the idea to host it.

“I had been to Inkosi’s last year while in the area, and recently a friend of mine from college introduced to me to an artist who mentioned that his family owned a restaurant in South Orange that I should come check out. When I got there I realized that it was the same place I had visited last year,” she said.

Knowing that Inkosi’s Cafe is known in the local community for supporting nonprofit organizations and various social causes, McLeod approached them with her idea for the event.

“I love the food, love the environment and I wanted to keep it local. When I reached out to them, they were immediately on board with the idea. It was actually (owner) Barbara Burgess who came up with the idea of calling it ‘Laugh for a Cause,’” she said.

Donations being requested include: batteries, flashlights, first aid kits, diapers and feminine hygiene products; they will be accepted through Friday at Inkosi’s Cafe. The items will be sent to Community Foundation of Virgin Islands and Save the Children in Puerto Rico. Admission to the event includes a drink and an entree.

Photos by Shanee Frazier