CELEBRATING HARLEM

We have an inside look at the world’s most recognized neighborhood as it commemorates the centennial of its artistic and cultural revolution, The Harlem Renaissance.

For more information on Harlem Renaissance 100, click here. 

Aired on February 7, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

HARLEM IS ARGUABLY THE MOST RECOGNIZED NEIGHBORHOOD.

A MECCA FOR BLACK CULTURE, IT IS PERHAPS BEST KNOWN FOR THE EXPLOSION OF ART, POETRY AND MUSIC OCCURRED THERE IN THE 1920s AND CONSTITUTED A MOVEMENT KNOWN COLLECTIVELY AS THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE.

NOW OVER 40 HARLEM INSTITUTIONS ARE COLLABORATING ON THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE 100.

A YEAR-LONG CELEBRATION OF THE HISTORIC CENTENNIAL.

IT AIMS TO BRING TO THE PUBLIC AN EXTENDED GROUP OF PERHAPS AND ACTIVITIES ALL HIGHLIGHTING THE PAST AND THE FUTURE.

JOINING US NOW TO TELL US MORE ABOUT THE CELEBRATION, THE PRESIDENT OF THE HARLEM ONE STOP.

A COMMUNITY BASED NONPROFIT AND TOUR OPERATOR THAT IS SPEARHEADING THE PROJECT.

AND JOHN REDDICK, A HARLEM HISTORIAN PARTICIPATING IN HARLEM RENT SANCTION 100.

WELCOME TO BOTH OF YOU.

WHAT EXACTLY WAS THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE?

THERE WAS A LARGE ARMISTICE PARADE.

THEY WERE A SIGNIFICANT PLAYER IN THAT GROUP.

THEY WERE VICTORIOUS IN SENDING OUT THE MUSIC THAT WOULD BECOME THE JAZZ RHYTHMS FOR THE RENAISSANCE PERIOD.

SO WE'RE CELEBRATING THAT KICKOFF AFTER THE WAR AND WHAT STARTS TO BE THE PROHIBITION WITH THE RENAISSANCE.

WHO ARE SOME OF THE PEOPLE ASSOCIATED WITH THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE?

IT IS VERY INTERESTING.

THERE WAS AN EARLIER GROUP THERE, A RAG TIME ARTIST THAT VERY FEW PEOPLE KNOW.

BUT THEY INFLUENCE PEOPLE LIKE GERSHWIN.

THE SECOND LARGEST JEWISH COMMUNITY IN NEW YORK.

SO THE AMERICAN SONG BOOK COMES OUT OF THE INTERSECTION OF THESE TWO GROUPS.

SOME INDIVIDUALS THAT OUR VIEWERS MAY KNOW.

PAUL ROBE SON?

JOSEPHINE BAKER.

THEY GOT THEIR STARTS IN HARLEM AND BECAME INTERNATIONAL CELEBRITIES.

THEY BECAME THE AMBASSADORS OF THE CULTURE.

LOUIE ARMSTRONG.

NO MATTER WHERE YOU WERE IN AMERICA, IF YOU WERE A BLACK ARTIST AND INSPIRED, YOU CAME TO HARLEM.

YEAH.

WHAT WAS THE GENESIS OF THIS AMBITIOUS PROJECT?

HOW DID IT COME TO BE?

AMBITIOUS INDEED.

THIS IS AN EXCITING TIME MANY HARLEM WITH ALL THE CHANGES, THE GENTRIFICATION, NEW RESIDENTS MOVING IN.

SO IT IS EXCITING AND WE WANTED TO INTRODUCE HARLEM AND WHAT IT MEANS TO THE COMMUNITY AND TO THE WORLD.

WHO IS WE?

YOU AND A FRIEND?

HERE'S AN IDEA.

WHY DON'T WE SPEND A WHOLE YEAR OF OUR LIVES PUTTING TOGETHER THE MOST IMPORTANT ORGANIZATION?

SO WE THOUGHT IT WAS IMPORTANT TO COMMEMORATE THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE AND NOW MORE THAN EVER, IT WAS IMPORTANT TO NOT LOSE THE CULTURAL ESSENCE OF WHAT WAS HARLEM, WHAT IS HARLEM.

DO YOU THINK THAT'S A POSSIBILITY IN.

WELL, THERE IS A POSSIBILITY.

NEIGHBORHOODS CHANGE.

PEOPLE FORGET THEIR HISTORY AND THAT IS ANOTHER REASON FOR HAVING THIS CELEBRATION.

SHE GROU UP IN JAMAICA, I GREW UP IN PHILADELPHIA.

BUT HARLEM WAS A BEACON.

WE'RE POST CIVIL RIGHTS ERA.

THE PASSION THEY'VE GIVEN US, WE WANT TO SEND THAT BACK OUT IN WAVES.

SO THERE HAS BEEN GENTRYIFICATION.

I DON'T LIKE TO PEWS WORD BECAUSE IT IS RESOURCES FOR THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE.

REASURGENCE, YOUNG PEOPLE.

I WAS TALKING TO THE STAFF HERE ABOUT THE RESTAURANTS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

THAT'S WHAT WE WANT TO REVITALIZE AND GET THE WORD OUT.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED?

I MENTION AD COUPLE OF THEM.

YOU MENTION THAT HAD THERE ARE OVER 30, 40 ORGANIZATIONS.

IT INCLUDES THE LARGE AND SMALL ONES.

THE APOLLO, FOR ONE, THE SCHAUMBURG, THE NEW YORK HIS, TOAL SOCIETY.

ALTHOUGH THEY'RE NOT BASED IN HARLEM BUT THEY HAVE A PLETHORA OF AFRICAN CENTRIST PROGRAMS WHICH REALLY SPEAK CURRENTLY NOW TO THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE.

AND YOU'RE GOING ON INTRODUCE SOME ORGANIZATIONS --

THAT ARE LESSER KNOWN.

TO NEW YORKERS.

YES.

THE COURSE OF DOING THIS PROJECT, YOU'VE BEEN AT IT SINCE THE BEGINNING.

WHAT HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ABOUT HOW MUCH NEW YORKERS KNEW ABOUT HARLEM?

THE RENAISSANCE?

NOT ONLY NEW YORK AND THE COUNTRY BUT THE WORLD.

SO VERY LITTLE.

IN TERMS OF HARLEM, ONE OF THE MAIN MOTIVATIONS AT THAT TIME WAS TO GET AWAY FROM THE WHITE STEREO TYPE OF WHAT AFRICAN NEGRO OR BLACK AMERICAN LIFE WAS.

TODAY WE WANT TO TELL WORLD THAT HARLEM IS STILL HARLEM CULTURALLY.

THE ENERGY AND THE VITALITY STILL EXISTS.

I MENTION THAT HAD IN THE INTRODUCTION.

THIS IS NOT JUST LOOKING BACK AT HISTORY.

IT IS THE UNDERPINNING.

I MENTIONED THE HOP HOP WRITERS CAME BEFORE GEORGE GERSHWIN.

WE WANT TO HAVE THIS INTERACTION.

THIS IS A WAY TO BRING A LIGHT TO WHAT'S GOING ON.

CERTAINLY NOT JUST ABOUT THE PAST.

THE PAST AND THE FUTURE.

SO THIS HAS ALREADY STARTED.

WE'VE ALREADY STARTED THE CENTENNIAL.

TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE EVENTS OUR VIEWERS MIGHT HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO GOING ON OVER THE COURSE OF THE YEAR.

WELL, THERE IS THE PROGRAM THAT HUGE SCALE, IT INCLUDES 100-PIECE CHOIR.

AND IT FEATURES DAMIAN SNEED, THE COMPOSER AND ARTIST, RECORDING ARTIST.

THERE IS AN OPEN HOUSE AT THE APOLLO WHICH FILMS INCLUDE FILM SCREENING AS WELL AS PERFORMANCES.

AND WE HAVE ON THE KAENL DARR HARLEM'S JAZZ ICONS, GEORGE GERSHWIN WHO IS NOT PARTICULARLY KNOWN FOR JAZZ.

BILLY STRAYHORN.

THAT'S JUST SCRATCHING THE SURFACE.

ON.

YOUR BACKGROUND IS IN ARCHITECTURE.

I WAS WONDERING, TO WHAT DEGREE DID THE ARREST TEXTURE OF HARLEM INSPIRE THE ARTISTS --

WELL, COMING FROM PHILADELPHIA AND READING ABOUT THE ARM STIS PARADE AND THE BLACK SOLDIERS MARCHING UP FIFTH AVENUE.

AS AN ARCHITECT, I CAN NEVER COME UP FIFTH AVENUE AND REALIZE, NOT ONLY HAD THOSE SOLDIERS FOUGHT IN EUROPE AND SEEN PARIS, BUT THEY REALIZED THE DISTRICT LOOKED LIKE PARIS.

THE BROAD BOULEVARDS AND THE SENSE OF HE WILL POWERMENT.

IT IS NOT CATFISH ROW.

IT IS A BEAUTIFUL NEIGHBORHOOD.

EVERYONE GOES, OH, WE DIDN'T REALIZE IT WAS THAT BEAUTIFUL.

IT HAS BEEN THAT BEAUTIFUL OVER 100 YEARS.

SO THE HEIGHTS IN CENTRAL HARLEM AND THE BROAD BOULEVARDS, WE WANT PEOPLE TO COME EXPERIENCE THE VITALITY, THE ENERGY THAT MAKES PEOPLE FEEL LIKE THEY'RE IN A SPECIAL PLACE OF THE.

DO YOU FEE LIKE I WAS EXAGGERATING IT IN THE INTRODUCTION?

I SAID THAT HARLEM IS ARGUABLY THE BEST KNOWN NEIGHBORHOOD IN THE WORLD?

I TRAVEL ALL OVER THE WORLD.

YOU MENTION HARLEM.

YOU CAN MENTION A $5 MILLION HOUSE AND THE NEXT CONVERSATION NONGS BILLIONAIRES WILL BE ABOUT THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

WHAT DID THE OPPRESSED FIND AS A MECCA?

IT TURNED INTO THIS GLORIOUS PLACE.

IT IS A BEACON FOR ANY GROUP LOOKING THE PUSH THEIR CULTURE FORWARD.

AND I WOULD LIKE THE ASK BOTH OF YOU THIS QUESTION.

IT IS CLEAR, THE IMPACT, THE EFFECT THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE HAD ON BLACK HISTORY AND CULTURE.

IT HOMELESS A PROFOUND EFFECT ON THE HISTORY AND THE CULTURE OF AMERICA OVERALL.

ON TELL US HOW THAT IS.

MUSIC GOES OVER THE WALL.

SO HIP HOP, ALL THOSE BEATS.

IF YOU GET THE BEAT, YOU GET THE CULTURE.

AND I THINK AFRICAN-AMERICANS WERE SYNCING IN A MUSICAL WAY THAT BROUGHT OTHERS ON BOARD AND YOU STILL SEE IT IN THE HIP HOP.

THEY DIDN'T HAVE MUSIC IN THEIR EXCUSE.

YET THEY FIGURED OUT A WAY TO MAKE MUSIC THROUGH SAMPLING.

THERE IS A GENIUS THAT WE DON'T PUT FORWARD.

WE FEEL LIKE THE KEEPERS.

SO WE WANT YOU TO FEEL IT FIRST.

WOULD AMERICA BE THE SAME IF THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE HADN'T HAPPENED?

I DON'T THINK SO.

JUST THE DEVELOPMENT OF JAZZ.

JUST THE JAZZ AND THE LITERARY ART.

IT WOULDN'T BE THE SAME.

IT WOULDN'T HAVE THE ENERGY AND VITALITY.

WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THIS BEFORE THE CAMERAS STARTED ROLLING OF THIS SHOULD BE TAUGHT IN HISTORY BOOKS, AT LEAST IN NEW YORK CITY.

AFTER THE YEAR IS OVER AND YOU'LL FINALLY BE ABLE TO REST FOR 24 HOURS, WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO HAVE ACCOMPLISHED?

WELL, A GREATER APPRECIATION AND AWARENESS FOR HARLEM AND THE SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT WORLDWIDE.

AND ALSO, A SENSE OF EMPOWERMENT.

ESPECIALLY FOR YOUNG KIDS.

AND ORGANIZATIONS PARTICIPATING, BIG AND SMALL, A CHANCE FOR THE SMALLER ONES TO SEE WE CAN REALLY PARTNER TOGETHER AND PULL THINGS FORWARD AND GET ATTENTION.

A LOT OF SMALL GROUPS, AS GOOD AS THEY ARE, LIKE THE AIRING OF THE SHOW YOU'RE GIVING AS YOU CHANCE TO GET THE VOICES OUT.

I THINK THAT WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

AND EACH ORGANIZATION WAS INVITED BECAUSE OF THE VARIOUS ELEMENTS OF THE HARLEM RENT SANLS THEY REPRESENTED EXTREMELY WELL.

MUSIC, LITERARY, DANCE, JAZZ, SO WE'RE VERY EXCITED.

WE HOPE EVERYONE WILL COME UP TO EXPERIENCE IT.

I'LL BE THERE.

ALL RIGHT.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

OUR PLEASURE.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HARLEM RENAISSANCE 100, YOU CAN VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT METROFOCUS.ORG.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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