Last Sunday, we covered Harlem: 145th Street, down Frederick Douglass Boulevard to 123rd Street, north to 125th Street, across to Lenox.
We stopped in swell venues, bristling with the life of one art form or another: Harlem School of the Arts, Dwyer Cultural Center and more.
Enjoyed the music of the United House of Prayer for All People brass band, jamming jazzy gospel to a packed sidewalk of spectators.
Passed some landmarks: The Apollo Theatre, The Victoria Theatre – now legend, The Hotel Theresa.
Peeped at businesses: a florist shops exquisite saucer Magnolia and garden tool kits, Marc Samuellsson’s Red Rooster (with a waiting list of more than an hour and folks checking out the place where The President dines Tuesday with friends comfortable enough to fork up $30,000 per fund-raising plate.)
Finally sat down at Sylvia’s where a Southern dinner and the lively gospel tape competed for attention – with the food winning.
On the way out, I parted a line of Japanese tourists eager to get to Sylvia’s food, as I was to get to the #2 southbound.
On route to Brooklyn, I thought about Harlem, all of the above, and more. During my three-hour sojourn, I saw the remainder of a great play post-intermission, spoke to bluesman Guy Davis, Amsterdam News columnist Charles Rogers, and two of the ten “Mr. Harlems” — Lloyd Douglass and Voza Rivers.
The greatest part: witnessed the exchange of actress-author-activist Ms. Ruby Dee, 86, and Ms. Gertrude Jeannette, 96, founder of the H.A.D. L.E.Y. Players, old friends for more than 70 years, in a solid exchange about new directions community theatre must take. Undistracted by the eight or nine people left in the HSA Theatre, the thespians designed their plans for Harlem theatrical future.
In that moment in the shadows, it was as clear as day that Harlem is not lost. Not yet. The place that contains more cultural institutions devoted to black life, learnings, art and artists than anywhere else in America, still has its soul. (Next week: June Truesdale’s Harlem) -BG