Harlem Week: 'A New York State of Mind'
HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 7/28/2011, 11:23 a.m.
Superlatives are often in abundance during the annual Harlem Week Festival 2011-which shall extend from July 30-August 30 in Harlem-and this year's edition, with the Amsterdam News aboard as an official sponsor with the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce (GHCC), is more than up to the challenge.
Harlem Week, which has evolved into a month of stellar moments, has "A Great Day in Harlem" as a compelling centerpiece. Under the theme of "A New York State of Mind," the day, Sunday, July 31 from noon to 9 p.m. at U.S. Grant National Memorial Park, extends from Family Unity Day to the "Concert Under the Stars."
As with many of the Harlem Week 2011 activities, emphasis is placed on family unity. To this end, events will include a diverse gathering of ethnic groups from Asia to Zimbabwe, with notable contingents from the Caribbean, Latin America and other parts of the Diasporan mosaic.
The International Gospel Caravan, with the inimitable Bishop Hezekiah Walker of the Love Fellowship Tabernacle overseeing things, is a cornucopia of remarkable voices with an international melange, featuring the Harlem Japanese Gospel Choir under the musical direction of Minister Melody Moore.
"This is a phenomenal group that last year won the McDonald's Gospel Fest," said Voza Rivers, co-director of the Dwyer Cultural Center. "After your church services, come on out to Grant's Tomb. The international choir will give you additional spiritual inspiration."
Complementing the choral serenade is the International Fashion Fusion with its colorful array of global garments, costumes and glamour, worn by attractive models and assembled by some of the finest designers.
All of this is a stunning prelude to the "Concert Under the Stars," and in this glorious constellation, no star burns with as much luminosity as the late, great Gil Scott-Heron. The evening will be a celebration of this peerless troubadour, a veritable sentinel who chronicled his generation's trials and tribulations with a repertoire of unforgettable songs, poems and novels.
Noted broadcaster Imhotep Gary Byrd and this reporter will co-host the tribute. The wondrous flute of Dave Valentin and the matchless R&B voice of Johnny Gill are among the musical guests.
On Thursday, August 4 at Columbia University in the Alfred Lerner Hall, the GHCC, Amsterdam News, NBC-4 and NY Times host the annual New York City Economic Development Day. As usual, this is an indoor-outdoor affair, combining conferences on tolerance and health, an awards luncheon, the Indoor Business Expo, Jobs & Career Fair and Outdoor with Healthy Eating and Healthy Living. The esteemed Rev. Dr. Suzan (Dr. SuJay) Johnson Cook, pastor of Believers Christian Fellowship, will give voice to the conference, with impetus on merging uptown and downtown New York City as the world recalls 9/11 and the recent devastations in Japan.
Last year's Harlem Week presented several events devoted to the earthquake that left Haiti in ruins. This year, Japan is the center of attention, where its people are still struggling to recover in the aftermath of an earthquake, tsunami and the destruction of nuclear facilities.
Other panels during the morning and afternoon will focus on a persistent theme of Harlem Week: "Healthy Eating and Healthy Living." Given the ongoing health challenges, particularly respiratory problems of residents and first responders in the wake of 9/11 and Japan, panelists will devote discussions to these issues and their overall impact on the various communities around the world.
Along with the global aspects of Harlem Week, a "New York State of Mind" is at the core, and these events, especially those taking place on "A Great Day in Harlem," are just the beginning of what promises to be a most memorable festival of enduring delights.