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African-American Day Parade becoming just all American?

W.A.T.E.R. 17 Special to the AmNews | 9/27/2012, 3:52 p.m.
Many voiced their dissatisfaction regarding the gradual changes occurring in their beloved Black community at...
African-American Day Parade becoming just all American?

Many voiced their dissatisfaction regarding the gradual changes occurring in their beloved Black community at the 43rd annual African-American Day Parade (AADP) last Sunday. They see its traditions, some decades old, as being slowly phased out.

"The brother who started it [Benny Krim] would turn over in his grave if he knew what this parade has become," said lifelong Harlemite and Cop Watch activist Jazz Hayden, 71. "The chief groups are the corrections, police departments--city and state. It's become a law enforcement parade. They're the biggest groups and contingents here--the same ones running those prisons, putting our youth against the wall, sending [them] to jail."

The AADP was established in 1969 to promote unity and economic empowerment for descendants of chattel slavery in America. Initially it ran from 110th to 142nd streets, along Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, but in recent years has come to a stop at 135th Street.

"I remember when the crowd was denser, both sides of Seventh Avenue were filled," reflected onlooker Brother Larry, 63. "It doesn't have the same pulse anymore."

The event was meant for Americanized-Africans to showcase their annual achievements and highlight their glorious heritage, simultaneously promoting dignity, pride and unity. Although those customs continue, the ominous police presence has disenfranchised many lately.

"What is the DOCs bus doing at the AADP?" Hayden rhetorically questioned. "These people are a part of this oppression being meted out to our communities--the criminalizing of our youth, disrupting people's lives. These people are celebrating the AADP with us in Harlem--the quintessential symbol of African-American struggle?"

Sister Pat, 42, whose parents are Harlem Black Panthers from the '60s, proclaimed, "We need a revolution! The pigs aren't doing their job. Look at 'em just standing there." She gestured toward two stationary cops who were supposed to be guiding people at the 127th Street intersection but were just jawing as pedestrians hurriedly scurried between parade partitions--until a sergeant stepped on the scene.

"Whose interests are they serving?" quizzed Jazz.

She continued: "I've never seen this many [Caucasians] at our parade. It keeps increasing each year. Look at them walking through, disrupting things."

Citizens cite the AADP's shortened distance and hours, ethnic relocation and increased police patrols as obvious signs of a not-so-harmonious future for Harlem.

Brother Larry warned, "If we don't organize soon, in another decade, it'll be known only as the 'Harlem Parade,' and it'll be all them," referring to the influx of Caucasians.

Hayden adds, "To have all of our Black elected officials embracing Police Commissioner [Ray] Kelly [on 111th Street] like he's doing a good thing in Harlem, and he's somebody that we are proud of, and happy to have in Harlem, on African-American Day." [Laughs.] "How do you do this?"

He also mentioned the influence an AADP organizer had on the NYPD:

"When he came over, the police were hugging and embracing [him]. ... Who is this guy? He's controlling a symbol of African-American history, something that's important to us, and he's kissing our oppressors and making them happy? He's the one responsible for this huge police presence in our parade, and how it's run. Shouldn't it be controlled by the community?

"They're whittling away at this parade, little by little. They're destroying it, and that's because our political representatives have fallen asleep on their job."