Last Sunday kicked off the beginning of the 39th annual Harlem Week, a summer-long series of events to celebrate not only Harlem, but urban communities in general.

“Harlem Week is important for the urban areas of America that are predominated by persons of color,” said Harlem Week Chairman Lloyd Williams, who has been organizing the event since its inception in 1974. “The objective is to encourage people in Bed-Stuy, Newark, Illinois, L.A. to celebrate their community.”

Harlem Week began in 1974 as Harlem Day, a day of encouragement and fellowship in Harlem for New Yorkers. The festival has grown to host more than 100 activities with events ranging from music concerts to film festivals, sporting events, fashion shows and career fairs.

This year’s theme is “Living the Dream: Celebrating History” and will pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

As part of the tribute, events last Sunday took place at Ulysses S. Grant National Memorial Park.

“We chose that location because of the direct connection of President U.S. Grant. Many of us remember him or think of him historically as the general in the Union Army. … He was head of the Union Army, and he, along with President Lincoln, played a major role in bringing about the Emancipation Proclamation,” said Williams.

Unfortunately, “A Night Under the Stars,” an event to celebrate the music of Stevie Wonder, who was a part of a movement to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, was canceled due to the weather.

However, Harlem Week has more events occurring through late August.

For a complete list of events, visit