Walking up and down these streets just don’t feel the same. There was a beauty that lay in between the hustle and bustle. Cyphers, dance, sketchings, graff, double dutch and comedy were all parts of the heartbeat of the Harlem that shaped me. As I wax poetic about the past I also have to honestly ask myself how much I enjoyed such things as they occurred in the moment. The arts in particular have been notoriously overlooked, by us, in real time. We’ll observe, enjoy or partake in what’s hot in the now with a slant that’s seeking the next big thing. It’s been that way for a while and for a while it’s been a condition that we needed to remedy. We need to respect our creative from inception through generations because as said by a young man who has family ties in Harlem for a span of a century, L. Adé Williams, “The arts are both our mirror and our treasure.”
As the Apollo Theater’s associate director of Community Programs and the creator and producer of the theater’s Apollo Uptown Hall series, Williams will unveil on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 7 p.m., in partnership with the New York Amsterdam News, Spectrum News NY1 and WLBS, The Apollo Uptown Hall: Harlem’s Culture—Past. Present. Future. The panel will gather thought leaders from some of Harlem’s most influential arts organizations to celebrate milestone anniversaries in the Harlem arts community and discuss the roles these cultural organizations will play in either preserving traditions or advancing change.
Says Williams, “The Apollo Uptown Hall is an important series because people from the community will have the opportunity to submit questions to our moderators—handled this time by Spectrum News NY1’s Anchor Cheryl Wills, New York Amsterdam News’ Herb Boyd and WBLS’ Imhotep Gary Byrd. Those moderators can have those questions answered by the panel. And this isn’t a panel of pontificators; they’re doers. The panel is comprised of The African-American Day Parade’s Chairman Yusuf Hasan; The Apollo Theater’s Executive Producer Kamilah Forbes; Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Executive Director Anna Glass and Artistic Director Virginia Johnson; HARLEM WEEK Inc.’s Chairman Lloyd Williams and Board Member Donna Walker-Kuhne; and National Black Theatre’s CEO Sade Lythcott and Director of Theatre Arts Jonathan McCrory. These are people with a proven track record for making things happen, so their answers carry weight.”
The facelift presently going on in pivotal African-American communities throughout the nation necessitates not just a greater need for appreciation but more importantly preservation. “People generally don’t preserve what they don’t know is important. That’s why this event will look at the participating organization’s future plans, but we’ll also pay homage to those who paved the way for us, including Harlem visionaries Arthur Mitchell, the Hon. Percy E. Sutton, and providing the music will be DJ Red Alert.”
The event will close with a performance by the Brooklyn United Marching Band and a special presentation by Keisha Sutton-James, granddaughter of Harlem politician Percy E. Sutton.
The Apollo Uptown Hall: Harlem’s Culture—Past. Present. Future. is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are mandatory at http://apollotheater.org/uptownhall.
As we reflect on artistry let’s celebrate the life and wisdom of the now late, great Toni Morrison. In an interview in Oprah magazine, in the early 2000s, Morrison connected with me by saying, “When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” I try to make my moves for the collective we. Thanks for the inspiration. Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.