Three African American women in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance, ca. 1925 (289897)
Credit: Public Domain photo

The Harlem Renaissance gave birth to a new wave of Black pride through intellect and various forms of art that agitated stereotypes and racism. Starting Feb. 1, the Harlem Renaissance continues 100 years later with the Harlem Renaissance 100 Celebration.

Executive Director at Harlem One Stop and founder of the Harlem Renaissance 100 Celebration, Yuien Chin, wants to bring the community together through an iconic period in history. “The Harlem Renaissance brought Harlem to the forefront,” said Chin. Chin is West Indian Jamaican and a 30-year Harlem resident, who is active in the community. Harlem One Stop serves as a “destination marketing organization for northern Manhattan.” Harlem Renaissance 100 Celebration is born out of cultural love. “We really come together to provide an integrated experience of the old and new. We want to show Harlem as a welcoming environment,” explained Chin.

The Harlem Renaissance 100 Celebration will highlight the beauty of Harlem and Black heritage. The initiative will include a Harlem Culture Crawl, which allows visitors and residents to tour the culinary scene. “The mission is to bring attention to the cultural landscape of Harlem. It is to remind people of what it is, was and will continue to be,” emphasized Chin.

The celebration will be filled with a host of free partner events including the Apollo Theater’s Open House, an opening ceremony at St. John the Divine featuring artistry from the Harlem School of the Arts, Harlem Opera Theater and Harlem Chamber Players. Among other partners, the Harlem Park to Park will offer specials to patrons who attend. “We’ve been working on it for the last couple of years. We have over 30 organizations, it is a major job,” said Chin. All throughout the month of February, visitors can attend events and additional events will be available through June.

Chin believes that it is important for the youth to be knowledgeable on the Harlem Renaissance. “It is very important for the younger generation. It is a way of reminding people and providing people of cultural identity,” said Chin. “It is a way to demonstrate that in the arts that nothing exists in a vacuum”.

As Harlem’s demographics rapidly change, Chin wants to make it known that cultural identity is just as important as Harlem itself. “If we don’t talk about it, it will cause people to come in and rewrite our narrative,” said Chin. With the Harlem Renaissance 100 Celebration it allows for those in the Black community to hold on to their cultural heritage as well as those who visit to acknowledge and embrace the culture.

“2020 has a lot of voice to grab people’s attention and to tell them what Harlem is all about,” Chin said. The Harlem Renaissance 100 Celebration plans to have a big bang with larger programming this year. It is set to really shine a light on Harlem being the “Mecca of Black culture.”