African American Day Parade Credit: Bill Moore photo

From online to in line, the African American Day parade is finally back on Harlem streets after spending the past two years streamed virtually. On Sunday, Sept. 18, marchers headed uptown on Adam Clayton Jr. Boulevard from 111th to 137th Street. 

This year’s theme is “Good Health Is Essential.” The five grand marshals were medical professionals Dr. Michelle Henry, Sandra Lindsay, Bernard Robinson, Pamela Abner and Dr. Gary Butts while NYC Schools Chancellor David Banks was also honored.

Youngster enjoys Sunday’s African American Day parade in Harlem. Credit: Benny Polatseck/Mayoral Photography Office photo

“Sharing the hugs, smiles, and appreciation reminds me of why I fight the tough battles,” said local State Senator Cordell Cleare. “Connecting with the people is what keeps me grounded and in touch with their concerns and needs. It’s hard to imagine we have not been out here in person for two years. Everyone was overdue. Congratulations to the parade committee on the 53rd Annual African American Day Parade.”

Mayor Eric Adams was there. So were Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, Attorney General Letitia James and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. And 92-year-old Charles Rangel and local Assembly Member Inez Dickens rolled through in the backseat of a cherry red, 1975 Chevy Caprice. Even Rep. Lee Zeldin was present to shake hands and campaign for governor, although the color combination of red, black and green were visibly absent from his crew.

Rev. Al Sharpton at the African American Day Parade Credit: Bill Moore photo

The parade was founded during the tail-end of the Civil Rights Movement and has run the third Sunday of September each year, for the past 53 years. For some, the festivities served as a platform for the continued, unfinished pursuit of equality.

“I was proud to represent our district on the Freedom Fighter’s float along with former political prisoners and Black Panthers because our fight for freedom is ongoing and we are Black every day,” said local city councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan.

The December 12th Movement chanted for reparations while the Women’s Community Justice Association promoted the potential Rikers’ alternative women’s center in Harlem. 

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell Credit: Bill Moore photo

And there’s catching up to do after two years of livestreams and Pix11 broadcasts. This year’s Miss Harlem Shake was a combo deal, with 2022’s winner Lizzy Chanel sharing the spotlight with past burger queens Kay Angrum (2020) and “Toe Whoppin” Tina Sims (2021). For winning the local restaurant’s contest, they receive $1,000, $500 to charity and lots and lots of food. Sims remembers attending the parade every year as a child and Angrum recalls watching from  her grandmother’s fire escape. Now they’re sitting in the best seat in the house, in the back of a parade convertible cruiser. As for why there’s youngsters dressed as condiment bottles accompanying them?

“I have my niece with me, and my nephew—there’s a couple of other kids here that [are] dressed up in the Harlem Shake outfits,” said Chanel. “We have the shakes, the burgers, the fries, the ketchup and mustard.”
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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