African American Day Parade Credit: Bill Moore photo

70 degrees on 7th Avenue—a perfect day for the 54th annual African American Day Parade in Harlem this past Sunday, Sept. 17. This year’s official theme has been the event’s unofficial theme since its 1969 inception: “Celebrating African American Culture.” 

Tandy Lau photos

Floats, marching bands, sweaty elected officials, and several souped-up Department of Sanitation (DSNY) garbage trucks made their way uptown on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard from 111th Street to 137th Street as smiling tots, proud residents, and folks trying to get onto the other side of the street looked on. 

Mayor Eric Adams recalled a three-decade history with the parade dating all the way back to when he was a transit cop. 

“I’ve been marching in this parade for almost 30 years, [first] as a police officer, [then as a] state senator, borough president, and now as the Mayor of the City of New York,” Adams said. “Harlem has always held it down. Keep doing it…[it’s been] a long journey. We’re going to keep marching together.”

“I enjoyed being out in [the] community to continue this tradition, which I have done for years, even before City Council,” added Harlem Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan. “This year, it was a particularly great honor to march with the Freedom Fighters Contingent [since] just a few weeks ago, we celebrated the street naming of Black Panther Way.”

Bill Moore photos

Even after all these years, the parade is still evolving. African American Day Parade chair Yusuf Hasan pointed to the newly-implemented “Get Involved” Saturday event outside the Harlem state office building, which provided children’s book readings and local health panels for the community. All in all, Hasan says the weekend was a resounding success.

“This year’s parade was very great,” he said. “And I think this year is a prelude for what we’re going to do for our 55th anniversary coming next year.”

He says 2024 will focus on politics and government, pointing to the inaugural grand marshals Shirley Chisholm and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. 

Sunday’s parade marks the first since the February passing of the event’s chair emeritus and founding member Abe Snyder, one of 13 organizers who started the African American Day Parade, Inc. in 1968 in hopes of celebrating Black culture, providing positive representation, and honoring their forebears. Since then, the parade has marched up Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (aka 7th Avenue) on the third Sunday of September. 

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