Governor Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Representative Charles Rangel today announced the first-ever annual Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival, an international visual and performing arts, fashion, education and culinary exchange celebrating the rich artistic connection between iconic cities Harlem, New York and Havana, Cuba.
The Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival will first bring world-renowned Cuban musicians, visual artists, dancers, film, chefs and educators to the U.S. this summer as part of HARLEM WEEK activities from August 15-21. In February 2017, an American delegation of artists and cultural leaders (to be announced at a later date) will travel to Havana and take part in a number of curated events.
Plans for this unprecedented cultural exchange have been in development for over two years, with efforts led by Congressman Rangel and The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY 5) and the Cuban Deputy Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas.
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“On behalf of the State of New York, I was pleased to have led a State trade mission to Cuba in April of 2015, the first by a sitting U. S. Governor. Our New York global initiative and our trade mission to Cuba are all about opening the door to new economic opportunities. Therefore, I am honored to have been asked by my friends, Congressman Charles Rangel, Congressman Gerald Meeks and The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce to co-chair “Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival” which is our State’s first cultural and educational initiative with Cuba. I have asked State agencies including: SUNY, I Love NY, Empire State Development Corporation and NY State Council on the Arts to partner with this exciting initiative.
Rojas informed The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce delegation, led by Congressman Rangel in March of this year, that the “Havana/Harlem initiative is magical and is about the Cuban participation in one of the most prestigious cultural events that takes place in the United States.”
The festival, set to be an annual event, will also bring full circle Rep. Rangel’s tireless efforts for over 20 years to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Since 1993, he has pushed for the Free Trade with Cuba Act to allow all Americans to visit the island, enable Americans and Cubans to conduct business together (H.R.871: Export Freedom to Cuba Act of 2013), and lift restrictions on humanitarian assistance (H.R.873: Promoting American Agricultural and Medical Exports to Cuba Act of 2013).
“I am elated that in my final year in Congress, I can finally see that the goal to remove the barriers between the U.S and Cuba is going to be achieved. It’s been a long road but I and key members of the Congressional Black Caucus were dedicated to officially opening the doors to the Cuban people. The Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival kick off in New York is a wonderful start to this new relationship,” Rangel said.
“As Co-Chairman of the House of Representatives Organization of American States Caucus, I am particularly pleased to serve in a lead role, with my esteemed colleague Hon. Charles B. Rangel, supporting the Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival,” Meeks said. “On behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus I will proudly lead the New York delegation to Havana in February 2017.”
This new cultural collaboration reinforces the unique and storied history of Harlem and Havana. Through this new program, we look forward to showcasing the vibrant music, dance, culture and culinary offerings these two iconic places share and further strengthening this incredible bond,” said Fred Dixon, president & CEO of NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organization.
“The value of cultural exchange is undeniable – and the rich artistic traditions of Harlem and Havana make this an incredible opportunity for both learning and entertainment,” said Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin. “I thank Lloyd Williams, Governor Cuomo and Congressmen Rangel and Meeks for their leadership and vision to make this unique program a reality.”
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A U.S. delegation, including members from The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce who were joined by Rangel and Meeks, traveled to Cuba in March, the same week President Obama made his historic visit, and experienced a wide-array of performances by elite Cuban musicians and artists who auditioned for the opportunity to participate in the festival.
“Harlem and Havana have been home to some of this world’s top artistic icons who have brought memorable music and art to the world” said Lloyd Williams, President of The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce. “This festival and a new relationship between these two iconic cities can only prove beneficial to the world.”
Among the selected artists are César López, who is considered one of the most important saxophone players in Latin Jazz and leads Habana Ensemble, a super group featuring some of Cuba’s top musicians. Also, Jorge Luis Pacheco, one of the leading pianists of the new generation of jazz in Cuba. In 2015, Vanity Fair noted him among “sensational, young jazz players.” Contemporary artist, Edward Roca Salazar, also known as Choco, deemed by the New York Times as one of Cuba’s “most distinguished printmakers,” will also participate. He is considered a master of “collography.”
“Havana was a Wonderful Life Experience for me. I hope this relationship with HARLEM/HAVANA opens up to the point of free travel between Cuba and the United States. I look forward to returning to Havana,” said Smokey Robinson, Multi Grammy Award Winner, Singer, and Songwriter.