Dining With Miss Lil: Harlem Week 2019 Was In Full Swing

By Lil Nickelson

On Wednesday, July 18th, 2018 New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “You have provided proof to me that Harlem maybe a few blocks farther north, but tonight Gracie Mansion is Harlem.  Tonight, we gather to celebrate an amazing community.  I don’t know why it’s called Harlem Week; it should be Harlem Month.  At this moment in history, there is so much negativity and divisiveness, but we need to look at the rich history of Harlem for direction.  Harlem as a community has displayed a form of noble resistance for generations.  The people, culture and history make Harlem great.”

Lloyd Williams, CEO of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce (“GHCC”) came to the stage to accept a proclamation from the mayor that declared the day as GHCC Day.  This year Harlem Week festivities ran from Sunday, July 28th, 2019 through Saturday, August 31st, 2019.

This year’s theme was “Our Local History Creates a Global Impact,” because no neighborhood has impacted the world like Harlem.    In the 45th year of celebrating Harlem, GHCC is acknowledging 45 icons – artists, activists and institutions that truly embody the Harlem spirit.  From the music and literature from 100 years ago during the Harlem Renaissance to the 1960s civil rights movement to our recent resurgence as a culinary mecca; what happens in Harlem resonates around the world.  GHCC had more than 100 events this year according to organizers.

The crowd sang belated happy birthday to NYC’s only black mayor, Mayor David N. Dinkins, who turned 92 years young on July 10th.  Former NYS Governor David Paterson shared a table Mayor Dinkins and his assistant Lynda Hamilton; the current Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray even stopped by the table to extend their birthday wishes.

A Great Day in Harlem kicked off Harlem Week’s 45th year on Sunday, July 28th, 2019 at the U.S. Grant National Memorial Park located on Riverside Drive in between West 120th and 124th Streets.  The weather was hot and sunny with the audience gathering and staying around from 12:30 pm until 8:30 pm that evening.  This year’s celebration featured an award presentation to groundbreaking filmmaker Spike Lee by U.S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat, New York Attorney General Letitia A. James, New York State Senator Brian A. Benjamin, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, and New York State Assemblywoman Inez E. Dickens.  An award was also presented to gospel musician Kirk Franklin by Congressmen Adriano Espaillat and Charles B. Rangel.  Kool & The Gang was also saluted, celebrating their 50th year in music.

During those 8 hours spectators were treated to an International Showcase with dancers and singers from near and far, the gospel caravan that included Rev. Hezekiah Walker and Kirk Franklin, Fashion Fusion which included a fashion segment coordinated by Harlem’s The Brownstone boutique owner Princess Jenkins.  The evening’s finale always concludes with “A Concert Under the Stars” performed by Harlem’s own Ray Chew and The Harlem Music Festival All-Star Band with a host of vocalists assembled by Ray Chew.

On Saturday, August 3rd, 2019 the fourth year of the Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival took center stage at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine located on 110th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.  Festivities featured Oyu Oro, an Afro-Cuban experimental dance ensemble from Santiago de Cuba and Harlem artists Keith “The Captain” Gamble & The Nu Gypsies.  Havana comes to Harlem in public art project Liquid Heat | La Rumba Llama by artist Jessica Angel.  The photography installation and international education program celebrating the rhythms of Cuba is at Harlem Hospital Mural Pavilion from Monday, August 5th, 2019 to Friday, September 23rd, 2019.

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The New York City Economic Development Day was held on Columbia University’s Alfred Lerner Hall on Thursday, August 8th, 2019 as it does every year.  The theme for this year’s business/development summit was “Business Preparedness: Opportunities are Knocking – What’s Going on in the Community; City, State, and Corporate Arenas,” to enlighten attendees.  The business and health summits from 9:30 am until 11:30 am with a light, continental breakfast provided for attendees.

This year’s Health Summit highlighted the city-wide impact of the growing opioid crises. Guest speakers included NY City Council member Mark Levine and Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz, Jr.  Panelists included Kellie Bryant (Columbia University School Of Nursing), Dr. Maurice Wright (Harlem Hospital Center), Gale Goldstein (NY City Department Of Health & Mental Hygiene), and Chauncey Parker (Manhattan District Attorney’s Office).

Gregg Bishop (Commissioner, NY City Small Business Services) and Tanya Pope (Columbia University Facilities & Operations) gave opening remarks at the annual business summit.  Two panels of industry professionals focused on opportunity zones and major public, private, and government development projects in Upper Manhattan and New York City.  Panelists included Ronald D. Brown, Esq. (Brown Hatchet Williams, LLP), Louis Katsos (Jekmar Associates), Hany Ayoub (Columbia University), Michael Garner (Metropolitan Transportation Authority), and Wayne Benjamin (Dormitory Authority State Of New York).  Kenneth Knuckles (NY City Planning Commission) gave closing remarks.

This year’s Basil A. Paterson Awards Luncheon was emceed by Dr. Bob Lee of WBLS.FM. The 2019 Basil A. Paterson Award was presented to Mayor David N. Dickens (who was feeling under the weather), so Congressman Charles B. Rangel accepted the award on his behalf.  The Honorable H. Carl McCall was presented with the Citi Bank Founders Award (who was also unable to attend), and New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson received the HARLEM WEEK Pride 50 Award.  2019 HARLEM WEEK Scholarship Grants were also awarded.

The Urban Technology & Cybersecurity Summit concluded the day with the theme, “Our Local Businesses Lead To Global Commerce.”  Welcome remarks were given by Borough President of Manhattan, Gale Brewer, and C.E.O of Silicon Harlem, Clayton Banks. Special presentations were given by Kenn Kern and Jeremy Glickman of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office,  and a panel discussion featured Elizabeth Roper (Office of the Manhattan District Attorney), Dr. Tarek Saadawi (The City College Of New York), Daniel Reyes (LDI Industries), Loren Nadres (NYC Office of the Mayor), and Lt. Gustavo Rodriguez (New York City Police Department). Closing remarks were given by Ben Topor (Spectrum).

A new collaboration was created this year titled, “From Memphis to Harlem: Celebrating a New Century of Soul,” which ran from Monday, August 12th to Sunday, August 18th, 2019.  The two cities have a shared love for soul, music and food so musicians and chefs from both cities came together over the seven days  and it began with a Taste of Memphis at Sylvia’s Also as well as the showing of the movie “If Beale Street Could Talk” on the great lawn of St. Nicholas Park as part of ImageNation Film Festival on Saturday, August 17th as part of “Summer in the City” events on 135th Street.

The second new collaboration with the West Harlem Development Corporation was created this year titled the Harlem Jazz & Music Festival which ran from Saturday, August 24th, 2019 to Saturday, August 31st, 2019 at various venues over the eight days.

This year’s Education & Career Conference & Exposition celebrated the theme, “Local Innovation Leads To Global Opportunity,” and featured sessions on careers in technology (“21st Century Jobs”).  A panel of representatives from the New York City Mayor’s Office of International Affairs (Director of Economic Development, Loren Nadres), The City College Of  New York (President, Vincent G. Boudreau), Metropolitan Transit Authority (Senior Manager, People & Business Transformation, Cherise Myers), Hormel Foods (Director Of Sales, Joseph O’Connor), Silicon Harlem (CEO, Clayton Banks), Injoy Enterprises (CEO, Marko Nobles), and Harlem Week (Executive Director, Winston Majette), discussed digital innovation, and how it has and is transforming their respective fields.  Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer offered remarks on the importance of young Americans in technology fields.

At the Youth Technology Hack-a-thon, this year students were challenged to propose a technological solution to alleviate poverty, increase civic engagement, encourage good health, eliminate vermin, or promote economic growth through tourism.  Gift bags were awarded to winning teams.

The annual Percy Sutton Harlem 5K Run and Health Walk & Children’s Run, Harlem Week’s largest sporting event took place on Saturday, August 24th, 2019 from 8 am to 12 pm and it offered runners a leg up on qualifying for the TCS New York City Marathon, along with a gorgeous tour of Harlem, with a route looping St. Nicholas Park and coursing through the City College of New York.

Harlem Restaurant Week, highlighting the unique diversity of food choices here in Harlem ran from Monday, August 19th to Sunday, September 1st, 2019.

The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce was honored by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Left to Right: Lloyd A. Williams, (President & CEO of The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce and Harlem Week Co-Founder), Stephanie Francis (Co-Founding Member of Harlem Week), William Rogers (Co-Founding Member of Harlem Week), Mayor Bill de Blasio, and First Lady Chirlane McCray.

All Photos by Rudy Collins except the last one was taken from Harlem Week website.

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