Lil’s World: Harlem’s Heaven Hats Is Protecting Our Skin In Harlem

July 15, 2023

By Lil Nickelson

On the evening of the first day of summer Harlem’s Heaven Hats held its annual free hat giveaway on Wednesday, June 21st, 2023.

Harlem’s Heaven Hats is owned by Evetta Petty and her boutique is a member of the Headwear Association, which sponsors the annual event. “Hat Day in the Sun” is to raise public awareness and educate adults and children on how the right hat can protect against skin cancer, sun damage, and premature aging. Members of the association give away free wide-brimmed sun-protection hats in cities across the country.

Many people of color believe that the melanin in our skin color protects us and that skin cancer is a problem for people of lighter colors. Well, I’m here to tell you don’t believe that myth. My Aunt Mamie, who was deep brown like me and lived in Savannah, GA died from skin cancer. With over 5 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year, skin cancer is America’s most common cancer, and everyone needs to take note.


There are so many medications you might take for acne, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, irregular heart rhythm, and psoriasis plus assorted antibiotics and cholesterol-lowering drugs that make your skin more sun and heat sensitive. It’s especially important to read the paperwork the pharmacist gives you when you pick up your prescription; don’t just throw it out – reading it for the side effects is so important.

Now the hat giveaway started at 6 pm and went on for two and a half hours until there were no more hats. I arrived 30 minutes earlier than the door opening for the event and the line went from its corner location on 147th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and it was heading up 147th Street towards Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

By the end of the evening, 300 hats were given away; Harlem’s Heaven Hats is the only shop in Harlem that participates in the hat giveaway and it’s the most popular giveaway in New York State.


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The Headwear Association recommends the following tips for the perfect sun hat:

Wide Brims – choose hats with at least a 2 ½ inch brim and always wear sunscreen and a hat when outside. Women’s hats with brims larger than 5 inches will also cover the shoulders and chest.

Curved Shapes – look for hats that follow the contour of the head and neck; will offer best protection against ultraviolet radiation. Baseball caps leave the cheeks, ears, and back of the neck exposed.

Opaque Materials – the denser the fabric the higher the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF); sunscreens have the sun protection factor (SPF). A hat with a UPF of 50 allows just 1/50th of the sun’s UVR to reach the skin.

I got a fly wide-brim hat with an olive-green trim around it with a UPF of 50+, plus I learned some valuable lessons from talking to Ms. Evetta:

  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more and reapply after your skin gets wet from swimming or sweating from your 3 ½ mile walks.
  • Wear a wide-brim hat if you’re going to be in the sun, and
  • Read the literature that comes along with your medications to see if the drugs make your skin sun or heat-sensitive.

Lil Nickelson

Lil Nickelson, a seasoned accounting/finance professional, appreciates the daily renewal of her relationship with God, walking, water aerobics, writing stories that touch people deep, cooking, enjoying great meals, the company of family and friends, and listening to music. She is a veteran food writer for Harlem World Magazine and other publications throughout Harlem.

Photo credits: Lil Nickelson

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