Melba Wilson And Doug E Fresh Serve As Grand Marshals For The 2022 Harlem Holiday Lights (Update)

The traditional Harlem Holiday Lights celebration, a production coordinated by Barbara Askins, the president & CEO of the 125th Street Business Improvement District (BID).

The event is in partnership with Manhattan Community Boards 9 and 10, as well as Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association, is focusing on a call for Unity and Peace for Harlem, as the theme of the 29th year of this celebration.  The event will take place on the rain date, Tuesday, November 22nd

The BID is proud to announce that this year’s Grand Marshals will be the exceptional, nationally recognized restauranteur, cookbook author, and television personality, Melba Wilson owner of Melba’s Restaurant in Harlem, and the multi-talented Rapper/Music Producer Doug E Fresh, also known to his fans as “The World’s Greatest Entertainer”.  These two Harlem-grown, bigger-than-life personalities, will help bring the joy of the holidays to the community that they love and know so well, at a time when it is most in need of cheers.

I am thrilled to be the Grand Marshal along with my dear friend, the legendary Doug E Fresh, at this year’s annual Harlem Holiday Lights celebration. I am born, bred & buttered in Harlem, a community that I love, and which is full of culture and creativity. We MUST remember, regain, and recall our ROOTS,” said Melba, adding, “I am heartbroken about the crime, mental health and homeless issues that are wreaking our neighborhood. I know that when we honor our similarities instead of focusing on our differences it forces us to unite and realize that we are our brothers and sisters’ keepers! I cannot wait to see everyone on November 15th as we begin this year’s holiday season!”

The inimitable Doug E Fresh echoes the sentiments expressed by Melba and his hopes for Harlem as we get ready to launch the holiday celebrations in a show of unity.

Last year, Grand Marshal Nick Cannon took the event to national heights.  He was joined by other local and established entertainment names including South Bronx’s firebrand rapper/actor Fat Joe, Harlem’s own – rapper/entrepreneur A$AP Ferg, and Grammy Award-winning jazz musician and composer, Arturo O’Farrill (Afro-Latin Jazz Alliance).  This year, the organizers want to engage the entire community in a moment of healing, understanding, celebration, and renewal.  Who better to unite the community around these common themes, but two people who represent the highest level of accomplishment, creativity, and ingenuity that is part of Harlem’s history?  Doug E Fresh and Melba are masters of their craft and responsible for spreading Harlem love worldwide as ambassadors of this landmark district.

The pre-event festivities begin with the special VIP reception hosted by Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.  The reception will be held at the uptown offices of the Manhattan Borough President followed by the official Harlem Holiday Lights kick-off. The caravan of lighted floats will gather at 125th and Broadway for the countdown to the start of the journey that will follow a route east on 125th Street, with a turn onto Adam Clayton Powell Blvd to 116th and Malcolm X Blvd, where it will turn up to Fifth Avenue, and loop around Marcus Garvey Park.  This year, the caravan will extend its journey, following a route up Lenox to 135th where it will circle back down to 125th and conclude at Morningside Avenue.  

As in previous years, there will be activation hubs all along the route, special promotional launches by 125th Street businesses, and information stations for those seeking help on everything from health and wellness to cure programs. The event will also feature a tree-lighting ceremony at Marcus Garvey Park, and a stop at Mount Morris Park Ascension Presbyterian Church for a special Blessing.

Since the pandemic, the community has faced many issues, which it has begun to address with the support of the community and locally based organizations that have brought new ideas and solutions to the table.  Historically, folks in this community have always marshaled the courage and wherewithal to tackle problems head-on.  And once again it is responding to the uptick in violence and other social issues disrupting the calm and unnerving Harlem’s residents and the business community with holistic and creative measures. 

Barbara Askins, President of the 125th Street Business Improvement District, “It is most appropriate for the business community to lead this celebration that recognizes the immediate needs and challenges we are facing for the community while at the same time making sure we do not lose the need to celebrate during our holidays.

In the past, the Business Improvement District and partners have brought the spirit of the holidays to the community in a wonderful show of solidarity.  This year more than ever, they want to make that the centerpiece of the Holiday Lights event. The traditional parade has always signaled the official start of the Holidays for Harlem residents and has become a highlight event in New York City, attended by an ever-increasing audience that includes visitors from the five boroughs, the tristate area, and international tourists. 

Organizers of the event are calling for a peaceful and joyous demonstration of support for this year’s event which has always been a festive and lively celebratory start to the holidays.  This year most especially, the organizers are calling for an end to the violence that has disrupted the community.  


“The community and the city have many resources.  Uniting these resources will yield the peace that helps Harlem to continue to grow its amazing legacy,” said Ms. Askins.

For more information on the Harlem Holiday Lights visit www.harlemlightitup.com.

Photo credit: 1) Melba and Doug E. Fresh. 2-5) 125thBid.

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