#63 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.
If I had to choose one word to describe H is for Harlem, it would be “alive” – deliciously, soulfully, jubilantly alive.
Generous in its carefully curated offerings and beautiful in its execution, this sumptuous abecedarian celebration of Harlem’s rich cultural history pulsates with energy, inviting readers to explore, discover, and marvel.
As author Dinah Johnson writes, “Harlem is a place like no other in the world . . . It is truly multicultural. But for a long time people have called Harlem the mecca of Black America, a place where African American culture is living and breathing, shining and indestructible.”
From “A is for Apollo Theater” to “Z is for Zora Neale Hurston,” we learn about Harlem’s unique treasures – seminal people, places, organizations, communities – making up the fascinating tapestry of this storied New York neighborhood.
Johnson describes the well known (Harlem Globetrotters, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman) as well as the less familiar (Mabel Fairbanks, Impact Farm, Opportunity Magazine), with just enough facts to whet the appetite, encouraging further research.
Since I especially love music, I was happy to read about the iconic Apollo Theater, the Boys Choir of Harlem, and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. It was exciting seeing some of my faves mentioned: Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Jackson 5, Jennifer Hudson, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Wynton Marsalis. Just imagine the convergence of such genius and talent, the creative cross-fertilization among all the arts that continues today!
Johnson also tucked in some new-to-me nuggets along the way. Are you familiar with Cicely Tyson’s role in inspiring the creation of the Dance Theatre of Harlem? Though I was familiar with Zora Neale Hurston’s novels, I didn’t know she was also an anthropologist, or that she is credited by some to have been the first African American to debut a Broadway play.Continue reading