Sunday mornings in Harlem. Saturday night trash lines the sidewalks and streets. People wait in line outside the churches. A car speeds by playing reggaeton. A couple argues two streets over. An elderly woman hangs clothes on the fire escape. The street watchman smokes a cigar and chats with an old man outside the bodega. The storefronts all have large metal pull-down grates over them. Young children walk three blocks behind a woman holding a newborn baby. A light smoke comes out of the top window of an old burgundy hued Brownstone. A young couple from Amsterdam or Copenhagen walks down 114th with cameras looking for the ghosts of Langston Hughes and Billie Holiday.
A pigeon flies to the top of the Duke Ellington statue on 110th Street. Malcolm X Blvd. Frederick Douglass Blvd. Marcus Garvey Blvd. The streets wear the names of heroes.
Up to 125th Street. The Apollo Theatre. Walking across to the foot of the Triboro Bridge. Spanish graffiti. “Know Your Rights” Murals. Noise everywhere. West Indian accents. Scents of incense. Large Department stores, shoes for sale. The Cotton Club. Duke Ellington. Louie Armstrong. Billie Holiday. Art Tatum. Cab Calloway. Fats Waller. King Oliver. Josephine Baker. Paul Robeson. Count Basie. Dizzy. Monk. Charlie Parker. Fletcher Henderson.
Smart everywhere. Rough everywhere. Sweet everywhere. Langston Hughes. Zora Neale Hurston. James Baldwin.
The east side. Haunts of yesterday. New restaurants, flophouses, social clubs and classy joints shooting up everywhere.
Harlem is the greatest neighborhood in America. I lived there years back and I dream of being there again soon. The energy is electric. The people are vibrant. The streets are beautiful. The edge is exhilarating. The history unrivaled.
Quotes from the heart of Harlem
I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.
Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.
I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.
Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.
Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.
Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.
Zora Neale Hurston
There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
Zora Neale Hurston
To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.
Years ago, I created this tour to take a friend to some of the spots and houses of Harlem’s greatest:
TAKE A HARLEM MUSIC/LITERARY TOUR
DUKE ELLINGTON HOUSE -American Composer
MARY LOU WILLIAMS -American Pianist
APOLLO THEATRE -Famous Music Theatre
-Early 1940’s jazz venue. Experimental and influential: Monk, Bird, Dizzy
DIZZIE GILLESPIE and BILLY ECKSTINE HOUSE -American Trumpeter
RALPH ELLISON HOUSE -American Novelist, “Invisible Man”
PAUL ROBESON and COUNT BASIE HOME
-Paul, most influential spirituals singer and Broadway Actor turned activist
WEB DUBOIS AND THURGOOD MARSHALL HOUSE -WEB, Pan African writer
-Thurgood: 1st Black Supreme Court Justice
-Duke venue, famous jazz place
ROMARE BEARDEN HOUSE -American Painter
BILLIE HOLIDAY HOUSE -American Jazz Vocalist
ALBERTA HUNTER -Jazz Singer
FATS WALLER/OLD LINCOLN THEATRE
-Famous Stride pianist and writer, now a church with his old Wurly
-Louis and Fats Waller used to play here often
-Most influential poet of the Harlem Renaissance
JAMES BALDWIN SCHOOL -Writer and activist