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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

In The News:
Harlem No Longer Majority Black

Even if you celebrate the changing landscape of America as our nation becomes more diverse and culturally vibrant you will most certainly feel a pang of historic loss with the news of Harlem's racial demographic shift.  The New York Times is reporting that Harlem, once the cultural epicenter of Black America, is no longer a majority Black neighborhood.  Seeing the words in print made me pause.  Though I've never lived in Harlem (Brooklyn Baby...), my papa was raised in the insular neighborhood during his youth.  To hear him speak of the community - filled artists, writers and musicians - inspires images of juke joints and lindy hop dances within my minds eye

Harlem, home of the artistic and intellectual revolution known as the Harlem Renaissance.  Birthplace of the great Apollo Theater.  Inspiration of Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Wallace Thurman.  Benefactor of the intellectual musings of W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey and Booker T. Washington.  A historical paradise of Black art, music, and thought - blighted of its most revered ancestry. I read the NY Times article with sadness. 

Though the decay of Harlem's Black population has been steadily occurring over the last decade, today's confirmation hit me in my chest.  I remember many nights walking Harlem streets with a friend of mine in the field of Urban Development.  He often spoke about how Harlem was losing its identity.  He marveled at how quietly the changes were taking place and how the subtle marketing of Harlem's takeover (remember SoHa?) helped keep the squandering of Harlem's history unrecognized.  I sent him the Times story today, his response: "I've mourned for Harlem for years now...but nobody listened.  It's absolutely shocking to me that folks are just now realizing this.  Meanwhile, I'm desensitized to it.  Ain't that a shame."

My heart sheds a tear for Harlem tonight.  My red Dixie cup pours out a few tears as well.

       Walking Tour of Harlem - Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

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