City Views: Harlem Week Organizers Bring The Community Together To Celebrate Culture

July 26, 2018 - 5:00 am
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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- It may be called Harlem Week, but there is enough cultural, political and economic heritage in the community to celebrate for a month.

Over 100 events are taking place during the 44th annual Harlem Week, which kicks off this Sunday and runs until August 25.

Voza Rivers, first vice chairman of Harlem Week and producer of the Harlem Week Music and Cultural Activities, explained that the celebration started as a single day in 1974 for the community to come together during a time when things seemed bleak, from the declining economy to drug problems.

“People were really feeling good about being in Harlem,” Rivers said.

In the following years, more people began to come out, causing the celebration to relocate and expand.

“We had decided that we would always be Harlem Week no matter what we do, because we thought that it had a little cache,” Rivers said.

Linda Walton, production manager for the Harlem Week events, said the festival showcases the art and culture of Harlem, which is something that is critical to bring residents together.

“There was a sense of community, a strong sense of community,” Walton said. “It created a sense of pride for its residents, that it was our event.”

This year’s theme is “Women Transforming Our World: Past, Present and Future" with a subtheme of  “The Community Within The Community- Saluting The LGBTQ+ Community."

Rivers said these themes help link the Harlem community with what is happening globally.

“When we say 'Women Transforming Our World,' it goes beyond Harlem, so if you see a person like Indira Gandhi that were saluting and an Oprah Winfrey, when we started looking at those types of women it was phenomenal,” Rivers said.

Walton said it is empowering to have a theme that focuses on the work and activism of women.

“That kind of activism and encouragement and the planting of our seeds of our role in society, or understanding that we had a strong place in history,” Walton said.

There’s something for everyone during Harlem Week. The events kick off with the Arts, Roots and Rhythm festival, a gospel segment, an international fashion show and a concert that focuses on Harlem history on opening day, July 29. August 19 is Harlem Day, where singer and entertainer Nona Hendryx will perform, and the Dance Theater of Harlem will perform a tribute to James Brown. Harlem Week also has a two day children’s festival, as well as a spelling bee for kindergarten kids.