Black ExperienceBlack History

Ode To Blackness: Celebrating the 50th Annual African-American Day Parade in Harlem

When it comes to New York City, Blackness and Harlem are synonymous. In 1968, Martin Luther King’s assassination spawned the meeting of 13 Black leaders in Harlem. The meeting discussed how the Black community needed to heal in light of the death of one of our greatest leaders. From that gathering, the inaugural African-American Day Parade was founded on Sept. 21, 1969 — one year later.

The African-American Day Parade in Harlem serves as an ode to the epitome of the strength and resilience of Blacks in this country. The parade is held every September and runs along Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem.

It embodies the pride, strength, love, and unity of the Black community in the area. Although the gathering dedicates its origin to U.S.-born Blacks, it is open to New York City’s many children of the African diaspora.

Harlem was once considered the mecca of Blackness. However, the celebrated area has undergone tremendous demographical changes.

The chairman of the African-American Day Parade, Yusuf Hasan, proudly said, “This is our home. Harlem is our home!”

“And while the African-American Day Parade is a staple in Harlem, it represents the entire African-American community,” he continued.

The parade was held this past Sunday, and it commemorated 50 years of honoring African-American heritage in New York City’s blackest area.

“To see that it is at 50 years and I have been coming out here since I was a little girl, I’ve lived in the area, and I watched it happen. I was always so excited,” said Cordell Cleare, a Grand Marshal of the parade. She described the celebration as being “better than Christmas.”

The economic and sociological changes which make up Harlem now are not indicative of the once nearly all-Black section of Manhattan. However, organizers want to keep Harlem’s Black legacy alive.

“Harlem is like the spine of the black people, that is us,” said Tamara Lrman, an organizer of the parade. “So we keep it here because it is us.”

As of 2017, Harlem’s Black population was roughly 53 percent. In its heyday in the 1950s, Harlem’s population was 98 percent, Black. Harlem was home to the most exceptional Black talent in the world. Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Paul Robeson, and many other iconic Black people lived in the mecca for Black culture.

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