On December 20, 2001, the temperature is forty-four degrees outside but when you walk into the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located in the heart of Harlem, you could feel the warmth a mile away. The atmosphere was electric, with over fifty arts and cultural organizations gathered for the kick-off party for the Harlem Arts Alliance.
The mission of HAA is to preserve, promote and present the rich cultural legacy and contributions of the Harlem community to the world.
“The main point of this event is to rally our troops, so that the public can take us seriously when we say we are about to change Harlem. We are circling the wagons, uniting or troops or going to die trying,” said Garland Lee Thompson, founder and director of the Frank Silvera Writers workshop.
In a lobby of the Schomburg, violins are playing, people network, and food is everywhere. This reporter had the pleasure of speaking to Roberta Long, an eighty-year-old music teacher and long time member of the Harlem Arts Alliance. She felt that “more people should be aware of New York’s organizations. [The HAA] represents all the arts, music, drama, dance, poetry, and black history.” After an hour of mingling everyone is signaled to move to the auditorium.
Mr. Voza Rivers, chairman of the HAA, said “This alliance has been a longtime dream, come true.” Mr. Rivers introduced a handful of youth organizations who performed dance, poetry and music, lead by the Uptown Dance Academy, Longar Ebony Ensemble, Harlem Jazz and Music Festival, and others. The performances moved the audience to multiple applause.