Dedza Films and Kino Lorber have just released our latest title NEPTUNE FROST, which tells the story of a cosmic romance between an intersex hacker and a coltan miner that seeds revolution. Written and directed by multidisciplinary artists Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman, the sci-fi musical features original music by Williams tackling war, identity, and independence.
Multi-hyphenate, multidisciplinary artist Saul Williams brings his unique dynamism to this Afrofuturist vision, a sci-fi punk musical that’s a visually wondrous amalgamation of themes, ideas, and songs that Williams has explored in his work, notably his 2016 album MartyrLoserKing. Co-directed with the Rwandan-born artist and cinematographer Anisia Uzeyman, the film takes place in the hilltops of Burundi, where a group of escaped coltan miners form an anti-colonialist computer hacker collective. From their camp in an otherworldly e-waste dump, they attempt a takeover of the authoritarian regime exploiting the region’s natural resources – and its people. When an intersex runaway and an escaped coltan miner find each other through cosmic forces, their connection sparks glitches within the greater divine circuitry. Set between states of being – past and present, dream and waking life, colonized and free, male and female, memory and prescience – NEPTUNE FROST is an invigorating and empowering direct download to the cerebral cortex and a call to reclaim technology for progressive political ends.
In Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Swahili, French, and English with English Subtitles
Decades of disinvestment, planned neglect, and overtly biased policies followed the devastation caused by redlining. The 1938 map below of northern Manhattan shows how our community was redlined:
The on-the-ground consequence of both redlining and its aftermath is seen in short film, shot from a car in the 1980’s. It has taken decades of public and private investment to bring Harlem back from this abyss even if there is still more work to be done.
To view the film as the camera person goes across 128th Street West(?) and then turns south on St. Nicholas and Frederick Douglass Blvd. see:
The Park Avenue Viaduct — a.k.a. the dark brown elevated tracks that carry Metro-North trains north of Grand Central — was built in 1893 and is in need of an upgrade.
After 129 years of operation, the tracks have started to show signs of stress, so the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is making plans to replace sections between 115th-123rd and 128th-131st streets along Park Avenue.
Gotham Gazette has a well thought out essay on how density should be a planning goal for our community in light of the 2nd Avenue Subway extension:
The first phase of the Second Avenue line (with stops at 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets) serves the Upper East Side. This affluent district is characterized by large apartment buildings permitted primarily by R8 and R10 zoning. Major institutions like Hunter College and hospital complexes attract thousands of daily subway commuters. The first stops of the Q Line quickly attracted about 200,000 riders per day, and patronage is rebounding amid pandemic recovery.
This strong ridership was predictable. Upscale, high-density redevelopment of the East Side tenements has been a civic priority since the 1940s. Big, bulky apartment buildings are often frowned upon in NIMBY circles, but the vitality of the Upper East Side demonstrates the value of concentrating hundreds of thousands of people together in suitable housing near transit. The apartment buildings frequently have stores at the base and wide sidewalks. Many remaining tenement buildings have been renovated for higher-income renters. Population density of this type is one of New York’s enduring assets–and a key to its rebounding fortunes in the post-covid era.
Extending the subway line in East Harlem along Second Avenue between 96th Street and 125th Streets is a different story. The neighborhood’s threadbare low-rise tenements remain a dominant feature. Developers, due to redlining, ignored the area for decades. Overcrowded apartments, rent-burdened families, and building code violations in the area are well documented. The longstanding Puerto Rican and Black communities in the area have thrived despite widespread housing exploitation and poor living conditions.
The city and NYCHA redeveloped sections of the district since the 1940s, but these efforts have lost their luster. East Harlem retains one of the nation’s largest concentrations of “tower in the park” public housing. The iconic red-brick towers, built far below the allowable zoning envelope, were once a showpiece of the city’s social vision. Today, however, growing maintenance issues, because of limited capital and operating subsidies, have undermined resident quality of life.
Despite their Manhattan location and the Lexington Subway line running nearby, planners built the NYCHA housing projects at low-density levels with acres of lawn and surface parking. The local stations through which the current Lexington Subway runs (103rd, 110th, and 116th Streets) have modest ridership compared to stations below 96th Street. Very few NYCHA developments have stores at ground level, creating empty zones along major Avenues.
Blurring the Color Line is being shown at the Harlem International Film Festival.
Following director Crystal Kwok’s personal journey of discovery, BLURRING THE COLOR LINE digs deep into how her grandmother’s family navigated life as neighborhood grocery store owners in the Black community of Augusta, Georgia during the Jim Crow era.
This documentary serves to disrupt racial narratives and bridge divides.
Jane’s Walk 2022: A Great Day in Harlem: Crossing the 5th Avenue Divide
05/08/2022 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM ET
Take your mother for a stroll around East and Central Harlem above 125th Street, straddling Fifth Avenue, the traditional dividing line between East and Central Harlem. Members of Landmark East Harlem (LEH) will introduce you to the treasures of the second historic district that LEH has proposed for listing on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Featured sites include 19th-century wood frame houses, Victorian-era rowhouses, landmarks associated with James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, former church buildings that have been given new purpose, and the brownstone stoop that served as the site of the iconic 1958 photograph of jazz musicians by Art Kane for Esquire magazine. A virtual live stream will be available on Landmark East Harlem’s Instagram channel: @LEH_NYC.
Free Concert in MGP
Gabriel Chakarji Group Join us for a concert with an amazing composer and musician: Gabriel Chakarji. As a Venezuelan immigrant in NYC, by linking together his past and present, he combines contemporary jazz and improvised music techniques, with elements of the rich Venezuelan music culture, especially the African influences of rhythm and drum parts, call and response, and the spiritual and social context of the music.
Wednesday, May 4, 2022 || 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
This event is FREE, but space is limited. To RSVP, go to jazzpf4.eventbrite.com Pelham Fritz Recreation Center | 18 Mount Morris Park, New York, NY 10027 Located at 112th St. Phone (212) 860-1373
For those of us who are graphic novel/comic fans, it was exciting to hear that Regina King is going to directing an adaptation of David F. Walker, Sanford Green, and Chuck Brown’s Harlem Renaissance-set comic book Bitter Root for Legendary Pictures.
Set in the ‘20s, the book is about a family of monster hunters called the Sangeryes who are tasked with defending Harlem from supernatural threats.
You either get it and love it, or you don’t. We’ll see how the film adaptation turns out…
East Harlem Waterfront Connector
The often delayed (what, 2 or 3 years delayed?) East Harlem waterfront connector is now being visualized in a number of images from the city. This new connector is to help connect the waterfront of Manhattan and reduce the distance of on-street-detours.
Filmmaker Khalik Allah has a new film – IWOW: I Walk On Water – coming in at a massive 200 minutes.
As with earlier work, Allah returns to Lex/125 and films a hallucinatory portrait of the men and women of the M35, K2, mental illness, and homelessness:
Since 2011, filmmaker and photographer Khalik Allah (Black Mother) has attracted global attention for his radiant portraits of the denizens of 125th and Lexington in East Harlem. In IWOW: I Walk On Water, Allah returns to the intersection as the foundation to explore personal narratives of intimacy, voice, memory, identity and personal transformation. Allah focuses his attention on longtime muse Frenchie, a 60-something schizophrenic, homeless Haitian man. Over the summer of 2019, Allah and Frenchie’s lives became increasingly intertwined—a relationship that Allah documents with radical, spiritual transparency. In parallel, Allah also turns the camera on himself to document a turbulent romantic relationship and grapple with personal notions of spirituality and mortality – all inquiries about which he gathers advice from charismatic confidants including Fab 5 Freddy, members of the Wu-Tang Clan, and, in deeply moving exchanges, his own mother. By questioning universal and personal inward dynamics, IWOW obscures the boundary between conceptual art and memoir. Sometimes painful in its vulnerability, often extremely funny in its candor, and always visually extraordinary, Allah’s one-of-a-kind, intimate epic is a contemporary rethinking of the diary film: Gordon Parks meets Jonas Mekas.
Mark your calendars. On Tuesday, March 9th we’ll have 3 amazing presentations.
7:00 PM – We will have a Q+A with Kristin R. Jordan, who is a candidate for Council District 9 – [email protected]. In addition to giving us a sense of who she is and what her key platforms are, Kristin will address the burden that our part of the district bears with 2 sanitation garages, the M35 Bus, numerous homeless shelters, and the Lee Building’s infamous role as a regional methadone megacenter.
7:30 PM – Nicole from – rankthevotenyc – will help us all understand Ranked-Choice Voting that will affect us all in the voting booth this June and later in November, and beyond. If you have questions about ranked-choice voting, and how you can use this new form of voting to strategically vote for more than one candidate, Nicole will answer all.
8:00 PM – Ray McGuire, will join us to introduce himself, and to present his plans for New York City’s post-COVID recovery. Ray was the first in his family to graduate from college and after Harvard University and a law degree, he worked on Wall Street for many years. Ray will introduce himself, his platform, and talk about his impressions of, and plans for East Harlem and New York City as a whole (he has spent significant time in our community, listening to business owners and neighbors at Ginjan Cafe, and knows many of our issues well.). Come out to learn more about RayForMayor.
Made in Harlem
Join the Maysles Cinema for free screenings of seminal documentaries on Harlem.
The Borough President would like to prioritize Harlem residents in the queue for vaccines, and this is asking you (if you qualify) to preregister using the link, above.
Token of Hope Inc. New York is working hard to connect the Harlem community to much needed resources and help. In partnership with the Manhattan Borough President Office, Token of Hope Inc. is collecting names of residents in the Harlem community in need of the vaccine. This information will be provided directly to the Manhattan Borough President’s staff for expedition and attention. Please complete this survey as soon as possible to ensure that you receive service as the vaccine is available.
The New Yorker has an amazing video of work by the photographer James E. Hinton who made his name memorializing some of the most prominent figures of the civil-rights era. Hinton photographed not only Black leaders of the time (athletes, artists, politicians, thinkers, musicians – including Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Muhammad Ali, Mahalia Jackson, and Miles Davis), but also left a huge body of work at Emory University that celebrates ordinary Black life in mid-century America.
Emory University notes that: James E. Hinton (1936-2006) was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He attended college at Howard University (Washington, D.C.) in the 1950s and served in the United States Army from 1960-1962. He studied photography with Roy De Carava at the Kamoinge Photography Workshop for African Americans in 1963. Hinton worked as a freelance photographer throughout the 1960s, capturing images of the Civil Rights Movement in cities such as Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; and Harlem, New York, and photographing unknown activists and foot soldiers in the movement as well as leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr.; Stokely Carmichael; H. Rap Brown; and Huey Newton. He also photographed artists and athletes including singer Mahalia Jackson and boxer Muhammed Ali. In the 1970s, Hinton began working in film and television as a cinematographer and director. He was the first African American to join a cameraman’s union, Local 600 in New York City, and won an Emmy for his direction of WNEW’s program “Black News.”
The New Yorker has highlighted excerpts from two of Hinton’s films: “The New-Ark” and “May Be the Last Time,” that were digitized by the Harvard Film Archive, which holds a collection of Hinton’s work.
Nick Garber from Patch.com has a great, albeit depressing map of vacant storefronts along the 125th Street business corridor
Nick Garber notes:
All told, 42 stores sat empty along that stretch — not counting active construction sites or businesses that shut down during the pandemic but have pledged to reopen at a later date. That’s a rate of nearly one vacancy per block.
After reading a collection of Chester Himes’ short stories and having previously read most of his novels, I was intrigued to watch the film Come Back Charleston Blue.
Come Back, Charleston Blue is a 1972 comedy film starring Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques, and is based on Chester Himes’ novel The Heat’s On. It is a sequel to the wildly popular 1970 film Cotton Comes to Harlem.
Come Back, Charleston Blue is great for a number of reasons but for residents of Harlem, the street scenes of our neighborhood in the early 70’s are fantastic (much of the film was shot in the winter of 1971/72 and snow abounds).
The viaduct under Riverside Drive:
Cars on Harlem Streets:
125th Street looking east from Lenox:
The Mosque on 116th Street:
And the National Memorial African Bookstore on 125th Street:
In the 1970’s a back-hoe operator noticed scores and scores of film canisters and reels poking out of the soil where he was digging a new septic system:
The wet, dirty, and frozen film reels represented a trove of silent era films that the world had not seen for generations.
Dawson City in Canada’s far north was the end of the line, the last stop in the distribution chain of silent era films. Once everywhere else was finished with the films they ended up in Dawson City where they were stockpiled and the distributors refused to pay for their return (especially since they were, by then, 2 to 3 years old). The stockpile grew and grew. Some of the pile were dumped in the local river, some were burned. The trove that was found in the 70’s were used as fill to fill up a former swimming pool (along with soil) so a new hockey rink could be built atop the former pool.
Amid the more than 500 reels of film that were recovered was a short 28 second clip of the 1917 Silent Parade (or the Silent Protest):
Indeed if you’ve ever seen black and white film clips of the parade, you’ve likely seen part of a reel that was dug out of a former swimming pool in Canada’s arctic, after being buried for 60 years. (See: https://naacp.org/silent-protest-parade-centennial/ for more on the parade and its significance for American history.)
Here is the 28 second clip:
On July 28, 1917 W. E. B. Du Bois organized a parade of African Americans that ran down Fifth Avenue from 59th Street to 23rd Street. Dressed in white, and silent except for a muffled beat of drums, thousands marched in protest of the recent mob violence and lynchings in Waco, Memphis and East St. Louis.
NOTE: This clip originally appeared as part of Universal Animated Weekly, Vol. 5, Issue 83, released on August 1, 1917. In 1929 it was buried, along with 532 other film reels, in a defunct swimming pool in Dawson City, Yukon Territory Canada. It was unearthed in 1978 during a construction project, after being inadvertently preserved for 49 years in the Yukon permafrost. The exhumation of the collection was administered by the Dawson City Museum, and was then jointly preserved by Library and Archives Canada and the US Library of Congress, where the nitrate originals and duplicate safety copies of the collection are now housed. The clip was first excerpted for use in Bill Morrison’s 2016 documentary “Dawson City: Frozen Time” some 38 years after it was originally discovered. The Dawson City Museum, Library and Archives Canada, Library of Congress and the film “Dawson City: Frozen Time” should be credited in any re-use.
To learn more about the film trove and how important this collection is to both film history and history in general, see Dawson City: Frozen Time: