Traveling While Black

Make sure to visit the Schomburg Library before the end of the year to see the fantastic exhibit “Traveling While Black”. The Director, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Kevin Young notes:

Since the start of their experience in the Americas, Black people have been defined by travel, displacement, and resistance. 

Whether in the horrors of the Middle Passage or the rebellion of Maroon communities made up of escaped slaves, travel has meant much—and something much more—for Africans in the Americas. This exhibition, our first as we celebrate The New York Public Library’s 125th anniversary and the Schomburg Center’s 95th, explores over a century of travel. Moving from the Great Migration of African Americans north and west at the start of the twentieth century to the restrictions and resistances of travel in the Jim Crow South and the Jane Crow North, Traveling While Black examines a history of travel, from those who found themselves exiles within their own country down to the pilgrims and pleasure seekers of our time. 

War marks many of the peregrinations of the last century, often offering African American soldiers their first glimpse of other cultures beyond the United States. They returned with a new energy and renewed hope, whether in the offerings of jazz after the Great War, or the opportunities abroad for expatriates after World War II. The freedom that African Americans sought at home and fought for abroad they often found in travel. Returning Black officers and recruits started motorcycle clubs and organized tour groups, traditions that continue today. The somewhat open road and the mostly great outdoors provided Black sojourners with literal and emotional vistas to revel in. 

While confronting restrictions from Jim Crow laws and surveillance by would-be law enforcement agencies stateside, everyday travel meant obeying unspoken rules of the road. Domestic journeys involved ingenuity, often employing the Green Book, that guide for Black travelers developed in Harlem by Victor Green. Carry your Green Book with you…you may need it! reads one tagline for the guides. The Schomburg Center retains the largest and most complete collection of Green Books in the world; in many cases we hold the only known copy. But as any number of African American guidebooks found here indicate, from runaways to resorts, the idea of escape has had larger resonances for Black culture. Questions surrounding Black bodies in motion—whether driving, walking, or traveling while Black—still persist, asking us to consider the meaning of migration, movement, and freedom. 

—Kevin Young

It’s My Park Day

Harlem Libraries

I thought it might be interesting to look at Harlem Libraries from a data perspective.

Here is the data on which of the Harlem branches have the most holdings:

Keen readers will, however, wonder if the size of holdings is somehow related to the nearby population. To do this, the population within 3/4 of a mile of each library has been used in the calculation. The results are fascinating.

The Countee Cullen Branch on West 136 (behind the Schomburg, has almost one book for every person in the neighborhood.

By contrast, the Harlem Branch (West 124th Street, on Marcus Garvey Park) and the 115th Street Branch have only one book for 3 people.

The other 3 branches have roughly 1 book for every two residents.

Aaron Douglas

The esteemed Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas has two of his amazing works up at the Whitney Museum.

These large 5′ square works are signature examples of his mature style – one that you might recognize if you visit the Schomburg which owns a number of his pieces.

To learn more about Aaron Douglas, see:

https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.38654.html

And to visit the Whitney, see:

https://whitney.org/visit

NYC’s Open Storefront Program

The Open Storefronts program is available October 30 to December 31, 2020. 
The Open Storefronts program assists existing ground-floor storefront businesses who want to use outdoor areas on a temporary basis.  The program allows eligible businesses to conduct activity on sidewalks, on roadways in the Open Streets: Restaurants program, or a combination of both.  To learn about siting requirements for storefronts and sidewalks, who is eligible and FAQ CLICK HERE 

CB11 Full Board Meeting

Tonight CB11 will have a full board meeting and discuss budget priorities.  Harlem Neighborhood Block Association is asking for two things to be highlighted in the budgetary report including:

  • We are requesting a City Council analysis of the distribution of addiction programs throughout the five boroughs, with a mandate to recommend how the rebalancing of these programs can be implemented. In conjunction, we are requesting a City Council agreement on a moratorium of any new or expanded addiction programs in CB11.
    • New York City must address how the persistence of OASAS and DOHMH licensed addiction programs in CB11 that exceed community need (and primarily serve New Yorkers from other communities) – is a form of systemic racism.
    • OASAS and DOHMH have quietly avoided acknowledging that their siting decisions are not based on their own data regarding proportionate community need, but are racially and economically driven instead, and along with indifferent city agencies and politicians, they routinely oversaturate Black and Latinx communities with the addiction programs that wealthier and whiter neighborhoods reject.
    • The impact of this decades-in-the-making form of systemic racism has been to brutalize the quality of life for East Harlem residents, degrade the economic viability of the East Harlem business community, and discourage tourism and development in the 125th Street and Lexington Avenue corridors.
  • Marcus Garvey Park is a jewel in our community. We ask that CB11 request and advocate for security cameras to be installed in this park to enhance public safety for the children, teens, families, and residents who enjoy it.

If you are interested in joining the conversation, tonight starting at 6:30 please follow the calendar link, here:
http://www.cb11m.org/pmcalendar/

Oral History

The Schomburg has an amazing collection of oral history of Harlem residents. Some names you’ll certainly know as big-name political and cultural figures. Others, are neighbors:

This is a neighborhood oral history project that works to both preserve and document Harlem history through the stories of people who have experienced it. This project will collect oral histories of people who have lived or worked in the surrounding Harlem neighborhood and train community members to conduct these interviews. Both longtime and more recent residents are invited to share their neighborhood stories, documenting Harlem’s past and present history. Interviews will be preserved at The Milstein Division, available in a circulating collection, and accessible here at the New York Public Library website.

Take a moment and listen to the voices:

http://oralhistory.nypl.org/neighborhoods/harlem

Menus

Hello Harlem Neighbors,

With COVID, many of us have thought about the plight of our neighborhood’s restaurant owners, workers, and delivery people. This is an interesting time to look back into Harlem’s historic places to eat, and The Schomburg is a great place to explore historic menus and other ephemera.

Here is the Savoy’s floorplan:

And two restaurant menus from 125th street:

https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/2c1e3380-6215-0132-0460-58d385a7bbd0

https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/517b6c00-6214-0132-2895-58d385a7bbd0

To browse historic menus in Harlem, see:

https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/search/index?utf8=%E2%9C%93&keywords=harlem+menu#