How A Few Crafty Harlemites Are Fighting Back Against Gentrification
After Harlem resident Pipi Birdwater had her lawsuit against the borough of Manhattan thrown out, many New Yorkers began to wonder how many shared her ire towards lifelong Harlem residents for “intentional cruelty,” as her suit stated.
Birdwater claims that New York residents purposely gave her wrong directions, led her towards areas of Harlem that didn’t exist, and feigned ignorance when she referenced areas of Harlem by their hip new colloquialisms. Borough president Gale Arnot Brewer called her claims that they cost her her $100,000 job (due to frequent tardiness) “farcical.” But after walking through Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park and talking to Harlemites, they have merit.
38-year-old Dominique Sampson recalls, “this cracker asked me the other day where RuPa is. I knew he was talking about Rucker Park, but we don’t call it no damn RuPa. Who ‘bout to be sayin, 'remember when Kobe and AI came in RuPa?’,” he says as family and friends double over in laughter in their beach chairs.
“So I said 'probably down in the village getting life.’ He comes back to me that night all red ready to fight sayin’ he wasted his day, I said 'I thought you meant Rupaul!”
Sampson says his neighbor was not amused. In his anger, he joins a growing group of new Harlem residents who feel they’re being deceived out of resentment.
Photo: Awning of the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York.
The Savoy Ballroom (1926-1958), famously known as “the home of happy feet,” was a world renowned dance ballroom in Harlem, New York. The “world’s finest ballroom” scaled a full city block, from 140th to 141st streets on Harlem’s Lenox Avenue, and was two story’s high, it’s signature marquee stretching well over the sidewalk and nearby stores.
Founded by Moe Gale, a Jewish man, and managed by Charles Buchanan, a Black man, the Savoy from its inception was the first and only integrated dance ballrooms in the whole of New York. On the “track,” its block long dance floor, working class African-American Harlemites and wealthy whites from downtown would lindy hop, jitterbug jive, and rhumboogie the night away under the same lavish cut-glass chandelier.
Gif: 1920s Couple doing the Lindy Hop.
The Savoy Ballroom attracted the talents of jazz and bebop greats like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakley, Teddy Hill, Johnny Hodges and Thelonious Monk. So great was the dance scene at the Savoy Ballroom, some of the clubs most talented dancers ended up performing in theaters across the world and in feature films.
Photo: Hodges, Johnny Savoy Ballroom (Lenox Avenue, Harlem, New York), Duke Ellington Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
The drag of the Great Depression and technological advancements in radios and record players made dancing at home and at smaller and cheaper venues more popular. The Savoy closed in 1958 and demolished in 1959 to make way for the Delano Village housing development, known today as Savoy Park. A commemorative plaque was erected in the Savoy’s memory in 2002. The ceremony was attended by swing legends Frankie Manning and Norma Miller, and enthusiast from around the world.
Plaque commemorating the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, NYC., Lukeholladay.
Netflix has been prepping for The Defenders since the launch of Daredevil (with Charlie Cox as the blind vigilante) in 2015, followed by Jessica Jones (starring Krysten Ritter as a super-strong private eye) that same year, a second season of Daredevil as well as Luke Cage (featuring Mike Colter as the bulletproof Harlemite) in 2016, and Iron Fist (showcasing Finn Jones as a martial-arts master) this past spring.
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