On Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) plans to pay a visit to Success Academy, a charter school in Harlem.
He is expected to meet with Eva Moskowitz, the charter school network’s CEO, for a tour of the Harlem campus.
But Moskowitz won’t be the only one there to greet his arrival: Protesters sprung into action Tuesday morning to rally against the Republican leader’s visit to the Harlem school — some holding signs listing the treatable illnesses that can potentially prove fatal if those afflicted lose their health care coverage. Read more (5/9/17)
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.
The Harlem Hellfighters have taken to the spotlight in modern times thanks to the popularity of the video game “Battlefield 1″, where the African American soldiers are featured in the very opening of the game. The US 369th Infantry Regiment was a unit of African American soldiers who served with incredible distinction during World War I. During the war many white American soldiers refused to serve with blacks, and as a result the 369th was assigned to the French Army, the French having little qualms with serving with African Americans, nor did they have a policy of segregation such as the US Army. They were even issued French weapons and wore French helmets while in combat. During their service in World War I the 369th was nicknamed by the French “The Harlem Hellfighters” because of their tenacious fighting spirit. They never gave ground in combat, not one soldier was ever captured, and they served the longest continuous deployment of any other Allied unit during the war (191 days of continuous combat). Due to their bravery, they were also among the most decorated Allied units, with two Medals of Honor, 171 French Croix de Guerre’s, and numerous Distinguished Service Crosses.
One of the most unique features of the Harlem Hellfighter’s was their band, perhaps the only unit in the entire war to have a ragtime band. Unlike pretty much all other military bands which played traditional marches and martial music, the Harlem Hellfighter Band played the music they loved and could perform best, mostly American ragtime music and early forms of Jazz. The Harlem Hellfighter Band was directed by Lt. James Reese Europe, a man who was certainly fit for the job as he was the band leader of the Clef Club Orchestra, a band popular in New York for their ragtime and proto-jazz music.
On April 8th, 1918 French soldiers turned their heads in wonder as The Harlem Hellfighters marched toward the front to the tunes of hot ragtime and Jazz beats.
No one in Europe had ever heard such music, in fact Jazz was barely even heard in the United States outside of a few communities in New Orleans, Chicago, and New York. The new music became an instant hit among both French and British soldiers, and before long the Harlem Hellfighters Band was being called to perform for French and British units all along the line, as well as villages they passed through. Soon, the Harlem Hellfighters swinging sound took Western Europe by storm, and the band was even invited to perform in Paris at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Among the Hellfighters biggest hits was a ragtime tune called “Memphis Blues”.
And then of course the biggest crowd pleaser given the location and audience was a jazzed up version of “Le Marseillaise”
After the war the band would make a grand tour of Europe, then return home and make a grand tour of the United States. Stories of the Harlem Hellfighters unique sound had spread across American and people were demanding more. During their American tour, the band cut 24 records. Everywhere they went, whether in Europe or the United States, they drew huge cheering crowds, they had become the superstars of their day.
Unfortunately the story of the Harlem Hellfighters Band did not end well for James Europe. On the night of May 9th, 1919 Europe confronted one of his drummers over poor and unprofessional behavior. The drummer, known as a hothead among the band members, attacked Europe and stabbed him in the throat with a penknife. Europe bled out and died while in the hospital later that night.
The legacy of the Harlem Hellfighters Band is as grand and all encompassing for music as the Great War itself. Essentially, the band is credited with spreading the popularity of Jazz throughout Europe and America. Before World War I, Jazz was a niche genre of music, common only among African Americans living in certain areas of New York, New Orleans, and Chicago. After the exploits of the Harlem Hellfighters Band Jazz would spread across the world, becoming the dominant form of popular music up to the 1950′s and serving as the predecessor to popular music styles today such as rock, hip hop, pop, and soul.
Today is the 100th birthday of jazz and pop singer Ella Fitzgerald, who’d started out winning Harlem talent shows as a teenager. She had her first hits with Chick Webb’s big band before going out on her own in the 1940s. The composer songbooks she recorded for Verve starting in the mid-50s are definitive recordings of vocal standards. Fitzgerald toured the world for decades, and died in 1996. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Fitzgerald at her best is as good as it gets. Listen.