The 43rd Annual African-American Day Parade was held this past Sunday in Harlem and I along with several of my well educated, culturally savvy African-American co-workers had no idea there was a parade in honor of African-Americans, or that it had been going on for 43 years.
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While in the morning News One meeting, my fellow staffers embarrassingly raised their eyebrows and scratched their heads about not knowing of the event organizers say is the largest black parade in America. Maybe we’re the only people in the country who were unaware of the parade, but according to the site, about 900,000 people attended last year.
As a bonafide Queens gal, this was the first time I’d ever heard of the parade that’s had Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Johnnie Cochran and Shirley Chisholm as some of its Grand Marshalls.
The Rev. Al Sharpton and former New York City Mayor, David Dinkins were this year’s Grand Marshall for the parade that started on 111th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd and ended at 136th Street.
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Maybe poor marketing is to blame, or it being a “Harlem thing.” But the more we discussed our ignorance to not having ever heard of the parade, the more we wondered about the lack of “identity” on several fronts as African-Americans and how that could be the blame.
Harlem has always been home to the parade. Since it’s founding in 1968 by Livingston Wingate, Conrad S. Peter and other prominent Black leaders, parade organizers wanted African-Americans to come together in a spirit of volunteerism and pride to uplift the black community. But as time progressed, and more financial, education and political opportunities for Blacks opened up, some staffers argued the more opportunity to advance has left the Black identity to fall to the wayside.
As vibrant and exciting as New York City is, it’s also a hodgepodge for every and any cultural background to come, reside and gain their part of the American dream. But while New York’s culture has become everyone’s culture, some believe Black culture in New York isn’t as strong as West Indian culture or Puerto Rican culture, which draws throngs of people every year for their parade and is highly publicized. Or is it?
This parade has been in existence for more than 40 years and we didn’t know about it.But the question is why? It’s not because we’re not “black enough” we represent a healthy and vibrant mix of opinions, ideals, and thoughts.
Maybe us choosing not to know is the reason. I could’ve easily done a Google search for last minute free summer activities to partake in and learned all about it. However, I like my other co-workers were well aware of the season premiere of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. (Grimaces)
What is it about the African-American identity that isn’t as strong or unifying as other identities, or are we just late to the party? We want to hear from you!