HARLEM — New York public leaders, community organizations and residents gathered Sunday to celebrate the 42nd annual African American Day Parade in Harlem. One focal point of the march was to attenuate the looming violence in neighboring and citywide communities.
The march took place on Adam Clayton Powell Blvd., extending from 111th St. to 135th St., summoning New York dignitaries such as Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel, New York Police Department Commissioner Kelly Raymond, city council members Robert Jackson, Inez Dickens, and assemblyman Keith Wright. The NAACP, the National Action Network, and other organizations joined leaders in celebrating the achievements of the African American community, and reflect on its culture in the 21st century America.
Residents enthusiastically cheered as parade participants marched up the barricaded street. The atmosphere was exuberant, as thousands of people gathered to celebrate a rich tradition in the Harlem community.
The first African American Day Parade took place in 1969. Thirteen visionaries, who sought to create a special day when African Americans could band together in promoting unity, dignity and pride, founded the parade. Harlem was chosen as its locale because of its large representation of African Americans. On Sunday, that objective was no different.
Sharpton addressed a crowd of spectators with his founded organization, the National Action Network.
“This is a day to show what our community would look like if we had the resources and jobs,” Sharpton said outside the Adam Clayton Powell State Building near 125th St. “We are walking every step of the way.”
City Council Member Inez Dickens praised Abe Snyder, the last surviving founder and current chairman of the parade, for his work in keeping the tradition alive.
“The parade is a part of our culture and heritage,” Dickens said. “It brings the families out together. We’re showing the world that we are proud to be African Americans.”
Dickens also recognized that the day was more than a celebratory occasion.
“Because of the proliferation of gang activities in our communities, because our youth are killing each other—this is an opportunity for all our young people to see positive role models,” she told NewsOne.
New York City experienced alarming gun violent activities over recent weeks. On the day of the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn two weeks ago, 46 people were shot throughout the city. Last week, 18-year-old high school basketball star Tayshana
Murphy was shot and killed in her Harlem Morningside Heights building stairwell.
Both incidents sparked outrage among local residents and community leaders.
The stream of consciousness regarding violence in the community permeated the street. A banner from State Senator Bill Perkins read, “Drop The Guns! Stop The Violence”—which evoked passionate responses from onlookers.
Tamika Mallory, Executive Director of National Action Network joined Sharpton and others in the march to condemn the violence in the African American community. The economy and lack of positive enforcement among youth, Mallory said, is to blame for some of the motivations of violent behavior in the community.
“Whenever people are poor and struggling, they turn to drugs and violence and different things to try to deal
with what they are going through,” she told NewsOne. “But they’re not really focused on the right areas.”
However, Mallory said it’s important to use the parade as a way to highlight the positive things happening in the community. “[We should] continue to lift the positivity because it can get lost in all the negative information and all of the bad things going on with the violence and the poor economy,” she said. “You still have people who want to be connected to the community and folks who just want to sit out, and have a good time.”