By Seth Tamarkin, Contributing Writer
On the third Sunday of September, for the past 49 years, Harlem, New York has transformed from a bustling neighborhood into the massive spectacle known as the African American Day Parade.
Considered a National Parade, the gathering is referred to as the most renowned African American parade in the country and garners appearances from over 200 organizations in 12 states and multiple countries.
Frederick Unity House Associate Director Lasella Hall stressed its importance, noting “It is to celebrate black excellence, to celebrate black achievement, it is to say that black lives matter in a way that is not a slogan, but a reality. And by having a parade we are showcasing the traditions of black Americans, we are highlighting the experience of black Americans, we are bringing forth that black Americans in this country and quite frankly around the world have had a contribution to civilization.”
The setting has a strong historical significance as well. Hall calls the New York boroughs area a “community of color situated in Harlem that is essential to the black experience.”
To further prove his point, Hall easily rolls off a few of the momentous black names that lived in Harlem, including James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Richard Wright as well as the Harlem Renaissance. “So,” he concludes, “Harlem in itself is a celebration”
Despite the huge influence of black culture worldwide, do not feel surprised if you have never heard of it before, since the 900,000+ parade of African Americans routinely goes without even a mention from any major news station.
“There was no national news coverage at this parade, no CNN, MSNCB, or Fox News.” Lasella Hall stressed that their absence may not be all bad however, “[The organizers] don’t want the national news telling their story, they wanna tell it… they’re gonna control their own narrative.”
In 2017, the fact that one of the largest parades in the country receives no media coverage is surprising to say the least.
Yet Lasella claims that the organizers need to control their own narrative anyways. “It’s important to get our story out there because the narrative right now is that Black Americans are violent, black Americans aren’t working, that we’re taking away from the American fabric, when quite frankly that is not true. Black Americans have contributed to this country and I’m prepared to argue have contributed more than their fair share and that is important because Black Americans haven’ t got the credit nor the just due that they have earned, not that they deserve, that they have earned, and this is one way to celebrate that.”
If the students who went on the trip were any indication, then the trip really was a rousing success. One student quoted the trip saying, “The vibe was so great! There was a bunch of black vendors and I love that aspect of it because being in Dartmouth, you don’t get that opportunity that much. So, being able to contribute to a culture and my culture was very good.” She also added, “Definitely worth it—I almost missed it – but definitely worth it.”
To make sure you do not miss any upcoming events, check the Umass Dartmouth website for more events that the Frederick Douglass Unity House and Black History Four Seasons are putting together.