Ankling to Harlem’s African-American Day Parade

You can’t keep me out of Harlem too long.  And I had a great excuse for going back:  a parade.

A strange parade.  A political parade.  A pretty fun parade.  The bad part:  it was on the same day as the Mexican Day Parade and one day after the Steuben Day Parade.  I was pretty much paraded out.  But I had to go, if only to complain about having too much to do on a NYC weekend.  And NYC can keep you very busy, even if you don’t go clubbing or whatever.  Hey, I’m cheap and the parades are free.

Another bit of bad news.  In the two days of parades, I had neglected to re-charge my camera’s battery.  It started getting low during the Mexican Day Parade and I had to conserve power.  That’s one of the reasons that my Mexican Day pictures were more sparse than the Steuben Day Parade and why this post will also have relatively fewer pictures.

On the other hand, the African-American Day Parade had fewer can’t-miss-this-picture shots.  The parade was interesting, but the best parts were all about movement and it’s hard to capture the movement in a shot.

For example, one of the first sights was this group.  (REMEMBER, you can enlarge the photo by clicking it.)

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Great music, but the dance sequence they did, where they all did a sort of “bust-out” move was unexpected and way too quick for me to capture.  I tried, but the move was sudden as they all moved to the side while playing.  They were a little distant from me when they did it.  I waited for another, but no-go.

Some of the costumes were great.  There was a lot of Egyptian motif stuff at the parade.  This group had the best of the costumes, but they weren’t alone.

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Note the group toward the back.  Recognize what they’re carrying?

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Yeah, Anubis and Sobek and others….escorting a version of the Hebrew Ark of the Covenant.  A little bizarre bit of mix and match, methinks.  (You know it’s the Ark because of the Cherubim are on it.  Yeah, Famous Ankles knows of the cherubim.)

One of the more disconcerting moments came shortly after the Egyptians.  It was a pretty small group, but very loud.  They were calling for reparations in a call-and-response with a bullhorn.  Some members of the crowd joined in, not many.  But when people start calling out “They stole us, they owe us” with me there, I get a little uneasy.  Hey, I didn’t do it, folks.  They also showed signs saying “Mugabe is right”, and I’m no fan of the president of Zimbabwe. 

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A couple of them were really photogenic and I would have loved a photo.  But I thought it was the better part of disgression….

They also were calling for Harlem to be left alone (“They are pushing us out of Harlem” was repeated on the bullhorn a number of times).  They don’t want it developed.  Sorry, folks, but that ain’t gonna happen.  Harlem’s way too interesting to be left a backwater.

The African-American and the Steuben Day Parades both shared a large measure of traditional parade type displays.  I really, really liked this group on all levels.

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“Miss Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens” all done up and looking very retro.  Very cool.  There was a larger group behind them.  The most fun part is that they had developed their own way of waving to the crowd.  It looked very much like a variation on how Queen Elizabeth does is (by holding the hand and wrist steady and just twisting the forearm).  There was a slight other arm movement that I can’t quite remember, but I think you can tell I had a fine moment waving to them.

The majority of the parade was civic minded, very unlike the Mexican Day Parade.  There were several groups with similar name variations.  The first and the one that the crowd seemed to cheer the most was called “100 Black Men“.  It was a pretty well spread-out group so I only got a quick photo (and my battery was showing near empty).  There were groups with names like 100 Black Women and, I think, 100 Black Young Men.

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There were a couple of African Chieftan versions.

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The guy above never looked in my direction.  I kept waiting for a good shot, but apparently he knew some people on the other side as he greeted one guy and two children with him.  But the guy below was a big hit with the crowd.

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It was a very traditional parade in another way:  politics.  They were everywhere in the parade.  Anthony Weiner did show up.  He didn’t have a bullhorn so I guess it wasn’t his favorite kind of parade.  I’ve noticed he has a trick when he goes without the bullhorn:  he does a lot of running.  He’ll meet and greet members of the crowd (always being followed by a staffer with a sign saying “Meet Congressman Anthony Weiner”) and then he’ll suddenly take off at a sprint to a distant part across the street.

In other politics, there was a group that did a Hillary Clinton versus Barak Obama question that was kind of loaded.

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The backs of the shirts said “Let the people decide between Clinton and Obama” and some placards that read something like “Who says that Clinton represents us?” or something like that. 

As I always say, the crowd is half the show.  One thing about this crowd was they had no compunctions about their comfort or in making themselves heard.

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Notice the chairs.  Lots of the first spots next to the barricades were held by people who had brought chairs from home.  Some were nice chairs, some wicker, some were cheap.  But all looked relatively comfortable.  For a while, I stood behind a woman who had a chair that looked designed for the day.  Lightweight, with a high back and even a cupholder.  I was rather envious.

The crowd did a fair amount of whooping and cheering.  Lots of whistles and the like.  Behind me, there was a line of vendors plying their trade.  A lot of people would get up from their chairs to grab something to eat/drink and then go back to their seats.  You can’t do that at most parades as people will stand where you were standing.

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There were a number of other groups.  Lots of civil service groups, including the transportation workers.  Well, I’ve seen them at other parades, but they never paraded with a bus!

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 Actually, they had two.  There were large groups of police marchers, corrections officers, sanitation workers, and educators.

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The group below is associated with some civic group called “North Star”.  It was more than the wheelchair group, but they were the most interesting part of it.

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The Muslims were present, too.  But I noticed very few Christian Church groups.  In fact, I only spotted one.  It was the only group that was calling for peace in Darfur.  I would have expected more mention of Darfur, but I think I only saw one other placard in a different group.

The NAACP had a fair sized group under the banner of “Legislate justice for all.”  (I don’t think a lawyer wrote that slogan.)  There was a cancer survivors group and a HIV-awareness group.

McDonalds sponsored a dance group, complete with Ronald McDonald.  The dancers were great, but Ronald was the crowd favorite in that group.

There was one very odd group:  Brahma Kumaris.  They appeared to be almost all of India nationality.

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One odd group (hey, it’s a NYC parade and it needs lots of “odd groups”) was some bodybuilders and physical fitness types who carried a pullup bar and did exhibitions of strength.

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A bunch of them also did pushups and some general running around.  No placards identifying them, but they did appear to be a Muslim group.

Another group identified with American Indians.  They didn’t mention any tribal identifiers so I don’t know if it is an official association with them or not.

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You know, I’ve gotten this far and barely mentioned the music!  It was loud and continuous.  There were lots and lots of marching bands and quite a few radio stations blaring out rap and the like.  Fun stuff, I just wish I had remembered ear plugs.  I think everyone can enjoy every kind of music at a parade, it passes by quickly and is often replaced by something altogether different.  The crowd was into it.  You could always spot someone doing some bouncing/dancing to the music.

I did mention the vendors.  I walked the parade route from 125th down to 110th (it actually did go up to around 140th – it’s a big parade).  There were vendors all along the way.

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They sold everything.  For a while there was a young girl walking back and forth calling our what was for sale.  Always one item only (an air horn or camera were what she was selling).  She seemed to be doing a good business.

After a while, the sun was getting too much.  I ended up close to the beginning point of the parade where there was some nice shade.

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I finally ended up walking through the setup area of the parade and on the other side I saw an unusual sight.

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I don’t know if they had been at the very beginning of the parade and I missed them, but saw them coming back to load up; or whether they were scheduled to go later on.  In either case, I was tuckered out and needed to go home.  And did.

Overall, a wonderful parade.  Big and loud with a crowd to match.

When I first contemplated doing three parades in the weekend, I thought about ranking them.  The more I thought about it the more I realized such a ranking couldn’t capture the ways that the groups attempted to portray themselves to the viewers and to their peers.  Each had elements that I really liked, but for different reasons; and each had points that I couldn’t really get into.  But they’re free and they’re the creation of a whole host of individuals who are just trying to put forth their best face.  And I think they do.

-H

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Explore posts in the same categories: Events, Harlem, Manhattan, Parades

4 Comments on “Ankling to Harlem’s African-American Day Parade”

  1. Henry Gibson Says:

    I wouldn’t call it a political parade. It just had some things on the people of Harlem’s mind, even the Mugabe thing. Let’s have http://www.iloveharlem.net and “I Love Harlem” pride, and t-shirts. And Harlem is getting expensive too

  2. famousankles Says:

    You’re right in that it wasn’t an exclusively political parade, but after spending some time at the Mexican Day Parade earlier in the day, the African-American Parade had so much more political content to it that I had to mention it. So, I do agree that it “had some things on the people of Harlem’s mind.”
    And you’re also right that it is getting expensive up there.


  3. […] was a little concerned that it wouldn’t be as good as last year’s, which I enjoyed for many reasons but also because of the crowd’s method of preparing for and […]

  4. Diana Says:

    DUKE ELLINGTON .He was a song writer he made over 2,000 songs. duke was a very smart man wen it come to songs he mad his first hit when he was 14 years old. some poeple did not no thie but he also was an ARTIST that new a lot a bout drawing .. stevo saying E GET THAT HA HA HA


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