Archive for the ‘Harlem’ category

Ankling to Harlem’s African-American Day Parade

September 18, 2007

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.)


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.



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


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. 


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.


“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.


There were a couple of African Chieftan versions.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


What a weekend! Ankle reports forthcoming…

September 16, 2007

Okay:  three parades, one protest, and the Feast of San Gennaro.  That’s a heavy weekend for Famous Ankles.

Parade 1:  Steuben Day Parade

Parade 2:  Mexican Day Parade

Parade 3:  African-American Day Parade

I even had to give up on “Broadway on Broadway”.  But here’s a few pictures of the preparations at Times Square.  I passed there on the way to Church this morning (we had 12).



This next one is right after Church.  It was filling up fast, but probably didn’t start for a couple of hours.


Excepting Broadway on Broadway, I went to ’em all.  It’s going to take a day or two to come up with the reports, so hold on.


Too long without a Harlem post?

August 29, 2007

Looking through some of my old pictures, I spotted one that I can’t believe I didn’t include.  Hey, in this case it gets its own post.

In my second visit to Harlem, I was just wandering around Lenox Avenue and spotted an awning with the world’s strangest slogan.

Harlem - Owens Funeral Home

“Where beauty softens your grief.”  The first time I saw it, I was stunned at the temerity of a place that would invite people in to prepare them to look their best at a funeral.  I thought it was a beauty parlor catering to the mourners.  Instead, it’s a beauty parlor catering to the dead.  Well, not quite just a beauty parlor.

Yes, folks.  It’s for a funeral home.  Actually, Owens Funeral Home at 121st and Lenox Ave.  I’m told it’s Harlem’s busiest.  Apparently they specialize in…putting the best face on a tragedy.  It’s just too weird.  You can google them and get some extra weirdness.  There are actually books put out showing their handiwork.  Just too weird. 

Welcome to NYC.


Harlem Street Party

August 22, 2007

It’s my variation on an old joke:  other than that, Famous Ankles, how was the Harlem street party?

Well, it was pretty nice, excepting the Black Panther Party scum.  The link tells you that they mugged me for a grand total of $2.

Actually, excepting the scum, Harlem was as great as ever.  It’s Harlem Week and the street party was something that I really wanted to see.  All of my previous wanderings of Harlem had been during the morning and afternoon.  I wanted to see Harlem at night, during the time that it might not be quite the same.  Well, except for the scum, it was every bit as vibrant and joyful as I could have hoped.

As I emerged from the subway at St. Nicholas Ave and 135th, I spotted a large stage facing away from me with a sea of people listening, watching, singing, and dancing to a live performance.  I entered the area and just started listening, watching, and taking pictures.  Famous Ankles neither sings nor dances.  But the rest of the crowd made up for it.

Harlem Street Party 1

Harlem Street Party 2

Harlem Street Party 3

The crowd knew the words and it seemed that everyone was accompanying the performers.  I eventually recognized one of the songs, but it wasn’t one of those that I really know, at least like this crowd knew.

I was told that the performers were Ray, Goodman, & Brown.  I don’t know why there are four people up there with three names; but then I had to ask who they were.  Here’s a pretty poor shot of them (I was using the zoom and was a little shakier than the camera could adjust for).

Harlem Street Party - Ray, Goodman & Brown

Anyway, they sang for a while and I eventually just sort of wandered off to see the rest of the street party.  After about a block and a half, I couldn’t hear them anymore as recorded music was being played by a variety of vendors.

Here are some shots from further in the party.  The party covered 135th Street from St. Nicholas Avenue to Lenox Avenue.

Harlem Street Party 4

There were a lot of food and merchandise vendors.  I was actually tempted by one or two vendors, but I tend to avoid street food.

Harlem Street Party 6

As you can see, the crowding was pretty intense.  I can only hint at the boisterousness and excitement that was everywhere.  And, of course, lots and lots of music.  Very enjoyable and memorable.

My favorite part of the entire party was some impromptu dancing that started up.  It was pretty small, and at one point a woman tried joining in and wasn’t quite successful in matching the moves of the others.  But I think we all appreciated her attempt.

Harlem street party dancers

And then I got mugged.  Or, rather, I got extorted out of $2 by the Black Panthers who resented being in part of one of my street pictures.  If you’ve looked at my post, you’ll know it’s a terrible picture.  But I put it in just to highlight the scum that were hanging around a very pleasant time.

Perhaps the worst part (other than the mugging) is that the Panthers had a pretty good following.  They had lots of people listening in to their talk.  I don’t know what they were discussing but it was probably related to their need to prove their identity by raising $2.

Incidentally, something I had forgotten about until writing this: earlier in the day when I was going through Park Slope, I was walking on the street and found, of all things, two one-dollar bills just being blown down the sidewalk. It honestly hadn’t occurred to me that my mugging was just a part of a zero-sum chain of events.

The Panthers are, nonetheless, scum IMHO.


Mugged in Harlem?

August 18, 2007

Readers will note from my earlier posts that I really like Harlem.  That makes this a hard post.

 I think I was mugged.  It’s open to interpretation, but I’d say I was.

By the Black Panthers.  Yep, you may remember them.

They got me for the grand sum of $2.  “Voluntarily” handed over…against my will…without explicit threat from them…but while I was surrounded by them….while they oh-so-nicely explained that I had taken their picture without permission…but it was okay if I was a reporter….but it wasn’t okay if I wasn’t…but I could make it right for a donation.

In my opinion:  Black Panthers = Muggers.

In my opinion:  I was extorted.

Here’s the $2 picture:

Harlem Street Party - Black Panthers

That’s them to the lower left.  I was taking a picture of the crowd (I have about 20 other non-Panther crowd pictures which I’ll post some of in a separate Harlem post).  This is a lousy picture.  I wouldn’t have used it if one of their members hadn’t confronted me less that 3 seconds after I took the picture.  It wasn’t any of the guys in the picture.  Instead, some others had apparently been watching me (I was one of a few whites in that particular area) and came up behind me when I was taking the picture.

He was very “nice”, introducing himself as some sort of representative.  There were about two or three others with him that I saw.  He said, very nicely, that he noticed me taking pictures of the Panthers and they didn’t like having their picture taken.  He said such pictures “get all around” and they don’t like that.  However, if I was a representative of the media (and could prove it with a card); it would be okay.  If not…he paused for a moment…I should make a donation.  At that instant, a bucket appeared to my left.

I said I was taking a picture of the crowd.  In fact, I had wanted the Panthers to be part of it, but I wasn’t going to say that.  He repeated his statement about whether I was media or the possibility of a donation.

I was incredulous.  I was being asked to put a value on….me/my safety/my photo.  I was being terrorized.

I offerred “How about $2?”  He said that would be fine.  I guess Famous Ankles now has a proven worth at least two bucks.

His demeanor was very calm and unemotional.  To his right was an attractive female member.  Once again, very poker-faced.  I always figured that muggers would be more emotional.  I never saw the one with the bucket and I had a feeling I was being surrounded behind me.  I know other people (non-Panthers) watched as I pulled out my wallet.  I wonder at the idea of their thoughts about that.  There were hundreds of people within 30 yards of me.  There were cops at the end of the block (we were on 135th Street between Lenox Ave. and Frederick Douglass Blvd).  They were a million miles away.

I handed over the $2.  He said “thanks”.  I walked on.  I’m glad to have kept the camera, my wallet, and my safety.  I regret the loss of Harlem as a favorite part of NYC.  I guess I’ll keep my $1.285 million.  Of course, that’d probably make the Panther scum happy.

I strove to regain my self-respect.  I made sure I walked near the scum twice more before I left.  They don’t own the streets.  I didn’t take their picture, though.