The New Harlem

There’s such thing as Italian Renaissance. Or English Renaissance. But, there’s no such thing as Manhattan or Queen or Bronx or Brooklyn Renaissance. However, there’s such thing as Harlem Renaissance. It refers to the African-American cultural movement in the 1920’s in the US where Harlem in New York City was at the center of the New Negro Movement. In the old days, Harlem was a small Dutch farming village. It was named after Haarlem in Holland, a.k.a Netherlands.

But, enough of history. It bores me. 😀

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The New Harlem in New York City has changed dramatically (or drastically?) through the years. Used to be feared for its high crime rate and known for its people in dire poverty, Harlem, nowadays, is a bustling area of diversity, businesses and developments. Skyscrapers are beginning to rise and rents are going up, too. The favorite word around is: gentrification.

This neighborhood intrigued me. A lot. Places that used to be “dangerous” and rose away from that unflattering title intrigued me. When I went to Chicago in Spring this year, I joined the Gangster Tour, not because it’s a cool thing to do but to learn and understand the city better—than going to museums. I’ve seen movies shot in or about Harlem–and they didn’t paint a good impression (Precious, Ron Clark Story, etc..). But, hey, these movies are inspiring!

But beyond notoriety the neighborhood was known for, Harlem is home to an incredible array of musical talents. They have a long list of musicians, singers and songwriters to prove that. They all started their careers in this very neighborhood before they became superstars whose music made waves around the world. Even literary figures once lived here, too!

If you are like me, traveling on a budget, Free Tours By Foot takes tourists and locals around on selected corners of Harlem without feeling that you are missing something. Call it Harlem 101.

Harlem New York

Welcome to Harlem, the unofficial capital of Black America! 

Schomburg Center New York City

Schomburg Center

What a better way to start our Harlem Tour than visiting the  Schomburg Center, a research library to know all about black history and culture. They have a wide range of cultural projects, exhibitions, tours and a souvenir shop.

Harlem Hospital Murals

Murals on the facade of the hospital

On the facade of Harlem Hospital is huge mural that depicts black migration, culture and history—from slavery to Harlem Renaissance. When it is illuminated at night, the mural is unbelievably stunning!

Autumn Fall in New York

The neighborhood’s streets and corners are fairly clean.

Absynninian Church
Absynninian Church

Here at Absynninian Church, when the choir sings, you’ll have goosebumps—and you’ll be transported into a different realm. It’s busy and sometimes, people queue up outside just to get in.

Absynninian Church

Next to the Absynninian Church is this abandoned building which used to be a church and a casino at the same time. How odd! Perhaps, the only one in the world?

Grafitti Mural

This graffiti reminds the people of the police tactic of “Stop and Frisk.” It’s always better to know your rights.

Strivers Row Homes

Strivers Row Homes

The homes at Strivers Row aren’t just an architectural heritage but it’s also where some of the black legendary music icons and the neighborhood’s wealthiest families used to live.

Harlem Homes

These red vines grow freely, reaching for the sky.

Fall / Autumn in New York

Autumn in Harlem is awesome.

Walk of Fame

Walk of Fame

The Walk of Fame honors black artists, writers and politicians: Ella Fitzgerald, Malcolm X, Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and many more.

Halloween New York

Do these Halloween pumpkins scare you?

Brown stone houses

Brownstone residences are sturdy but they don’t impress me. Just not my style. 🙂

Millionaires House

The neighborhood has a lot of housing for low-income families.

Sylivia's Restaurant

I wish we crossed the street and had a peek around or inside Sylvia’s Restaurant.

President Barack Obama once ate here at Sylvia’s Restaurant that serves African soul food—whatever that means.

Red Rooster

Red Rooster

Also, President Obama held his fundraising night here at Red Rooster during his campaign. The rooftop houses the Headquarters of William J. Clinton Foundation.

Mural / Grafitti

A huge mural.

Hotel Theresa Harlem New York

Harlem, New York

When Fidel Castro visited New York City, he was kicked out of a hotel room in Manhattan because of the presence of chicken and other live animals. He was billeted here in Hotel Theresa on a condition that they use the kitchen.

The hotel is also in the movie, Precious, an Oscar-nominated film.

Harlem Love Potion

On the sidewalks, these scented liquids are for sale. From Barack and Michelle Obama to Ed Hardy and Brad Pitt to a black woman’s scent, they’ve got it all.

Apollo Theater in Harlem

Apollo Theater

And our last stop was the Apollo Theater, birthplace of the careers of Ella Fitzgerald, Lauryn Hill, Mariah Carey, Jimi Hendrix (he won an amateur night here), Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, Luther Van Ross, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and many, many more…


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to “The New Harlem”

  1. Ivy
    November 18, 2013 at 1:41 PM #

    Yay! My Harlem is, indeed, awesome, in Fall! The colours are vibrant and brilliant!

  2. Emma
    November 18, 2013 at 2:47 PM #

    I’m intrigued with those scented liquid/perfume. How do they sell that? By bottle? Can you tell them to mix up something for you? How much?

  3. Jackson
    November 19, 2013 at 2:45 PM #

    Apollo Theater! That’s where I saw Lauryn Hill! XO

  4. Griffin
    November 21, 2013 at 5:08 PM #

    I joined this tour months ago and I didn’t like it. Well, let’s say, I like only part of it. We were just passing buildings and places but not really peeking into one or two places introduced to us. But, then, it’s pay-what-you-can tour, so, I gave what it’s worth.


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