Response has been extremely strong to a new digital campaign by Community Works and New Heritage Theatre Group to celebrate local Harlem heroes in a time of coronavirus, prompting an expanding number of honorees and the addition of digital public programming later this year.
Through posts on Facebook, Instagram and other electronic channels, the campaign is building on the spirit of the 20-year effort to spotlight local heroes, famous or not, who are making a difference through the pandemic.
The disease has prompted Harlem’s activist people and institutions from medicine, the arts, education, food service, religious life and environmentalism – people who make up a community -- undertake work to help keep our neighborhoods healthy, particularly in exploring the data showing that the virus is disproportionately striking black and brown communities.
“We’re seeing a response like little else in our history,” said Barbara Horowitz, Founder and President of Community Works. “These stories speak of hope and resiliency, perhaps as a model for other communities across the country.”
Already, the campaign is celebrating the First Graduates of the CUNY Medical School, immediately thrown into the fray, artist Andrea Arroyo, whose work celebrates a community response to disease, JJ Johnson, a chef who has helped serve emergency workers, Dr. Calvin Sun, an emergency room physician, Harlem Hospital nurse Sadie Treleven, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s outreach to those at home, restaurateur Melba Wilson for her citywide efforts on behalf of restaurant owners to keep serving, the nimbleness of Dr. Steven Corwin, CEO and President of NY Presbyterian Hospital, the community commitment of the Rev. Al Sharpton, the work of environmental activists We Act, the SoHarlem Collective for work on masks and gowns, the 100 Tailors of Harlem, largely African immigrants from the Shabazz Center market,for work on masks and gowns, the work of young people at the Brotherhood/Sister Sol, efforts by the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce to back programs providing 1,000 meals a day, among other services, Harlem Congregations Community Improvement which is providing wellness visits and financial advice, with more on the way.
The list continues to grow.
“What all of these efforts share is a desire to reach out even though we all are at home because of the pandemic. These are people who are putting out effort for the community,” said Voza Rivers, Executive Producer of New Heritage Theatre Group. “For us, this shows that Harlem is . . . represents a living, breathing history that involves the whole community.”
These stories and those that follow will become part of exhibitions known collectively as Harlem is . . . Music, Theater, Dance and Community. A website will launch in coming weeks with a section devoted to Harlem is . . . Healing. Eventually, the exhibition will complete installation at Harlem Hospital at Malcolm X Boulevard at 136th Street, where coronavirus forced delays in anything but medical treatment.
Community Works and New Heritage Theatre Group are partnering with the hospital to present a free, permanent physical exhibit in the famed Mural Pavilion and on the hospital’s second floor with more than 100 multimedia exhibits drawing from portraits, photographs, films, and archives from previous installations around Harlem and the city over many years. The partners also have commissioned an interactive mural by noted artist Paul Deo which will be displayed on the website as well as outside the Mural Pavilion, home to WPA-era murals that were the first to depict people of color in professional roles, and a 30-foot timeline reflecting a century of Harlem cultural history.
Through all of these exhibits, Community Works and New Heritage Theatre Group have maintained a common mission to use the arts, performance and workshops to unite communities across differences and to share the legacy of local heroes in the blossoming of a unique neighborhood we see in Harlem.
A SPECIAL PROJECT OF COMMUNITY WORKS' HISTORIC "HARLEM IS ..." SERIES