Even more than in mid-March, start of the Harlem is . . . Healing campaign, the twin diseases confronting Harlem and the country – racial unrest following the senseless murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and and the pandemic – continue to prompt those who seek healing in the community to take action.
Telling the stories of these healing heroes is the mission of this digital campaign by Community Works/New Heritage Theatre Group. To growing public response, we celebrate an increasing number of local Harlem heroes -- those responding to the very practical and very emotional job of keeping a community in balance. Plans are under way to highlight the campaign in a website and to offer online public programs to allow discussion on these important healing themes.
These stories about health workers and artists, environmentalists and technologists, and the agencies still hard at work to feed seniors and those in need, offer emotional and financial help are at https://www.instagram.com/
harlemishealing/ and at
The campaign is building on the spirit of the 20-year effort to spotlight local individuals and community institutions who commit to making a difference during hard times. The pandemic and nationwide unrest are disrupting lives locally, and both are hitting black and brown communities disproportionately.
As David Nocenti, executive director of United Settlement, the East Harlem social services agency highlighted in one of our stories, says, “Why was there surprise that the pandemic would hit hardest at low-income communities?”
The Rev. Al Sharpton, another honoree, noted, “This pandemic is showing us the structural problems and inequalities in our society.” Rev. Al Sharpton, who then used the memorial for George Floyd to say that recent events reflect that the country has had its knee on the neck of black Americans in policies that strike unfairly. Honoree artist Robin Holder said, “Most white people I talk with say they have not been touched personally by the virus. Most black people I talk with say they know eight or nine others who have gotten sick or died."
Their thoughtful comments show that, policing issues aside, healing requires sustained attention from individual and societal response in medicine, arts, education, food services, religious life, environmentalism, just as it does from those who drive the subways and buses daily through the problematic times.
“Part of the reason for the strong response is that there is a message of hope in these stories” said Barbara Horowitz, Founder and President of Community Works. Voza Rivers, Executive Producer of New Heritage Theatre Group added, that through vigilance and focus, “We continue to exhibit the strength of our ancestors to get through this unbelievable time.”
Over two decades, the pair have been collaborating around social justice and multi-ethnic programs that have served tens of thousands of New York City public school students and community-based organizations in Harlem and beyond.
The list of Harlem is . . . Healing campaign honorees, shown below, is still growing, particularly as the community faces new pressures and protests resulting from the police killing in Minneapolis.
These stories and those that follow will become part of exhibitions known collectively as Harlem is . . . Music, Theater, Dance and Comm
unity at Harlem Hospital at Malcolm X Boulevard at 136th Street, where coronavirus forced delays in anything but medical treatment.
The number of Harlem is . . . Healing campaign honorees is still growing, but include:
- 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 and Dr. Dara Kass, emergency room physicians, 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, We Act, the environmental activists, 100 Tailors of Harlem, African immigrants from the Shabazz Center market, for work on masks and gowns, the work of young people at the Brotherhood/Sister Sol, Harlem Hospital nurse Sadie Treleven, 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, Michelle Bishop’s Harlem Needle Arts and Lisa Dubois’ X Gallery for sponsoring work with artists, teen tutor Alexis Loveraz, Union Settlement, the social services agency in East Harlem, Clayton Banks of Silicon Harlem for technology help and learning, Uplift NYC for pivoting youth activities to deliver food, Naomi Lawrence and the El Barrio Crochet Collective and Carmen Paulino for public crochet projects in East Harlem to thank front-line workers, artist Robin Holder, whose paintings reflect images and raise questions about response to pandemic, East Harlem restaurant La Fonda Boricua for working with World Central Kitchen to make meals for Metropolitan Hospital and the needy, photo artist Tau Battice and portraits of Harlem in time of virus, and four women undertakers at International Funeral & Cremation Services in Harlem who have dealt first hand with the overwhelming real problems of family and death.