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HARLEM WEEK 2019: Uptown honors LGBTQ power and celebrates Pride 50


Actor Andre De Shields, winner of the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for “Hadestown,” is among the 2019 Harlem Week honorees. (JEMAL COUNTESS/Getty Images for Tony Awards Pro)

This year ’s Harlem Week festivities will not only commemorate the 45th anniversary of celebrating the culturally rich village in the northern region of Manhattan,

but also honor the 50th anniversary of the LGTBQ community’s activism in New York City, which sparked a worldwide movement now regarded as Gay Pride.

According to Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce CEO Lloyd Williams, pride is the “overriding theme” of the entire three-week celebration, which officially kicked off July 28. “What that means is that at every one of our events, we are saluting Pride’s 50th anniversary,” said Williams.

At the July 18 Gracie Mansion reception, 73-year-old Tony Award-winning Broadway legend André De Shields was saluted “specifically for what he has done to support the issues of the LGBTQ community, and his remarks were directed in that matter,” Williams said.

During New York City’s Economic Day – Aug. 8 – at Columbia University, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson was honored during an awards luncheon for “his leadership in supporting and promoting the issue of pride, LGTBQ.”

On Aug. 18, Harlem Day, singers Janelle Monáe and Nona Hendrix will be honored.

Janelle Monae — seen in May at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the "Camp: Notes on Fashion" exhibition — is being honored during Harlem Week.
Janelle Monae — seen in May at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the "Camp: Notes on Fashion" exhibition — is being honored during Harlem Week. (Charles Sykes/Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Williams, who worked closely with fellow chamber members and their LGTBQ allies last year to celebrate notable gay and lesbian people, wanted to continue the effort to help bridge the divide felt by some in the Harlem community.

“We recognize that in communities of color, historically, over the many years, that there’s been a disavowing for the persons from the LGBT community,” he said.

“They’ve been shunted aside; they have not been recognized, and they’ve been cast out. We feel that in our communities, to promote any level of division works against the entire community.”

Williams said that because of the stigma associated with queer culture and different sexual orientations, people do not accept gay relatives.

“Our objective is to recognize that that is wrong, and we need to address the issue,” he said. “So what we’re trying to do is bring people together, come together as a family and understand the unity that is needed.”

As optimistically inclusive as Williams and his professional peers have become, area locals recently found themselves at the epicenter of homophobia and anti-gay

controversy when a rainbow flag was torched twice outside the Alibi Lounge – a gay bar on Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. – in June, which is LGTBQ Pride Month.

With the continued push to recognize and highlight LGTBQ community members, the chamber leaders hope that Harlem Week 2019 events will stem such acts of bias. The group joined community leaders and the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network to publicly denounce the hateful acts.

Williams is hopeful that Harlem Week 2019’s recognition of the LGTBQ community within the Harlem community will end incidents like these and bring light to darkness.

“I think the key is for us to learn that a part of what’s taking place here is a division – and that particularly in communities of color, where unity is more necessary than ever, any measure of division in our community [is a] force against the best interests of every single person.”