Harlem bids farewell to summer with weekend last lap street fest

Far Rockaway, Queens native Gary Hilliard annually attends AADP in Harlem. Last year was no different, here he is joined by senior from the Bronx, Vena Baker.
Far Rockaway, Queens native Gary Hilliard annually attends AADP in Harlem. Last year was no different, here he is joined by senior from the Bronx, Vena Baker.
Photo by Vinette K. Pryce

Brooklyn captivated a Parkway to express pride in Caribbean cultural heritage by marking a 51st anniversary tradition with the largest celebration of its kind in North America but Manhattan will claim a Harlem boulevard when they host the largest African-American Day parade in the USA and bid farewell to a memorable 2023 summer season during the 54th annual African-American Day Parade on Sept. 17.

Slated to kick-off at 10 a.m. from 111th St., grand marshalls and dignitaries will lead a parade of marching bands, floats, civil servants, politicians, celebrities, unions, fraternal sororities and fraternities, troubadours, masqueraders, steel bands, exhibitioners and community-based organizations along Adam Clayton Boulevard Jr. for a 6 o’clock deadline to end the pageantry.

“Join in on the annual celebration” Yusuf Hasan, chairman of AADP said.

Boasting a theme “Celebrating African American Culture” he explained “this year we honor those who have contributed to African American Culture.”

During a press conference held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture last Saturday, he announced a diverse list of honorees who will be sashed grand marshals for the day’s display.

They include: Ashley Keiko, musician/owner of Keiko Music Academy, Joy Bivins, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Joaquin Dean, founder/CEO of Ruff Ryders Entertainment and Bevy Smith, fashion consultant/author/TV personality.

“As a child I marched in the African American day parade and I’ve continued to attend as an adult,” Smith said.

The celebrity expressed glee at being named one of the select personalities to be honored with the title.

“It’s truly a dream come true to become the grand marshal.”

The honoree described the annual expression of pride saying “Harlem is the cultural mecca for Black America, we have a legacy of excellence, from the Harlem Renaissance to now.”

In addition to the above-named honorees, five more celebrated individuals include: Anna Glass, Executive Director of Dance Theatre of Harlem, Robert Garland, Artistic Director of Dance Theatre of Harlem, Billy Mitchell: tour director/and Apollo Theater ambassador, Rev. Deacon Rodney Beckford, director of the Kennedy Center Catholic Charities and DJ Drew Carter aka Grand Master Dee from the classic hip hop group Whodini.

Residents of the world-famous Village usually dress to impress for the occasion often sporting Africa-inspired outfits, culturally appropriate attire accompanied by red, black and green flags symbolic of the banner Marcus Mosiah Garvey promoted in tribute to a Pan-African agenda he advocated during his lifetime.

“As we gear-up for our 54th annual parade, celebrating African American culture, we are very excited to roll-out our first annual ‘Get Involved’ community literacy, health and celebration of culture event, the day before the parade on 125th St, in the plaza of the State Office building,” Hasan said.

For the first time, the bonus addition will feature panel discussions, performances and a sampling on the day prior to the parade at the plaza of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. office building.

The daylong event is slated from 11 am to 5 pm on Saturday and features a tribute to hip-hop at 2 p.m. with a dance battle to follow at 3 p.m. Performances by members of the Uptown Dance Academy, Javier Gooden, Michael Love, Kei Landa, Henny Mack, Gina, Aissatou Bey-Grecia and Friends, Petawane and Grlya are billed for the premiere showcase.

Last year during the Sunday parade, Barbados-born Doug E. Fresh staged a mini-concert at the 125th St. grandstand to display his talent as a human beat-box.

Thousands gathered there to cheer on the rapper as well as ‘steppers’ from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), members of the NYFD’s Vulcan Society, contingents who represented Black police officers, radio stations, Panamanian groups, a myriad of beauty queens as well as others.

“We are looking forward to seeing our many participants march up Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd in good spirits and seeing the support of our community parade day,” Chairman Hasan added.

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