Ever heard of Harlem Cultural Festival 1969? Probably not. And it’s a disgrace. But did you hear about ‘Woodstock’ the same year ‘1969’; the summer of love? Yea.. most likely. And you probably also see a bunch of images trickling down from muscle memory, even though you haven’t experienced it yourself. I certainly do; I see, peace signs, flare pipes, flowers, the scent of sex, psychedelics, VW hippie vans, counter-culture, anti-establishment, Vietnam war and all that shit. This is the power of storytelling, media, news and history. These two historical events happened in the same year, in the same country, sharing the same timeline. But for some reason one of them got all the attention, all the media and completely took over all the cultural necessity which soon after became engraved in our historical archives. And the other..? Basically ‘’never happened’’ – until NOW – 50 years later…
The footage captured during this festival has never
“NEVER” been revealed to the general public. You wanna know who played? ALL THE GREATS: Nina Simone, B.B. King, Sly and the Family Stone, Chuck Jackson, Abbey Lincoln & Max Roach, the 5th Dimension, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Hugh Masekela, Jesse Jackson.
The documentary ‘Harlem Cultural Festival 1969, is a must-see for all. And definitely not only for the amazing music and artists on display, that was absolutely stunning. But more for the overall narrative, a historic event where black emancipation and black music came together under the same banner. A critical moment in music history, that should’ve never been swept under the rug. This was an event of liberation with an enormous magnitude of necessity. And ow yea, before I forget. The NYPD refused to provide security, and it was instead provided by members of the Black Panther Party.
Seeing this movie made me feel all types of ways… Energetic, amazed and struck with awe. But also very very very sad, sad, sad. If you grasp or at least try to grasp the magnitude of this festival, what it portrays, what it stood for, who it represents and in what kind of time and environment it was organised. You’ll notice the cultural and historical importance it represented.
Now knowing about this event is particularly hurtful to me and not only because this was the work of white supremacy once again, but more because I’m a music graduate; I studied music; music history; I have a bachelor degree in music; I have a masters in music; I use to teach music for 6 years as well as music history. And I thought that I was well educated and cultured in music. But after seeing this documentary, it makes you question everything, and all the knowledge accumulated over the years from white institutions/universities. What is true and what is not. I most certainly would’ve loved to include this festival and the story in my slides to all the black and beautiful kids that I used to teach for years.
The Revolution Will be Televised – but 50 years later.
– Witten by Nathan Kofi