I have visited Harlem numerous times in my life but never really as a tourist. So there I was recently on a big tour bus, heading uptown on a sweltering day, escorting a group of French executives and feeling I was exploring the neighborhood for the first time. We went with the New York Visions Travel Group on the Harlem Spirituals Gospel Tour.
The architecture was majestic, the history epic, but to see the area fixed up and yet still tattered on the edges was uplifting and depressing at the same time. I really got to absorb the information as I was doing some translations into French…stories of freed slaves, rent parties, jazz, the crack years and now the resurrection of the famed quarter.
Our guide was an animated actress/French expat who, despite her arrogant attitude, gave a great tour. We made a pit stop at the Schomburg Library, a public library that is a research center for Black Culture. My dad had done research there in the ’70s and ’80s and I had vague memories of visiting as a child. Then we headed to a church to witness and participate in a gospel-music-infused service. Continue reading »