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Sun, 06.29.1969

The Harlem Cultural Festival is Held

*On this date in 1969 the first performance played at the Harlem Cultural Festival.  Also known as the Black Woodstock, this was a series of music concerts that took place in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City.  The concerts celebrated African American music and culture and promoted the continued politics of Black pride.

Some of the artists included Nina SimoneB.B. King, Sly & the Family Stone, Chuck Jackson, Abbey Lincoln & Max Roach, The 5th Dimension, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Stevie WonderMahalia Jackson, and Moms Mabley, among many others.  For the concert featuring Sly & The Family Stone on June 29, 1969, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) refused to provide security, and it was instead provided by members of the Black Panther Party.

Producer Hal Tulchin filmed the full concert series, though the majority of the film remains commercially unreleased. New York's affiliate television station WNEW Metromedia Channel 5 (now FOX) broadcast hour-long specials of the footage on Saturday evenings at 10:30 PM in June - August 1969. The festival was hosted and promoted by Tony Lawrence, a New York nightclub singer. The concerts took place in Harlem's Mount Morris Park on Sundays from 3 PM from June 29, 1969, to August 24, 1969.

Sponsors included Maxwell House Coffee, and the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs Division of the City of New York (now separated into Parks and Recreation and Cultural Affairs).  

In 2021, a documentary of the festival with the original film and video footage premiered at the Sundance Film festival as Summer of Soul.

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Poetry Corner

I know I’m not sufficiently obscure to please the critics-nor devious enough. Imagery escapes me. I cannot find those mild and gracious words to clothe the carnage. Blood is blood and murder’s... I KNOW I’M NOT SUFFICIENTLY OBSCURE by Ray Durem.
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