One hundred years ago, June 26, 1922 to be exact, The New Amsterdam Musical Association (NAMA) purchased the brownstone at 107 W. 130th Street in Harlem. The oldest African-American musical association in the United States, NAMA was conceived by musician, arranger, and composer James Reese Europe. Founded in 1904, NAMA served as a union for Black musicians denied admission into the whites only American Federation of Musicians. The NAMA brownstone provided a place for hard-working, underpaid Black musicians to stay, network, and share information on gigs—helping one another survive.
NAMA celebrated the centennial anniversary of the brownstone on June 25, 2022 with a gala event at the Harlem School of the Arts and one of the best jam sessions ever. The Centennial Gala helped raise funds for renovation of this most important and culturally significant site. The inimitable Sheila Anderson, author and WBGO Jazz on-air host, served as mistress of ceremony. The best and brightest musicians and singers—from the past to present day—performed. Willie Mack, Steve Sink, Don Baron Sr., Antoinette Hamlin, and Robeson Norton received recognition and awards for their service to the organization. The brownstone today is prime real estate in radically changing Harlem—near Sylvia’s, Red Rooster, and the Schomburg Center on a block with other grand, historic, 19th-century brownstones. On this same block, Bayard Rustin planned the National March on Washington in 1963. As a child, the painter Jacob Lawrence took art classes nearby.
In recent years, developers have come knocking at NAMA’s door, looking to purchase the building. In today’s real estate market, such a sale would be a windfall for the organization. But determined to keep the association intact, even in the face of gentrification and an aging membership, NAMA holds on to its heritage and the brownstone. —TPC Staff