By Lloyd Williams
Welcome to The Positive Community’s 2023 “Harlem Summer” edition, and congratulations on The Positive Community’s continued commitment to highlight the “best of what is happening in the Black Church and community.”
Similarly, The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce— since its founding in 1896—has held true to its pledge to aid Harlem’s residents, businesses, and institutions, and work diligently for the benefit of the communities in the “Harlems” of the world.
With steadfast support from the officers, board, members, and staff, the Chamber has made great strides, drawing inspiration from the prosperous first Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s.
With that culturally and economically fruitful era in mind, the Chamber is now in a glorious new second Harlem Renaissance with new, incredible happenings, such as HARLEM WEEK.
Back in the 1970s, at the urging of then Manhattan Borough President and future board chair of the Chamber, Hon. Percy E. Sutton, HARLEM DAY debuted in the summer of 1974. The event’s aim was to realize Sutton’s vision to uplift Harlem and the Harlems of New York, which were in bad straights as urban flight devastated inner-city communities.
Over the years, HARLEM DAY has grown to become HARLEM WEEK, an eleven-day-plus showcase (this year from August 9 thru August 20) of the best Harlem has to offer in restaurants, musical entertainment, arts, cultural institutions, business, technology, education, health care, and worship.
Just as HARLEM WEEK has expanded over the years, the Chamber has also grown—from the Harlem Board of Commerce in 1896, to the Uptown Chamber of Commerce in 1921, during the first Harlem Renaissance; to now being The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce. And the Chamber’s responsibilities have expanded by leaps and bounds over time.
In 1993, demands for residential and commercial development in Harlem were addressed through The Greater Harlem Housing Development Corporation, the Chamber’s development subsidiary, which developed the Striver’s Center Development Project in partnership with the Mayor’s office and the New York City Planning Commission. The Striver’s Center development is comprehensive— including commercial, professional, cultural, and recreational expansion, along with a range of affordable housing options for Harlemites.
During the recent COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, the Chamber stepped up for Harlem by raising desperately needed funds to provide meals for hungry senior citizens, needy families and the homeless, and to provide small businesses assistance, necessary personal protective equipment for first responders, and other needs during the time of crisis.
Time and time again, the Chamber has come to the aid of Harlemites in the ever-changing neighborhood. In order to accomplish its planned and unseen duties, a wide range of citywide leaders make up the Chamber’s membership and its supportive partners, including leaders in religion, civics, education, health, culture, tourism, banking, and business.
And as the players and institutions of Harlem prepare for the next act of the Second Renaissance, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce has been consistently planning for the future of the neighborhood, its residents, businesses, and cultural institutions.
Climate change, technology, education, and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem are some of the key areas of focus and interest to the Chamber and Harlem’s future.
Climate Change and how environmental justice or lack of same affects Harlem and other communities and nations of color, have been the subjects of Chamber conferences over the years.
The Climate Change Conferences, which take place twice a year—during spring on Earth Day and during HARLEM WEEK—along with other initiatives, are part of the Chamber’s ongoing advocacy for action on the increasingly critical phenomenon.
In so many ways, technology will be a defining factor of our future lives. The Chamber, long aware of technology’s rapid growth and its increasing grasp on everyday life, is incorporating technology into its events and activities, in conjunction with the Silicon Harlem technological organization.
To address the digital divide in Harlem, technology-focused sessions for youngsters, adults, senior citizens, and small business owners are important, annual components of HARLEM WEEK’s festivities.
There is nothing more important to the Chamber than the educational development of the children, parents, business persons, and organizations in its service area. Toward this end, the Chamber has provided more than $3 million in scholarships and internships supporting the education of our youth. It is a constant focus of\ The Chamber, which has supported educational and training programs targeting all levels of learning. This year, at the request of Mayor Eric Adams to assist the student population of Harlem, the Chamber has agreed to adopt and mentor the Harlem School District.
NATIONAL JAZZ MUSEUM
The National Jazz Museum in Harlem and its goals are another key focus for the future. To assist with the museum’s promotion, preservation and appreciation of jazz music worldwide, The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce will lead the effort to help the museum find a new, permanent home in Harlem.
Lloyd Williams, President
The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce