A Great Day in Harlem

Yesterday's kickoff to Harlem Week at the Harlem Jazz and Music Festival, "A Great Day in Harlem," could definitely be considered as such. Hundreds of people came out to the Grant Memorial Park to celebrate the deep heritage and all the different cultures that make up the neighborhood of Harlem. Food and gift booths filled the walkways in front of Grant's Tomb and I joined the event on Macy's Chefs-A-Go-Go food truck. We parked right on the corner of 122nd Street next to the music stage and jammed to music by DJ KevG as lines of people came by to try our food. Along with the Macy's truck staff, I gave out a Blackened Catfish Sandwich with my favorite Sweet Potato Fries. Chef Emeril Lagasse also sent along his "baBam" Ice Cream Popsicles that helped cool down our guests on that hot day. The food came out great, so much so that it ran out in a couple hours. We fed over a thousand people and many donated money to Feeding American that provides food to local food banks. It's fulfilling for me to be a part of something that can give back to the community and help those in need.

Even after our food was out, the festivities continued at the park well into the late afternoon and night. Food vendors filled the air with the scents of many different types of ethnic foods that would satisfy any tongue. There was a wide variety of foods all the way from soul food from BrooklynSoul to Japanese street food from Mimi & Coco. My favorite food booths were actually from these Japanese street food booths. Mimi & Coco offered Teriyaki Balls that were the perfect savory bite with authentic teriyaki flavor. Their neighboring booth, Homemade Snow Cones, was hands-down my favorite! The two lovely ladies manning the booth offered homemade shaved ice with unique traditional Japanese flavors. They had everything from strawberry and mango to red bean and green tea. My favorite was green tea; I couldn't get enough of it since it was the best refreshing treat for such a hot day.

Other artisanal booths had gifts, clothing, and artwork for sale to the guests. It was beautiful to see all of the handmade works of art from the various vendors.

The musical and dancing acts were out of this world. There were all types of performances from salsa orchestras to gospel singers. The most moving, however, was the children's performance from the National Dance Institute. This energetic and inspirational group of kids of all ages featured kids from every ethnicity; African-American, Hispanic, Caucasian, Asian, you name it; all dancing together in joyful celebration. It was a beautiful sight to see how our future can dance and have fun together in harmony.

For this and many reasons, the Harlem Week Kickoff was a great success. The community got together and commemorated the great traditions of Harlem. This was but one of the many celebrations that will occur across Harlem this month, and I can't wait to attend the other ones.

Check out HarlemWeek.Com for more information about this month's events. Also, check back later for my gallery of photos from yesterday's Harlem festival.