44th Annual Harlem Week Festival starts

HARLEM, Manhattan — It’s time for the 44th Annual Harlem Week Festival which actually began as something called “A Great Day in Harlem” in the 70s and has now grown into so much more.

More than 40,000 people attended the kickoff of the more than four decades old Harlem festival event in U.S. Grant Memorial Park at 122nd street and Riverside Drive.

There were jewelry, clothing, and food vendors, but it really was all about the music and those in attendance couldn’t stay seated.

They were dancing in the aisles to Alyson Williams singing a tribute in honor of the legendary, Ms Phyllis Hyman, along with the Harlem music festival all star band and music director Ray Chew.

Voza Rivers started this Harlem festival back in 1974 as a tribute to the Harlem residents who stayed in their neighborhood through the tough times.

The first Harlem Day actually included a street dedication when Seventh Avenue was renamed for the late Representative Adam Clayton Powell Junior, the first person of color who had a street named for him.

“It is to maintain our cultural heritage and welcome multicultures to our brotherhood,” Voza Rivers, the executive producer of the Harlem Week Festival, told PIX11. “And to celebrate, celebrate, celebrate.”

For many, Harlem Week is a chance to tackle some important issues.

“We want to register people to vote in the midterm elections,” Geoffrey Eaton, First Vice President, NAACP New York State Conference, told PIX11.

Others, like the Myke family, saw this kickoff as a great day to celebrate family.

“Everybody just being together and enjoying and having a good time,” Clinton Myke, a father, told PIX11 News.

“Harlem is booming and thriving and it’s a great place to visit and hang out,” Myishia Myke, who was born in Harlem, but now lives in The Bronx, told PIX11.

Harlem Week doesn’t actually end until Aug. 25. There are more than 100 events planned and more than 2 million attendees expected.