Field Day 2015: Harlem
October 1, 2015
Field Day is The LP’s annual festival that showcases the rich spectrum of local arts and culture in our three anchor neighborhoods: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Harlem, and Hunts Point / Longwood. The three day festival is open to everyone to participate by collecting a booklet containing a map and complete details on festival activities. The activities include open studio visits with Create Change Residents and Commissioned artists, free art workshops, public programs led by our Fellows, creative walks and more. Click here to see photos from Field Day.
This past Saturday, September 19, Field Day’s first day kicked off in Harlem, Manhattan. Volunteers arrived promptly at 12pm to check in at The Oberia D. Dempsey Multi-Service Center before joining in with the rest of the community At The Laundry Room located at 143 W 116th St.
In front of the Laundromat was Elvira Clayton’s striking Dioko sound sculpture which focuses on the Little Senegal community in West Harlem. As Elvira described the sculpture, “The Magic Sound Box is an ongoing series for the past three years. This specific sculpture is a reference to African masquerade costumes. The sculpture is draped with culture beads from Africa, supply beads and burlap. I am attracted to the box shape and vessel shape as it holds the story. You can then listen to the story of a Senegalese immigrant through the headphones. It is an intimate experience for the listener as they get to see, touch and hear.”
Across from the sculpture was a workshop led by Teaching Artist Jasmine Murrell, offered in conjunction with Dioko, participants created a small “magic box” to take home with them to capture a short story, dream, or affirmation using simple collage techniques. It was quite a sight to see all types of people from young and old unleash their creativity on these little wooden boxes. A young girl said, “This is my new jewelry box.” Well, she found a purpose and her jewels tell her story. The laundromat acting as a community hub for creativity put a highlight on defining what The LP is all about.
Following that was an interactive and creative walk through Le Petit Sénégal, or Little Senegal, led by beluvid ola-jendai (2014 Artist-in-Residence) and community organizer Cheik “Matty” Ly. The walk started at the laundromat and progressed west on 116th st. Both beluvid and Matty shed some very interesting knowledge about the community. For instance, many Senegalese people have been calling Harlem home for the last 30 years and although they migrated from French speaking Senegal, many speak the African language of Wolof. Of the 12,000 Senegalese migrants in the United States, 7,000 of them reside in New York City, primarily in Le Petit Sénégal. Many adapted to the ways of American living but the Annual African Parade which occurs in August unites all Africans and help the migrants to appreciate their culture. It was also brought to the participants’ attention that so many of the stores are named Touba. Touba is a holy city in central Senegal and holds much beauty. By naming these stores after Touba it gives each store a heavenly association.
Upon walking the participants stopped and entered the Association des Senegalais d’Amerique ASA (ASA Association of the Senegalese In America.) There they learned about many of Senegal’s famous public figures as their photos covered the wall. Matty spoke of the famous Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour who actually was to be performing in the city the following week. Well you will not believe who ended showing up to our laundromat on 116th Street that afternoon. It was none other than Youssou N’Dour! Dressed very sharply, he interacted with Elvira Dioko’s sound sculpture and shook hands with members of the community. It was the perfect addition to Field Day.
A little further uptown, was the ‘Harlem, I Am Still Here’ portion of Field Day, led by fellows Maura Cuffie, David Xu Borgonjon, Dhanni Shenoy, Kristy McCarthy and Ashley Grier. The project’s title was discovered by David through reading the Langston Hughes Poem “Still Here” and evolved from there. As Maura states, “A pivotal moment in our process happened during our collaborators picnic at Marcus Garvey Park during August. We narrowed down our very wide set of interests to think more deliberately about home, housing, and displacement as it relates to Harlem.” The fellows realized the direct connection between the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance and Total Equity Now. Both groups were working towards preserving a cultural legacy of Harlem which was the overall goal of the project. Maura also shares, “Various conversations with Julien at The Brotherhood / Sister Sol (Bro / Sis) also showed us that moving in a direction that honors home in Harlem continues to be top of mind for Harlemites.” The project’s title was discovered by David through reading the Langston Hughes Poem “Still Here” and evolved from there.
This portion of the festival took place at the Frank White Memorial Garden located at 512 West 143rd St; it was such an eye catching green space. The LP volunteers greeted members of the community at the front gate before they headed inside to take part in the activities. Activities included portrait sessions, a screening series focusing on the challenges of displacement and the notions of “home”, projections of community-generated artwork and poetry amongst other art-making activities. It was great to see the youth of Harlem participating and genuinely enjoying themselves.
Day one of Field Day 2015, in Harlem, was an absolute blast. Art brought the Harlem community together with Elvira Clayton’s “Dioko” sound sculpture, the Magic Story Box workshop, the creative walk through Little Senegal and ‘Harlem, I Am Still Here.’ It was the perfect eye opener to all that will be lost the more that gentrification intrudes.