i am

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harlem, usa
same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. mjt975@msn.com.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Harlem's Mart 125: The American Dream

a couple of weeks ago i attended an interesting film & culture series at medgar evers college in brooklyn. the ongoing series is free & offers filmmakers from the african diaspora the opportunity to share their work in a culturally affirming environment. b4 the film an open mic is available for poets & spoken word artists. after the film a panel discussion is held to explore various concerns & issues impacting our community, as well as to engage the audience in dialogue. in the spirit of activating social change, we exchange ideas, raise awareness & speak truth to power.

the film, harlem's mart 125: the american dream, was brilliantly directed by rachelle salnave gardner, a native new yorker who moved to atlanta. this documentary film is about the history of mart 125 & how it correlates to the 'revitalization' of 125th street - harlem's main commercial sector. right from the opening moment, the film gives viewers a historical journey depicting the economic transition of 125th street from the late 60's (rev dr king/malcolm x era) to our current post-obama reality.

mart 125, a now-defunct space across the street from the apollo theatre utilized by business owners of african descent, is used as a metaphor to examine the plague of perplexities surrounding this unique black community & its relationship with the plans of urban renewal from a commercial standpoint. the film offers a microcosmic analysis of the displacement (read: genocide, or its politically correct term, gentrification) of black american communities today.

the film is dispersed with candid interviews from activists, entrepreneurs, politicians, residents & stakeholders whose conflicting views about how harlem changed right b4 their eyes illuminates the complexity of issues surrounding a community in peril. one of the statistics which resonated with me was how rent skyrocketed in a decade. in 1997 a one-bedroom apartment was available for $650/month. in 2007 that same apartment was $1500/month. the question on many folks' mind: who benefits?

i was inspired by the ensuing panel discussion. expertly facilitated by the series' mc, miles mcafee, the spirited audience was treated to food from the soul. in addition to the beautiful filmmaker, the panelists were kanya vashon mcgee, founder of the tree of life bookstore in harlem (circa 1969), kevin powell, activist, author (recently defeated in a brooklyn community district primary), fred saunders, real estate developer & pierre thiam, owner of the dakar restaurant in brooklyn.

miles immediately pointed out another sistah - in the spirit of gender equity - was invited yet could not attend. he also shared all of the panelists were personal friends, in other words, be kind to my peeps. after opening remarks, panelists shared their perspectives on the film & the many underlying issues disturbing our community: apathy, hiv/aids, mental illness, prison industrial complex, racism, substance use, unemployment, violence, etc. the audience was encouraged to ask questions in what miles termed "the liberation zone." he also suggested we network afterwards, as well as return for their upcoming film on october 15.

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