U.S. Senate Unanimously Recognizes Harlem Festival Featured In ‘Summer of Soul’

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As of Tuesday (May 24), the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival received “unanimous consent” from the U.S. Senate on a resolution to honor the historic event during the last weekend of June. The festival is also the subject of Questlove’s Oscar- and Grammy-winning documentary, Summer Of Soul.

When the “Black Woodstock” launched in 1967 for free, there was no way to predict it’d be what it is today. The upper body of Congress will not only recognize the festival but also extend the honor to the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival started in 1970.

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Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the last weekend of June 2022 has been designated as the time to “commemorate the first weekend of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival.” The resolution specifically praised Nina Simone’s performance of “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black,” and Mahalia Jackson’s performance of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” as representing “a shift in Black culture, consciousness, and expression, and […] a movement away from performances designed to be palatable for white audiences and toward freer expression and celebration of Black art.”

The unanimous decision also “encourages Senators to plan appropriate activities that support the objectives of the [festivals]…and encourages local governments in the United States to build partnerships with local Black artists, performers and activists to further uplift Black culture and art and promote equal treatment of all people.”

Coincidentally, the Harlem Festival of Culture (HFC) inspired by its predecessor of a similar name will debut in 2023 with New Edition’s Michael Bivins serving as Creative Director. HFC will be held on the same grounds—now Marcus Garvey Park—as the 1969 event.

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