My Harlem, Yesterday and Today

By NativeNewYorker

Schomburg Center

As a Harlem native, I read the NY Times article yesterday about the demographic changes in Harlem with mixed feelings.  I was pleased, of course, to see a feature article about Harlem; amused by the convenient redefinition of Harlem’s traditional boundaries to coincide with the census’ PUMA (public use microdata area) divisions, and skeptical of the sometimes inconsistent statistics quoted, (especially since no source for them was identified).  But mostly, I was perplexed and, I guess, dismayed by the simplistic characterization of the described changes as a Black-White, lose-win process.  Harlem has been through a series of transitions which have produced its rich legacy of culture and art, epitomizing Black, urban America.  The current transition is about increased diversity from a number of racial, ethnic and immigrant groups whose influences are making Harlem an even more interesting and stimulating place to live.  They do not threaten Harlem’s identity, they enrich it.  What do you think?

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About the Author: Native New Yorker

5 Comments

  1. The neighborhood – like all in NYC change. Harlem was once all white, was once all Native American. Hell’s Kitchen was once all Hispanic. So goes the greatest city in the world. The one thing Harlemites can bond together is to save our historic buildings. Harlem should never abandon another historic treasure again.

  2. It doesn’t matter if the NYT writer is from Harlem or not, the stats are basically clear, greater Harlem vs Central Harlem and the trend is clear, blacks have lost or are losing the majority. This NYT story represents a watershed moment, so many people I have spoken to not from Harlem have read this article and are now aware of the new demographic shift taking place. Also New Yorkers have constantly argued over neighborhood boundaries, this article is no exception from reading NY Times commentators. One thing I do disagree with is some folks regard Harlem as a majority black area and as that majority black area shrinks so too does Harlem. That is not he case, Harlem is Harlem regardless of color and even the newly developed Frederick Douglass corridor with it’s new condos is still Harlem, although a changing demographic. I always was and still am proud to say I live in Harlem, whatever it’s makeup. With the 2010 census we will see the new and changing makeup of Harlem again.

  3. When I read the article, the first thing I thought was, this person isn’t from Harlem. The idea that Africans and Caribbeans are some new demographic was my first clue.

    I came up in Harlem during the 70’s and 80’s and Africans and Caribbeans have been in the community since I was a child and even before then. White people aren’t knew to Harlem either.

    Trsut the Times to get it wrong, wrong and wrong. Harlem isn’t losing anything. It’s history and cultural contributions are known the world over. No one can take that away.

    Tired of the doom and gloom surrounding Harlem. It’s not going anywhere as long as there are people who love it.

  4. I also read that rather disappointing article that lost me in it’s facts & figures, missing the whole point of the richness of our diverse Community where people in t-shirts & jeans walk side by side with those wearing colorful dashikis & traditional robes.
    The Times needs an article written by someone who lives here – not someone who surfs the net for facts/figures or someone who pops in for the day. How ’bout it, NativeNewYorker…

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