In Harlem, we continued our discussion of the American dream which we began yesterday. Instead of looking at the dreams and actions of our ancestors, we looked at what Langston Hughes had termed as the “dream deferred” in the Black community. Unlike the ancestors of most of the people on the trip, Blacks were brought over to America, without any of the American Dream or the social mobility it promised. One topic we discussed was the Harlem Renaissance, the explosion which proceeded the “dream deferred” since the 1920s. But, before we toured the neighborhood, we went to the Schomburg Center of Research for Black Culture. There was an exhibit for iconic figures that passed away this year, like Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, and Ruby Dee which we were able to explore.
We toured Harlem with Derrick Edwards, who took us around while covering numerous topics about the history of the neighborhood. One was prohibition (the same time period as Gatsby, but this side of town was not nearly as flashy), where Duke Ellington and jazz were big in the speakeasies. Another was segregation in the North, a rarely discussed subject, as well as slavery (New York, we learned, was not eager to participate in the Civil War.) Something else which stood out to me was more recent: a mural about knowing one’s rights. This dealt with police brutality, including cases like Rodney King and Trayvon Martin.
Afterwards, Billy finally let the New Yorkers fully relax by taking us all out for a New York pizza lunch. The New Yorkers did not like going out for Chicago deep dish pizza earlier in the week and have since been asking questions like “why is it so messy?” and “why do you have to use utensils?” They were all happy to see the cheese on top, but we all enjoyed the food together.
On our way to Central Park, we walked by the building where John Lennon lived and died, and where Yoko Ono still lives. We then went to Strawberry Fields, where someone with a guitar was playing and singing “Here Comes the Sun.” Unfortunately, he was not playing the official Beatles song of Etgar 36, “Revolution.” Once we settled in the park, we listened to that Guitar Man perform American classics, as well as original songs such as “Tom Cruise Scares Me” and “Not Just America.” One thing that stood out for being really ironic is that being from North Carolina, one of my biggest dreams has been to see New York City. While I was sitting there in the park, though, I found myself listening to a performance of “Carolina In My Mind” by James Taylor.
Once we left Central Park, we headed downtown to the Lower East Side, where Billy spoke about our ancestors’ time living there and what life would have been like living in a tenement. Then we walked around Chinatown and Little Italy (best gelato ever!). We also visited Canal Street, where there were hundreds of vendors who sold pretty much the same things.
We finished the day off with dinner and free time in Greenwich Village. I found the food to be pricey while the books were cheap, so I took advantage and purchased the great American/New York epic, The Great Gatsby.
P.S.: Goodbye to Raina G., Alexa R., and Adam L. We’ll miss you! I believe you will all do great things.