On Monday, 8/6/12, I woke up early (about 5:45am) and nervous in anticipation of a planned meeting I was to attend in Harlem at the Harlem Arts Alliance's monthly meeting. This is a monthly event where Harlem Arts Alliance (HAA) members can network, meet old friends, make new ones, and find out what's happening on the artistic front in New York City.
It had been recommended to me by a dear, Afro-connected man-about-town, Kojo, that I go and perform an excerpt from my show to let people in the community know about my upcoming performances (8/11-8/25) and to give them a taste of what the show is like. I was excited, but nervous because I haven't done the show in several years.
A good friend of mine, Petol Weekes, the previous day had offered to meet me there to take pictures and seeking a calming influence, I said, "Of course!"
Even though I wasn't going to work until the afternoon, I left the house just slightly later than my regular schedule. I figured I could get to Manhattan early, find a spot to have coffee, catch up on emails, and map out my performance in my head.
I parked myself in a midtown McDonalds, walked through a few things in my mind, responded to some emails and time was up. I then headed up to Harlem.
As I approached the Riverside Church, my heart warmed with the thought of the different times I had performed there on other occasions and found such a supportive audience.
I was offered coffee when I entered (leftovers from a teachers' conference upstairs) and greeted in the familiar, welcoming spirit that I'd recalled from prior visits.
I entered the theater and met a young lady who was clearly a performer. She told me about her show, which had gone to the National Black Theater Festival, and we exchanged postcards. As people trickled into the auditorium, I began to feel so at ease, so at home.
At the start of the meeting each member was asked to introduce himself and state his affiliation. As the mic moved through the audience I got information about all kinds of Harlem events, including a peace walk, bare-headed ladies event, and several visual and performing arts events.
When Petol arrived, I felt completely comfortable. She readily accepted my request to read the intro I jotted down to be read during the introduction of my scene. I then performed my scene to what now felt like family. People laughed, clapped, and let their support be fully expressed.
I am so grateful for an organization like the Harlem Arts Alliance. Even though I haven't lived in Harlem since 1992, it always FEELS like home.