Inspired by Questlove’s ‘Summer of Soul,’ There’s a New Festival Coming to Harlem

The inaugural Harlem Festival of Culture was inspired by Questlove’s Summer of Soul documentary.

Oscar-winning director Questlove put the spotlight on the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969 — which was dubbed “Black Woodstock” — with his brilliant Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) documentary. Now there’s a new festival inspired by “Black Woodstock.”

On Wednesday, August 13th, the inaugural Harlem Festival of Culture was announced by founder Musa Jackson, who attended the Harlem Culture Festival when he was five and was featured in the documentary. Spearheading the event with Nikoa Evans and Yvonne McNair, Jackson stated through press materials, “We want people to understand that this Festival is being built by the people who are from, live and work in this community.” The event will take place at Marcus Garvey Park, originally known as Mount Morris Park. That is the exact location of the Harlem Culture Festival of 1969.

Questlove first discovered the Harlem Culture Festival in 1997 and nearly two decades later, was asked to develop the newly discovered footage into an archival masterpiece. With the release of Summer of Soul, the organizers used Questlove’s restoration of Black music and history as an inspiration to revive a sense of pride and allow others to experience the vibrancy and culture showcased. Since its release, the acclaimed documentary has won a multitude of awards, including Best Documentary at this year’s Academy Awards and Best Music Film at the Grammys.

Although exact dates haven’t been confirmed or announced yet, the roll out for the inaugural event will consist of a multitude of live events and social programs that will conclude with the multi-day festival. “We want to authentically encapsulate the full scope — the energy, the music, the culture,” Jackson continued through a press release. That authentic energy will begin this week as the organizers will host “A Harlem Jones” open mic night at the Museum of the City of New York on April 15th, live concerts and a special screening of Summer of Soul featuring cast members.

Kia Turner

Kia Turner is a freelance journalist and music historian from Newark, New Jersey. Managing her album-based series Deconstructing or talking about Pussy Rap, you can find the Hoodaville princess at @ChasingKia on all platforms. 

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