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On Sunday, October 24, 2021, I had the honor of being the photographer on assignment for an event in East Harlem. Uptown Grand Central is a nonprofit organization that works with business owners, residents, and organizations in the area. As they put it, to "strengthen and showcase all that is 'grand' about our neighborhood." In partnership with another organization, The Association for A Better New York, they put together an art walk designed to highlight unsung heroes in the neighborhood.

Prior to the art walk, volunteers (including myself) met with representatives from both organizations via a video call to provide feedback on the project. This discussion provided the blueprint through which select artists created their respective public artworks under the title, "We Are New Yorkers."

Sunday's art walk was an chance to tour the various art sites, as well as meet with the artists and their respective subjects. It was also the first time that many of the volunteers got to meet each other in person.

In the series of images below, artist Andre Trenier (2nd photo in the series) created a montage of murals on 125th street, just off of 2nd Avenue. These were to highlight the four Black women you see. They're all postal workers at the post office branch located on 124th street. During the event they shared stories of perseverance as they worked through the early months of the pandemic.

The murals were wonderful to see. Having some of the ladies from the post office there made it even more so.

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Wesley Autrey was another We Are New Yorkers mural honoree. He's a Harlem resident and local legend. In 2007, Wesley saved a man who fell into in the New York City subway tracks. Wow! I imagine he's told it numerous times before, yet hearing his description of the event is still mind-blowing. I'm glad Wesley and the other gentleman weren't hurt!

Originally, Wesley wasn't scheduled to appear to the art walk, but surprise! He came through and surprised us. He was kind enough to let me take his portrait next to his mural, which was also done by Andre Trenier. His mural is located on 125th street off of 1st avenue, on the the 125th Pizza of Harlem business gate. It's a few doors down from the one Andre did for the postal workers.

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Q&N Food was another stop on the We Are New Yorkers art tour. While the subjects on the front gate weren't present for the event the artists, Lost Breed Culture, were on hand. They spent a few minutes talking about working with the shop to get the mural right. This, to pay appropriate tribute to these essential workers who did so much for the community during the coronavirus pandemic.

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I thought this was sweet: the children on the gates of the vegan restaurant Jahlookova are the owner's! Their names are RufaEl and MikaEl. He said they inspired him to keep going during the pandemic.

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The artist (not pictured) that did this mural is Kristy McCarthy aka D:Gale. In the group picture are, from left to right: Carey King, Executive Director of Uptown Grand Central; Royal Wellington, the owner of Jahlookova; Melva M. Miller, CEO of the Association for a Better New York; Diane Collier, Board Chair of Uptown Grand Central.

If you're on 125th street off of 5th avenue check them out!

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Of all the unsung heroes that were profiled during the October 24th art walk, Juan Cortez stood out the most for me. He's the Holistic Health Services Manager for New York Harm Reduction Educators (NYHRE).

Juan and his colleagues work to provide harm reduction services to the East Harlem community. This means working directly with a population that's already facing numerous challenges (drug use, housing insecurity, etc.) that were made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

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I was honored to have a chance to take his photo alongside the mural created for him. I also had an opportunity to speak with him, visit the NYHRE site, and learn more about the organization's roots and mission. I encourage you to check out the NYHRE website to learn more about, as well as support, the work they do!

Harlem Fresh and Edible Arrangements--both located on 125th street just off of 5th avenue--was another stop on the We Are New Yorkers art walk. There the group met Menaceresa, the artist duo responsible for the murals at these two locations. While there, the art walkers got to hear wonderful testimony from those that knew the subjects painted on the gates. One person fondly remembered was Tamara Hendricks ("Ms. Tam"), who worked at a daycare center. The other was a jazz musician named Henry Grimes. Sadly, they both passed away in 2020.

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In the group photo below are, from left to right: Nerfertiti Arthur, a friend of one of the deceased honored, jazz musician Henry Grimes, who passed away at the Northern Manhattan Nursing Home on 125th street; Melva M. Miller, CEO of the Association for a Better New York (ABNY); Diane Collier, Board Chair of Uptown Grand Central; artists Resa and Menace Two aka Menaceresa; fiber artist Carmen Paulino; Carey King, Director of Uptown Grand Central.

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We capped off the We Are New Yorkers art walk at Marcus Garvey Park. There we met up with members of the Afrikumba Utibe Drummers. This drumming circle as been gathering in the park for decades and is a local institution. Menaceras included them as part of the murals they completed at the Harlem Fresh market. Unfortunately, they gates were up and I couldn't take a photo of the artwork.

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I had a great time being a part of this art walk. Thank you Uptown Grand Central for hiring me to record the event!

NOTE: As I mentioned previously, there were a number of participants that couldn't make the October Art Walk. Also, a few murals were not completed or on display during the Walk. I'm working with Uptown Grand Central to get the ones missed. So watch this space for updates!

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