WHAT’S GOING ON

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Hugh Masekela

NEW YORK, NY

What is the status of the search for a successor to Chancellor Carmen Farina, who retires from the Department of Education this year.   Hopefully, Mayor de Blasio will continue his “educators only” criteria.   I recently read that his first choice for chancellor, four years ago, was Barbara Byrd Bennett, former NY education administrator who wanted to complete her commitment to the Chicago school system but refused to leave her job as Chicago chancellor.   At the top of the chancellor’s work description list should be a requirement to desegregate NYC public schools. Born in Puerto Rico, Melissa Mark-Viverito, former NY City Council Speaker, who was term-limited, joins the Latino Victory Fund as a senior advisor to help recruit leaders, expand fundraising and increase public involvement aimed at improving Latino political representation around the nation.                                                                           

        Politicos are biting the dust during the advent of Mayor de Blasio’s second term.   Michael Kelly, NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) General Manager and second in command, announced his resignation on Monday.   Why? Is he the fall guy for relentless NYCHA complaints or was it the lead paint inspection failures to tenants and the public. Meanwhile, NYCHA Chair/CEO Shola Olatoye seems secure in her job despite the thunderous calls for her departure, not the least of which is Public Advocate Letitia James. Her days could be numbered.

Jay-Z

The 60th edition of the GRAMMYS, the entertainment industry’s ultimate music spectacle, is set for January 28 in NY at Madison Square Garden. This year’s GRAMMYS is a little different and more inclusive.  The Album of the Year category is filled with HIP-HOP artists, which is a sea-change for the GRAMMYS, which oftentimes, did not televise HIP-HOP awards.  New York’s own Jay-Z has 8 nominations and Kendrick Lamar has 7. It is guestimated that the GRAMMYS and ancillary events will generate about $200 million in revenues for NYC during GRAMMYS Week, which began on 1/21. [NYC Restaurant Week 2018 (1/22- 2/9)] More than 300 restaurants are participating and offering three-course meals at deeply discounted price points. Lunch: $29, and Dinner: $42.

BUSINESS MATTERS 

Hope Knight

Hope Knight, President of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) since 2015, has a lot to say to Crain’s NY magazine about her turf, her vision and her immediate challenges.   She explains about GJDC: “Private capital does not necessarily take chances on untested markets. Economic development corporations help move the market in a certain direction and deploys a proof of concept.”   The GJDC is bound on the west with a transit hub, which includes NYC subway stations, the LIRR and AirTrain connections to JFK Airport; with CUNY’s York College on the south; the US FDA northeast testing facility and an emerging hospitality sector around the LIRR and AirTrain stations. Residential projects are in development.

It seems that an effective development corporation is about the deft and interesting interplay between residential and commercial development and juggling the private and the public sector interests.  NYC invested $150 million to help revitalize the “transit-rich” neighborhood during her first year at GJDC.    A native New Yorker born in East Harlem, Hope Knight, 52, graduated from Marymount Manhattan College who earned an MBA from the University of Chicago.   Prior to GJDC, Knight was Chief Operating Officer of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.

ARTS AND CULTURE

Oscar is a little more inclusive this year.   Nominees include GET OUT for Best Picture and Best Director Jordan Peele. Best Actor nods go to Denzel Washington for “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” and to Daniel Kaluuya for “Get Out”. The Best Supporting Actress finalists are Mary J. Blige for “Mudbound” and Octavia Spencer for “The Shape of Water”. The 90th Academy Awards for Excellence in the Film Industry airs on March 4.

The Schomburg Center’s “Live from the Archive” series hosts its next conversation, MILES, BALDWIN AND ME, QUINCY TROUPE, on January 30, 6:30-8 pm. Troupe is an award-winning poet, editor, biographer who will converse with Farah Jasmine Griffin, Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African-American Studies at Columbia University.   [Visit: Nypl.org/Schomburg]

The Second Harlem Classical Music Celebrations, co-hosted by Opera Ebony, Three on 3 Presents, Opera Noire of New York, the Harlem Chamber Players and Harlem Opera Theater, present the works of renowned operatic and spiritual composers in symposium and in concert. This collaboration series runs from February 1-24 at multiple venues and includes program titles like “A Tribute to the Spiritual”, symposium and concert; Opera Ebony and Three on 3 Presents with Jasmine Muhammad and Christopher Cooley; A 10th Annual Black History Month Celebration with works by H. Leslie Adams, spirituals and Nonet by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; “Lift Every Voice and Sing”: A Tribute to John Rosemond Johnson; a two-act theatrical work, Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom; and the David I. Martin Music Guild of the National Association of Negro Musicians 2018 Scholarship Local Competition Winds & Percussion. For full calendar of events, visit HarlemOperaTheater.org; Harlemchamberplayers.org; Operaebony.org.

NEWSMAKERS

Leslie Wyche

RIP: Leslie Wyche 73, joined the ancestors last week. Harlem-born and bred, Leslie Wyche will be fondly remembered as the “Mayor of Harlem”, an appellation that he wore with distinction. A civil servant, his resume boasted titles like district manager of Harlem-based Community Boards 9 and 11; a community liaison for then-NYC Councilwoman Inez Dickens and stints at various NYC commissioners’ offices.   Wyche was a member of One Hundred Black Men of New York and the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.   No stranger to local political clubs, uptown real estate and business, he was familiar with most unfolding Harlem news. The Mayor of Harlem really soared when it was time for special events, a VIP birthday party, a Support Network New Year’s Eve Gala or Yacht party, a political fundraiser, an open house. He knew everyone and was a great facilitator of introductions to the Black local elites and power players.   There was a newspaper-sponsored election for Mayor of Harlem in 2003, which he won handily. Leslie was Harlem’s Hizzoner, one of a kind! 

RIP: South African-born Hugh Masekela, 78, died after battling prostate cancer for almost 10 years. Trumpeter, composer and vocalist, Masekela was known as the “Father of South African jazz” and one of the loudest opponents of South African apartheid, a system of oppression like Jim Crow. He went into exile in the 60s and lived in the United States and Britain. His music was informed by his politics and exile from SA.    His song, “Grazing in the Grass”, with its signature South African township rhythms, topped US and international charts in 1968. His music kept referencing South Africa’s struggles and apartheid.   Masekela returned home after freedom fighter Nelson Mandela was released from an almost-30-year prison ordeal and who became SA President in the 90s.  South African Arts and Culture minister described Masekela as “one of the great architects of Afro Jazz. A baobab tree has fallen”!

A Harlem-based management consultant, Victoria can be reached at Victoria.horsford@gmail.com.