Group 5 are going to Harlem! A quiet hush befalls the room and looks quickly flicked our way. It’s interesting how people build up preconceptions about a place based on here-say and information you heard many years ago. In todays business world you would never make use this sort of information as you know it is very likely to be out of date, so why do we allow ourselves to think like this!
Initially I too found myself apprehensive but then quickly dismissed these preconceptions and decided to see what I find and build my opinion from there. And so glad I did.
Initial observations started even before arriving on the Subway. The carriage we were on had some interesting advertising. Advertising asking if you had a Cocaine problem and how to seek help, a second about learning a trade that pays for plumbing and electrician careers and a third about training for a career as office admin and or medical assistants. I filed this away until after our journey to Harlem was complete and made and interesting comparison on the subway heading back into New York central which was the advertising in this direction was advertising for Macy’s shopping and Budweiser beer adverts and advertising for a DiscoverIT card. Now I accept that this may be coincidence but it was quite a contrast in style.
Upon arrival the streets were strangely empty! We wandered around the wondering if the population had been abducted by Aliens when we came across some passionate shouting and singing emanating from a nondescript building. They were all in church! And I mean ‘all’. This set the scene for the rest of the trip. Already here is a community that were all together and celebrating their belief in A higher being. There was a secondary observation however that I made when we found and approached the front of the church and that was one of privacy. We were quickly told that the church was full and we could not enter.
Lunch was at Amy Ruths to get some real homestyle Harlem cooking and we were not disappointed ! This is where I formed my second impression of Harlem. There was a sense of wanting to ensure you were well looked after and a feeling that the restaurant was a safe haven. Again interestingly a secondary observation I made while being seated was that they would not allow us to seat in a certain part of the restaurant. While this was not obvious I saw the look on the waitresses face when we suggested we sit in this area. She quickly moved us on and Sat us in the front. Later I wanted to see why she had acted in this way so I walked through this area and found that it was obviously members of the community that always came here and that this was ‘their’ area. A theme was starting to develop.
After lunch we all split up and wandered around parts of Harlem. A lot of restoration was going on and there were some very affluent areas and people around. In contrast on the next block you would come across some very dilapidated buildings as well. This was fascinating and upon analysis led me to the conclusion that this is such is such a close knit community that when people in the community start to earn good money and create good careers that rather then move to a more affluent area as most people do they would prefer to invest in their community and improve their living situation where they grew up! This is a wonderful and humbling sentiment.