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Questlove’s ‘Summer of Soul’ Inspires Harlem Festival of Culture Revival

The award-winning documentary has sparked a modern reimagining of the famed 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival.

Summer of Soul

“Summer of Soul”

YouTube/screenshot

Next summer is already confirmed to be a “Summer of Soul.”

Oscar, Grammy, and Peabody award-winning documentary “Summer of Soul (…Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” has sparked a reimagining of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which the film explores.

Produced and directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, “Summer of Soul” was the inspiration for a new outdoor music festival set for 2023. The Harlem Festival of Culture (HFC) will take place in Marcus Garvey Park, formerly known as Mount Morris Park, the same site as the original festival.

HFC was founded by Harlem native, Ambassador Digital Magazine editor-in-chief Musa Jackson, who attended the original festival as a child and appeared in “Summer of Soul.” Nikoa Evans and Emmy-nominated event producer Yvonne McNair are also co-founders of the HFC.

“The original event was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that I will never forget,” Jackson said in a press statement. “With this initiative, we want to create something that evokes that same sense of pride in our community that I felt on that special day in 1969. We want to authentically encapsulate the full scope: the energy, the music, the culture.”

The original event featured performances from Nina Simone, B.B. King, Sly and the Family Stone, Chuck Jackson, Abbey Lincoln & Max Roach, the 5th Dimension, David Ruffin, Hugh Masakela, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Stevie Wonder, and more.

Jackson continued, “Being rooted, watered, and grown in this village of Harlem, I believe HFC is our moment to show the world the vibrancy of today’s Harlem — the music, the food, the look, all of it! We want people to understand that this festival is being built by the people who are from, live, and work in this community.”

“Summer of Soul” executive producer Joseph Patel commented on the announcement of the HFC, saying, “One of the things we hoped would happen with ‘Summer of Soul’ is that it would open the door for other stories to be told, in all their forms, especially by people from Harlem. I couldn’t think of a better person to charge through than Musa, whose devoted roots in the community make him the perfect person to represent for Harlem.”

The Harlem Festival of Culture will host a yearlong series of events leading up to the multi-day 2023 festival. HFC kicks off the 2022 spring season with musical performances in the park starting in May, along with conversation series and film screenings. HFC is also set to run A Harlem Jones open mic night at the Museum of the City of New York in tribute to the 25th anniversary of “Love Jones” on April 15.

The trio of Harlem Festival of Culture founders have additionally established the Harlem Festival of Culture (HFC) Foundation. The nonprofit organization will provide mentoring, apprenticeship opportunities and curriculum to high school students to further foster Harlem’s next generation of leaders in music, media, art, fashion, science, technology, and entertainment.

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