When David Harrington was a growing up in New York City, he enjoyed visiting Harlem and listening to his grandfather tell stories about the people who frequented neighborhood nightspots like the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater, whether it was Harry Belafonte or Sydney Poitier.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Lenox Avenue in Harlem was the epicenter of pride, culture and art for African Americans. Landover is not Harlem, but it has been a passionate supporter of Prince George’s County’s annual Harlem Renaissance festival.
“The Harlem Renaissance festival provides us with a real identity and it is giving voice to the community,” Harrington said in an interview on the eve of the 15th annual event. It includes a gala, community march and all-day festival with local artists and musical legends like the group Midnight Star.
The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Kentland/Columbia Park Community Center in Landover. But it is much more than a one-day affair, said Carolyn Mills Mathews, executive director of the Harlem Renaissance festival. “We are honoring Dr. Charlene Dukes, president of Prince George’s Community College, who will get the foundations Love Award. We have a group from Ohio teaching our young men how to communicate and make decisions.”
Former Prince George’s County Council member Dorothy Bailey was the visionary behind the festival. “When I came into office, it reminded me of the Harlem Renaissance because Prince George’s County was on the cusp of something great, people were working to make better community and I wanted to do something to celebrate that,” she said.
“It is about building strong community and celebrating who you are,” Bailey said. “It is not just singing and dancing one of the highlights and staying in the house where we have the lectures and they talk about what it means to be a black.”
Saturday’s program includes musical performances, lectures and speeches, arts and crafts in several areas of the park. Among the artist scheduled to appear are Be’la Doña, Black Alley, Dee 1 and Tray and Marcus Canty. On the big stage, the group FrameWerk will appear before the legendary group Midnight Star.
Sonja Chichester, lead singer of the group FrameWerk, said, “We are proud to partake in this wonderful celebration of our culture with pride embracing our past accomplishments, present expectations and what the future holds for the children.”
While the festival focuses much of its attention on art and culture,it will begin with a march and parade from the Landover Metro Station to Columbia Park.
Harrington said one of the things he is most proud of is the event’s success in the Landover community.
“In the 15 years we have had this event, there has never been an incident,” said Harrington.