Community Works is set to premiere harlem is…GOSPEL, a new documentary film by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jamal Joseph. The film, which delves into the history of the Harlem Gospel tradition and looks at its current expression……will have its world debut Tuesday, March 22 at 6:30pm at Harlem’s Dwyer Cultural Center as part of Community Works’ signature public art exhibition harlem is… the GOSPEL tradition.
The premiere will feature a performance by a Harlem Gospel choir and a talkback with Joseph and special guests Rev. Dr. Renee Washington Gardner (Senior Pastor, Memorial Baptist Church) and Pastor Michael A. Walrond Jr. (Senior Pastor, First Corinthian Baptist Church), who are both featured in the film.
The Gospel tradition lies at the very core of the Harlem experience. It has inspired numerous artists and influenced countless musical traditions, from Jazz to Hip-Hop. Called one of the few quintessentially American musical traditions, Gospel has been central to the cultural development of the United States. Nowhere else are the sounds and rhythms of Gospel as vibrant and central as in Harlem. As Pastor Walrond Jr. says in the film, “”It was a music that spoke to the rhythm of our people; the rhythm, the pace, the music, the vibe, the harmony.”
harlem is… GOSPEL explores the stories and experiences of the music makers and spiritual leaders in a most notable home for the Gospel tradition– Harlem. Through showing Gospel’s historical importance in social change in New York, its place as an emotional epicenter for the people and community, and its role as the expression of pain and joy of a culture, the film honors the soul of this hallmark of American traditional music and its global impact. It features interviews with Harlem Gospel notables such as Charles Mack, Dr. Patrice E. Turner, Ruby Dee, Pastor Michael A. Walrond Jr., Rev. Dr. Renee Washington Gardner, and Vy Higginsen, whose voices bring life to the film’s narrative and show Gospel’s rich influence on Harlem.
The film, and its premiere, serves as the centerpiece for Community Works’ ongoing harlem is… the GOSPEL tradition exhibit, which runs through September. The exhibit focuses on the central role of four Harlem churches – Abyssinian Baptist Church, Mother AME Zion Church, Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, and St. Phillips Episcopal Church – whose social involvement and musical traditions place them at the forefront of the African-American migration from Downtown to Harlem. Historical maps, photographs, live performances, workshops, and a teen docent training program pair with the film to help create a living history of Harlem’s rich spiritual heritage with Gospel as its focal point. www.dwyercc.org