This time last year I was strolling down 125th street in Harlem, in awe of how much it has changed since I last lived there. It feels just like yesterday I was getting the inside scoop of Harlem’s hotspots and the neighborhoods evolution from Cha, a born a bred Harlem girl with a love for all things related to design, fashion, and gastronomy. In the spirit of a little wanderlust and day dreaming about life in the big apple, this portrait is a NYC edition of all things Harlem through the eyes of Cha.
Describe yourself in a few words…
Global citizen, authentic, savvy, creative yet technical, a people person, strategic and ambitious! You know just a whole lot of #BlackGirlMagic!
Harlem vs. NYC…
I pride myself in being from Harlem but make no mistake it is part of the borough of Manhattan. Harlem is the largest neighborhood on the island and it is fighting to keep the essence of its identity intact every day with the danger of increasing gentrification.
My community is changing at rapid speed, I recall when I was young and moving near the iconic Apollo Theater, and my father mentioned that 125th was never going to look the same and it was a good thing we moved closer at this time before it’s unaffordable, well he was right!
It was, and still is, a struggle to survive in Manhattan and more of its natives are pushed out the faster Harlem becomes shaped to include others, while excluding locals. Harlem is losing its History and there seems to be little attempt to preservation by developers. For those who are visiting New York I would definitely recommend taking the subway to Harlem and feel the vibe of its people on a Saturday afternoon on 125th street. Be a witness to what is left of the vibrations of the streets that feels like a mixture of poetry, hip hop, jazz and afro beats.
Tell us a little about life in NY after time abroad in Italy?
Reentry after living abroad in Rome, Italy was difficult for a while (like it took years). I had to get in the mindset that there is a plan for me here. I am trying to make use of being back in the states to network, execute ideas, and travel to places that are easily accessible from NYC. As much as I would love to be abroad right now, I would like to use my free time exploring.
Expanding my wine knowledge has been one of my largest souvenirs from Italy. Recently I began hosting wine tasting events that I named, “THE COMMUNION” in Harlem, that aim to explore uncommon grape varietals to the average American. Wine ads are marketed different to us as Americans, we are not being taught the qualities of a good pairing. We are being sold wine as more of a substitute for cocktails.
My goal is to share the rich amount of knowledge I learned spending time on vineyards in Italy, and bring what I learned back to Harlem. I’m currently undergoing my WSET Level 2 certification as a way to expand my professional knowledge. The tastings have become part educational as well as an opportunity for networking and connecting people within in my community to each other and exposure to broaden their palate. It is time people of color stop feeling intimated by things that are foreign and what marketing deem as luxurious, therefore unobtainable until we are rich.
Tell us about the Culture Bazaar?
My travels have led me to co-found a social enterprise and cross culture consulting group called, The Culture Bazaar (TCB) which focuses on working with global focused businesses and expat entrepreneurs.
Our clients and subscribers are globetrotters in every way. They have lived abroad, they are planning their next grand excursion, or returned home and are inspired by their journey. The one thing they have in common is the mindset that globalization is not only for big businesses and they are using their travels to expand their market and vision.
We highlight small businesses help each other on an international level and advance on a global scale as well, regardless of their current level of achievement locally. Our team is the vessel that creates the strategy for clients business ideas or projects, our specialty is project managing for culture focused initiatives, while keeping the success of our local partners in mind when doing business.
Favorite things to do in NYC when you’re not globetrotting?
Walking the HighLine in the Meatpacking district on a perfect Spring day. Visiting museums like, Museum of the City of New York, the Met and Brooklyn Museum of Art. I love trying out new restaurants, I typically use Eater.com to find out what’s Hot. Decorating and styling as a creative outlet. In the summer, I try to make it as much outdoor festivals as possible ( Harlem EAT UP, Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival, Governors Ball, Afro Punk).
And though city dwellers love urban living it is sometimes just as fun to get away. I have been day tripping to cool cities along the Hudson River, just 2 hour drive north to cities along the Catskills Mountains for apple picking, hiking, and brewery hopping in the Fall and crashing cool chic Inns like, Foxfire Mountain House. Just a 2 hours east drive you will be NY’s very own wine country where I tend to indulge in our pride varietal, Riesling and sparkling by, Onabay Vineyard.
Where are places in NY you can find little pieces of your travels or time abroad living in Rome?
I always tend to revert back to food in order to feel connected.
Eating a few places in New York City reminds me of my time in Italy like Supper then there is of course Eataly where you can find all things Italian in a one stop shop. Late night Gelato from Grom in the West Village, who actually have their own shop in Italy.
Top things to do in Harlem?
DANCING: Angel of Harlem (Day Party), Ginny’s Lounge (of Red Rooster) and Corner Social (for Friday Nights)
HISTORY: Schaumburg Library ( go to spot for history buffs)
DO: Harlem is beautiful..Do an Architecture Photography Walk in these historic areas – Lenox Avenue from 125th to 116th, Strivers Row, Covenant Avenue & City College Campus, Morningside Heights Columbia University Campus, The Churches of Harlem