Aside from being Questlove‘s directorial debut, the Oscar-and-Grammy-winning Summer Of Soul is also an important document of a once-in-a-lifetime cultural event. Or, at least, it was. Now, thanks in part to Quest shining a light on the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival with Summer Of Soul, the festival will be returning to Marcus Garvey Park (formerly Mount Morris Park) as the Harlem Festival of Culture in 2023. According to Billboard, attendees of the original festival in ’69, after seeing the documentary, will relaunch the festival next year to pay tribute to the original while updating it for the modern era.
The founders include Harlem native Musa Jackson, the editor-in-chief of Ambassador Digital Magazine, Nikoa Evans, and Yvonne McNair. In a statement, Jackson — who appears in the documentary as a child — points out the authenticity of the new festival, which is being launched by actual residents of the historic New York neighborhood. “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!” he writes. “The original event was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that I will never forget. 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. 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 echoed that sentiment in a statement of his own. “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,” he said. ” 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.”
Whereas the 1969 festival ran for several weeks that summer, the revamped version will be a multi-day outdoor event, with a series of related events throughout the year leading up to it. Those will begin April 15 with an open mic night tribute to the film Love Jones at the Museum Of The City Of New York. And to think, until Questlove unearthed the original Harlem Cultural Festival footage, the original event had nearly passed from memory.