SUMMERTIME IN HARLEM is a carnival of sound. It’s the praise choruses of excited pigeons in the morning and the low ululations of cicadas at night. It’s parties and fights, church bake sales and tenant-association cookouts. It’s treble rising from children’s voices as they charge through playgrounds made of stone. It’s the delicate tones of bodega-counter flirts and the quick, sarcastic retorts of their regulars. It’s the unexpected fzzt and belated pop of unseen fireworks. It’s motorcycle and ATV engines bleating in the streets like electric sheep. It’s car horns blaring in the late-day Yankee Stadium gridlock. It’s cop-car sirens slicing through the air like knives. It’s music traveling on every gust of wind. It’s Frankie Beverly and Maze’s “Before I Let Go.” It’s SWV’s “You’re the One.” It’s Oro Solido’s “Maria Se Fue.” It’s Burna Boy’s “Ye.” It’s Pop Smoke’s “Dior.”
In March, the noisy city went quiet. Under the combined threats of an illness with no cure and a possible economic depression, many residents who had the means simply skipped town. For those who couldn’t leave, the spring, when the virus hit its early peak, was harrowing.
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August 17 - 30, 2020