First Lady Michelle Obama Entertains In Harlem

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In the words of Duke Ellington, “Drop me off in Harlem”. Especially on a day like Tuesday, when Michelle Obama entertained the wives of U.N. Dignitaries at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

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The event included performances by Broadway Star Audra McDonald, the newly reinstated Dance Theater of Harlem, and students from the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art. Mrs. Obama, the luncheon’s keynote, talked about the role Harlem’s artists have historically played in expressing the complexity and struggles of African-American life. She also spoke to the importance of education all over the globe.

“There’s a reason why I wanted to bring you all to Harlem today and that is because this community is infused with the kind of energy and passion that is quintessentially American but that has also touched so many people around the world,” she said, citing artists including Louis Armstrong, Langston Hughes, Aaron Douglas, Zora Neale Hurston, and Ella Fitzgerald. She read from the Hughes poem “Dreams”: “Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”

Mrs. Obama noted that many of the women assembled have devoted significant time to improving the lives of women and girls in their countries, especially when it comes to education. “When both boys and girls have an equal opportunity to learn we all know that it’s not just good for our children, it’s also good for their families and it’s also good for their countries,” she said.

The lunch was provided by Marcus Samuelsson, the celebrity chef who owns the popular Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem. The menu included arugula salad, shrimp and dirty rice and banana pudding parfait. Mrs. Obama thanked Mr. Samuelsson and told the women that they would be sent home with a gift basket that included his recipes.

As a former student of the Dance Theater of Harlem, and an all-out lover of the Harlem Renaissance, I am delighted that Michelle chose to take her luncheon uptown. She could have hosted these elite woman at any high-end New York restaurant, but instead, she chose to make a statement to the world about the on-going artistic contributions of Harlemites. Kudos Michelle!

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