The racial landscape of America is becoming more shaded beyond just white and black as additional races increase in numbers. According to the latest census figures, Hispanics outnumber African Americans in most major U.S. cities and are the majority minority in 191 of 366 metro areas.
This new race reality is bound to impact every facet of America’s social and political circles including community organizations such as the Harlem School of the Arts. This past Monday evening in a posh Harlem brownstone, the new president and CEO Yvette L. Campbell, was introduced amongst an elite gathering of arts educators, celebrities and students. The event was presented by the Dr. William H. Cosby Jr. and Lana Woods Gallery. Campbell comes into her role with a commitment to enrolling a diverse student body of all racial backgrounds as inspired by the changing demographics.
“We are recording things in Spanish. We have Latin drumming and are partnering with Northern Manhattan Arts Association in the Bronx. It’s important that we tap not just into the black community but also other cultural populations and add that to our curriculum. It reflects Harlem better,” she advised.
While the school appears to have a handle on the issue of racial inclusivity, one challenge that may take some additional time is addressing economic disparities. Almost a year ago, the school closed due to internal financial mismanagement. The closing only lasted three weeks and, that same year, the institution held a successful One Hundred Days, One Million Dollar campaign. However, Campbell noted that the financial setback makes it tougher to immediately serve as many economically disadvantaged children as she would like to.
“We run a 37,000 square foot building, and it costs a lot to run that. So, we try to take as many as we can considering our situation. Right now, we want to get back on our feet. I want to establish a budget next year to serve 1,000 children, no matter the need, and provide them with scholarships and financial aid,” she stated.
While Campbell works to balance the ever-changing racial and socioeconomic factors of Harlem, there is one element that shall never change. According to Cosby, that is the organization’s mission to deliver arts education to enrich the lives of children.
“Youth tend to want to work with their hands. They tend to want to use their voices. They want to use words and, if you cut that, then you cut a part of the spirit of childhood.”
Art Work/Photo Credit Steven Mejia