Cathedral of St. John the Divine Blog

Harlem/Havana Festival at the Cathedral REBECCA MERRILL AUGUST 15, 2017

This past Saturday, the Cathedral was honored to kick off the 2nd Annual Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural festival with a concert featuring Cesar Lopez y Habana Ensemble and the Obini Bata dancers. The festival, which takes place during the month-long Harlem Week celebration, highlights the connection between the two cities and facilitates an arts, culinary, and education exchange. (Harlem artists, chefs, and educators will travel to Havana in February 2018.)

Obini Bata opened the event by singing, dancing, and drumming. Traditionally, the Bata drums are played only by men but Obini Bata pushed the envelope to become the first female folkloric drumming ensemble in Cuba.

Following the drummers, Cesar Lopez, who is considered one of the most important saxophone players in his field, took the stage with his band the Habana Ensemble to perform a full set of Latin Jazz.

As the crowd began to dance in the aisles, Obini Bata returned to the floor to lead a Conga line throughout the Cathedral.

Before and during the event, many attendees and performers began to hear reports of what was happening in Charlottesville, VA at the same time. A hate-filled Neo-Nazi rally in the college town eventually turned violent when a terrorist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. It was a fluke of timing that we were at this event during the attack and while some might have needed to deal with the events in a different way, those of us here were comforted to be a part of a celebration of cultures that are unlike our own.

After the event, Dean Daniel released a statement that condemned the "ugly streak of hatred that lives in the soul of this country" and reminded us we can "never escape our bonds to one another established in our baptism." This event, in conjunction with Harlem Week’s Home of Immigrants theme, celebrated those bonds and incapsulates what the Cathedral stands for--that sharing conversation and arts between cultures makes everyone stronger.

See the full list of events happening during the Harlem/Havana festival here.
Read the full statement from Dean Daniel on the violence in Charlottesville here.

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