National Geographic : 1977 Feb
In a shimmering Eden, the snake lunges ominously as Adam and Eve cavort in a new ballet, Manifestations, choreographed by Arthur Mitchell of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. The first black premier dancer in a major American ballet company, Mitchell in 1969 founded the Harlem school and troupe "to prove black classical ballet artists can equal the best white companies." Abode of jazz, chitterlings, and cham pagne, the Red Rooster restaurant-bar (left) remains the landmark it was in the '30's and '40's when it attracted Joe Louis, Duke El lington, and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Here owner Gwendolyn Douglas visits with jazz guitarist Tiny Grimes. (Continuedfrom page 196) "Real" is a standard applied out of the searing, age-old experience of being black in a hostile cul ture, an instinctual response, a gut reaction, that assays in a lightning flash the true and the false. The judgment, "Man, that cat ain't for real," implies its essential corollary, "Man, that cat ain't no good," and then, the ultimate verdict, "That cat's a phony." In Harlem, with its pervasive religious ethos, this is a sentence to hell, to be served in social con tempt during the course of your unnatural life. Crusader Bets His Hopes and His Life Never during the passage of his twoscore years and more has Charles Kenyatta, who once was Malcolm X's bodyguard, hidden his reality behind anything. Few people on the Harlem scene are more readily identifi able. Whether orating on a street corner against the racially inspired ills of society or distributing Christmas gifts to dope ad dicts, whether symbolically brandishing a machete while surrounded by his similarly armed followers, or being interviewed about his social concerns and objectives, Charles Kenyatta seeks no refuge in dissimulation. His face beneath its canopy of abundant black hair is open, ingenuous even, and sensitive. This is, in the romantic sense, the face of a poet, on which uncongenial action has etched disillusionment. "The clock is being turned back," he la ments. "As a people, we have not learned to seize the time." He speaks of the overlordship of vice in the community. "Harlem," he says, "has been a haven for all the vice and cor ruption that are destroying this city." Yet he remains optimistic about Harlem. Honest and competent law enforcement and vigorous leadership would "turn the problem around," he thinks. When Kenyatta speaks of the seduction of the community's children into using nar cotics, his eyes kindle into a blaze of fury and disgust. He excoriates the "overseers of vice." The suffering on his ascetic face deepens. "Why don't they leave our children alone?" Some time ago, an automobile in which Kenyatta was riding was ambushed. His body was honeycombed by bullets, and he was left for dead. But, as by a miracle, the crusading idealist recovered. Now on any To Live in Harlem...