Call Her Harlem

video Info
  • Shot and edited by Vanesa Vennard
    Poem written and performed by Jaylene Clark
    Jaylene Clark is a poet and Harlemite. Her spoken word poem “SoHa” is a representation of how she and many Harlemites feel about the changes in their neighborhood.
    Jaylene Clark, 24, is from Harlem. She loves Harlem, and although she isn’t against all the changes brought by gentrification, one thing she doesn’t want is for Harlem to change its name. In her poem, “SoHa,” Clark pokes fun at the new nicknames she has heard for areas of Harlem such as SoHa (south Harlem) and SpaHa (Spanish Harlem).
    Clark wrote a poem on her Facebook status back in 2011 referring to Harlem as a Killer Whale, with the black and the white colors on the whale acting as a metaphor for the mixing involved with gentrification. She and two friends, Janelle and Hollis, created the Harlem KW Project, LLC and wrote a spoken word poetry play titled “Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale” based on that status. The poem in this video was just one of many of their spoken word poems relating to their changing home.
    Her poem propelled her to the Apollo Theater stage, an opportunity that left Clark nearly speechless. She performed “SoHa” for the rowdy Amateur Night audience and stole the show. After placing in the top three for three rounds, she made it to the Super Top Dog event, which took place on Nov. 14. Though she didn’t win the $10,000 grand prize, her poem gained her attention in the New York Daily News.
    These nicknames in a neighborhood once heavily associated with drugs and violence help make it feel like new hot spot for real estate, which has been the case over the last decades. It’s an area plentiful with nonstop construction. In a city constantly expanding, Harlem has become, and has been a new frontier.
    I had first found out about Jaylene and “Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale” through Twitter. When I saw the play for the first time, it was so empowering. It made me feel blessed to be living in Harlem. I saw her perform for Amatuer Night as well, the first two times. I was absolutely amazed by Jaylene’s energy when she was on that stage performing her poem. It takes a lot of courage to be up there, and she was so natural and powerful that it felt like she was singing. I will always associate Jaylene with Harlem.

    Made in December 2012.

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