Monday, February 21, 2011

Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts

Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts is the author of Harlem Is Nowhere.

From her Q & A with Antonina Jedrzejczak in Vogue:

How did you decide to write about Harlem—was this a project that has been inside you a long time?

Harlem, and the Harlem Renaissance period, was a concentration of these incredible figures who were so full of ambition and sense of purpose about what their art could do, so I was really attracted to that period of time as a concentration of all these elements. That sense is important to the way Harlem became known as the cultural and spiritual capital of black America. The neighborhood held a sort of drawing force, and not just for artists or politicians, but everyday people who were inspired by what was going on there. My coming from Texas to Harlem kind of mimics that journey that many other people have had.

When did you start writing this book?

When I moved to Harlem in 2002, I was doing extensive freelancing, and there was a lot being published about the neighborhood because of gentrification. I was reading these stories and thinking, Oh, that’s not quite right. And because I was constantly telling stories about what was going on in my neighborhood to one of my editors, he invited me—challenged me—to write an essay about Harlem. When that essay came out in 2004 it got a really strong response, and there were people who said, “You can write a book now.” So there was the internal drive to write, but there was also external encouragement.

What were the questions you were trying to address?

I was always fascinated by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue