Congo in Harlem

This weekend … another film! It’s Congo in Harlem month. Harlem is more than an hour away from where I live (Brooklyn) by subway, but when I saw that a film about King Leopold II’s colonization of the Congo was going to be shown, I decided it would be worth the visit. Plus, I love Harlem. It has a different character to Brooklyn — it’s a bit wilder, and more spacious, with gorgeous big brownstones. As I walked with my friend S—— towards the tiny Maysles cinema, 343 Malcolm X Boulevard, the sweet smell of weed wafted through the air.

Little did I know that not one but two films would be screened. The first was about the Congo’s horrific history of Belgian colonization; the second was a Dan Rather Report about an America company, Freeport McMoRan, that is currently gobbling up what it can of the country’s rich copper mine reserves — our cell phones use copper so it means big $$$. Both films were utterly depressing, and hard to watch.

A talk took place afterwards, with two American speakers, and two African.  Maurice Carney was a brilliant moderator (though he let some of the other speakers go on for too long), and Jason T. Mbangu, a Congolese lawyer, spoke with eloquence. When Congolese children go to other countries to attend university, he said, their parents tell them, “don’t come back.”

The event ended formally at 11.30 and we went to get dinner, but you felt the discussion could have gone on into the night — perhaps it did.

On the way to a restaurant (I can’t recall the name! Lenox Avenue, and it was great), we saw a large rat, sniffing around in the middle of the footpath. He hung around for about 10 seconds before getting out of our way.  Later, we went to Moca bar on Frederick Douglass Blvd, where a doorwoman checked our bags and pockets for knives/drugs/guns before entry.

The subways are a mess at the weekends. It took me two hours to get home and I reached my flat at 4am. Harlem’s one of my favourite parts of NY.  It is so far. But it’s so much fun.


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