Monday, February 2, 2009

Sunday in Harlem

This past Sunday I went to Abyssinian Baptist Church. Abyssinian traces its roots to 1808, when visiting free Ethiopian seamen and allied black American parishioners left the First Baptist Church in the City of New York in protest over being restricted to racially segregated seating. They named their new congregation the Abyssinian Baptist Church after the historic name of Ethiopia. Through the years, Abyssinian Baptist Church moved north on the island of Manhattan, as Harlem became a center of African-American population. In 1908, Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. became pastor of the church. Presently, under the direction of Rev. Calvin O. Butts, the church has continued to be a vital political, social, and religious institution in New York. In 1989 Butts founded the Abyssinian Development Corporation (ADC), creating a non-profit arm of the church to work on community development and social services. It has created $500 million in development, including the first new high school in Harlem in 50 years, the first large supermarket, a retail center, and housing. To celebrate it's bicentennial anniversary, graphic designer Bobby C. Martin created a new identity for his senior thesis project. He started by replacing negative billboards in Harlem with positive ones. Hundreds of impeccably-dressed men from the church paraded 200 handmade signs throughout Harlem in a march. Then he transformed the signs and the images from the march into the ads, a campaign named "Word on the Street." You can also check out a cool animated history of the church using that beautiful logo here.

After service, my friend and I went to Make My Cake for a slice of red velvet cake (my personal favorite). Enough said.

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