The Summer of Soul Movie was a Black consciousness revolution. The Harlem Cultural Festival launched in the summer of 1969 in Harlem, New York. Harlem was a place that was rich in culture but, most notably, a safe place for the Black community. During the festival, audience members were able to experience and listen to a broad range of music artists and cultures. Moreover, all music genres such as gospel, jazz, and blues were performed.

Performers included: Stevie Wonder, The 5th Dimension, The Chambers Brothers, BB King, Herbie Mann, Clara Walker & the Gospel Redeemers, Mahalia Jackson, Mavis Staples, David Ruffin, Gladys Knight, and the Pips, Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament, Mongo Santamaria, Ray Barreto, Moms Mabley, Willie Tyler, Sonny Sharrock, Max Roach, Abby Lincoln, Hugh Masekela, Edwin Hawkins, Nina Simone, Pops Staples & The Staple Singers, Clara walker & The Gospel Redeemers, Mahalia Jackson, Ben Branch, and Herbie Mann.

The 5th Dimension played “Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In” and they were caught in between pop and hip hop. A question The 5th Dimension wanted to understand was, “How do you color a sound?”

The 5th Dimension

The Edwin Hawkins Singers performed “O’ Happy Day” and embodied the gospel genre with their uniforms and stage presence. Pops Staples & The Staple Singers were gospel singers and mentioned, “Gospel channeled the emotional choir for black people in Christianity.” Meaning, gospel helped black people get through hard times, which encouraged them to lean into their faith. Lastly, Clara walker & The Gospel Redeemers said, “Gospel was more than religious, it was a way to decompress. Gospel is a part of our DNA, and the church provided subsistence and keep going”. 

The Summer of Soul was a time of pride for Black people. It provided a sense of community, and in a time where Black people in America were fighting for human and civil rights, Harlem could not have felt more like home. Watching the Summer of Soul inspired me and allowed me to understand how vital music is within my community and its role for generations.