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"Black Woodstock" The Untold Story of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival

Communities
Productions
Dec 03 2019
Vulcan Productions to co-produce film and join partners to create lasting impact with communities across the United States

While young white America was defining itself as the Woodstock generation, young black America was finding its own voice.

What later became known as “Black Woodstock” with local Harlem residents, the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival is now the focus of a new feature documentary from Vulcan Productions, RadicalMedia and partners to create lasting impact with communities across the country. The 40 hours of never-seen-before footage was originally shot by the late television pioneer Hal Tulchin, but has remained in storage for the past 50 years, keeping this incredible event in America’s history lost - until now.

Making his directorial debut, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, is set to tell the untold story of a cultural defining summer in black history. Drummer, DJ, producer, culinary entrepreneur, New York Times best-selling author, and member of The Roots, Questlove is also the Musical Director for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Beyond that, the 4-time Grammy Award-winning musician's indisputable reputation has landed him musical directing positions with everyone from D'Angelo to Eminem to Jay-Z.

“I am truly excited to help bring the passion, the story and the music of the Harlem Cultural Festival to audiences around the world,” said Thompson. “The performances are extraordinary. I was stunned when I saw the lost footage for the first time. It’s incredible to look at 50 years of history that’s never been told, and I’m eager and humbled to tell that story.”

This film marks Thompson’s feature directorial debut and focuses on the 1969 outdoor festival in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park. The festival featured dozens of extraordinary performances by artists including Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, Nina Simone, B.B. King, the Staple Singers, the 5th Dimension, David Ruffin, Mahalia Jackson and Gladys Knight and the Pips. The idea of “Black Woodstock” was to celebrate African American music, culture and politics, and to promote black pride and unity.

Over six consecutive weekends, the free festival captured a community in transition. Sly Stone and Stevie Wonder were bursting with youthful vitality and a young Jesse Jackson delivered hard-hitting sermons. Some of the most influential black performers from R&B, soul, pop, jazz, latin, gospel, and stand-up comedy all shared the stage. The festival boasted an attendance and arguably performances on par with Woodstock. Over 300,000 people attended, yet it received virtually no coverage from the mainstream media.

“The music and performances in Black Woodstock will knock audiences out of their seats,” said producers David Dinerstein and Robert Fyvolent. “The footage is unusually rich in texture and feel.

It’s incredible to look at 50 years of history that’s never been told, and I’m eager and humbled to tell that story

Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson

 

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