Harlem Family Dinner

Harlem Family Dinner

There was no television to entertain the crowd. There was no PlayStation to distract them. Yet, on Friday, December 16, Harlem Seeds and Total Equity Now (T.E.N.) gathered some 60 neighbors and family members from across Central, West and East Harlem to join together around the communal dinner table to share in the groups’ first-ever “Harlem Family Dinner.”

The Rev. Georgette Morgan-Thomas, chairwoman of Manhattan’s Community Board 9, blessed the food. Jianee Carrasco, a student at Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and Charnae Betton, a T.E.N. intern, sang a Christmas carol. Wadleigh students and volunteers from area businesses decorated the halls with artwork and helped to serve up plates.

And the endeavor proved something fundamental.

“Strong, healthy families are key elements of strong, healthy communities,” said Joe Rogers, T.E.N. founder and facilitator. “Empowering Harlem families and other community members with an opportunity to bond over good food and good conversation helps plant seeds for future collaboration around shared educational goals.”

The meal was a simple, tasty healthy one. There was gluten-free pasta stir fry with red cabbage and yellow and red peppers, sesame soy chicken broccoli with brown rice and turkey gravy, a dandelion and Romaine salad with radishes, cucumbers, red onions and ginger dressing, plus roasted apples for dessert. (Recipes for some of these dishes can be found by clicking on the links.)

“This is the bomb. I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to eat it,” said 18-year-old Euvaune McCallop, a Wadleigh student who was digging into a plate-full with friends Kevin, Tyree and Shaquille.

Servers confirmed that most in attendance made two or three trips down the buffet.

Before the night was out, a raffle was held for gift cards to New York Sports Club and Best Buy, plus copies of “I Can Finish College” by Dr. Marcia Cantarella.

Many thanks to all who donated items, as well as time, to make the night special. Kudos to Community Voices Heard for their participation. And a heart-felt acknowledgment for the hospitality of Principal Herma Hall, teacher Anthony Klug and Chef Springer at Wadleigh — an important educational hub for Harlem for more than 100 years — who welcomed all diners with open arms.

(Photos and reporting by Sascha Roker.)


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