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Shack Attack

Renee Feltz Aug 8, 2008

Record Shack speakers that once played African music onto the sidewalk across from the Apollo Theater in Harlem are now stored in a Yonkers warehouse.

“It’s a terrible feeling inside,” said Record Shack owner Sikhulu Shange.

Shange has fought his eviction since February when his landlord, The United House of Prayer, refused to renew his lease. During this same time he helped lead protests against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s rezoning plan for 125th Street. The City Council approved the plan in March. Since then, real estate values along Harlem’s main business corridor have dramatically increased and long-time tenants like Shange are being forced out.

On July 24, Shange returned to his storefront at 274 W. 125th Street, less than an hour after a Manhattan Housing Court judge upheld the eviction order for the business he operated for 41 years.

“The city marshal was right behind me and told me to close the store,” Shange said. “Then the landlord’s brokers said, ‘we have a truck arranged to move your stuff.’”

Within about two hours, Shange said his records, CDs and cassette tapes of oldies, contemporary hits, gospel, jazz, and music from Africa and the Caribbean islands were packed up by a fleet of workers who took no inventory of the property he estimates is worth $200,000.

“They told me to take whatever personal stuff I have and leave,” Shange said.

The Record Shack was the last black-owned music store in Harlem.

“People came to the Record Shack to feel the ambiance of the Harlem community,” Shange said. “All that is going to be jeopardized.

”More than a business, his store was a cultural outlet, a tourist attraction and an anchor when the world-famous community went through hard times.

“The battle now is to get the goods back,” Shange said.

He said the brokers hired by the United House of Prayer want him to pay $12,000 for the moving and storage of the store’s inventory. He estimates moving it back to Manhattan could cost as much as $3,000. If he does not retrieve it within 30 days of his eviction, he said the items could be put up for auction.

The weekend after the eviction, Shange joined nearly 20 members of the Coalition to Save Harlem in front of what used to be the Record Shack and passed out fliers calling for support of the store. Many passersby stopped to ask what had happened, and said they opposed the landlord’s decision. The coalition is planning a town hall meeting, but no date has been set.

Shange also met with Council member Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) and reached out to State Senator Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan), but said nothing has been worked out to help him retrieve his property.

His landlord refuses to comment on plans for the storefront. The awning that once displayed the Record Shack’s name is now painted over.

“It is an onslaught,” Shange said. “They feel they have the upper hand.”

14 Responses

  1. Jim Altman says:

    It’s disheartening to see how far down the road to totalitarian fascism our nation has travelled in six and a half years. When truth is so severely repressed, the unknowing public is at the mercy of the information minders in the White House. The plight of these kids should infuriate every thinking citizen of this nation, but most will never hear of it in truthful terms while our mainstream media distract us with Spiderman and Paris Hilton.

  2. Jim Altman says:

    It’s disheartening to see how far down the road to totalitarian fascism our nation has travelled in six and a half years. When truth is so severely repressed, the unknowing public is at the mercy of the information minders in the White House. The plight of these kids should infuriate every thinking citizen of this nation, but most will never hear of it in truthful terms while our mainstream media distract us with Spiderman and Paris Hilton.

  3. John M says:

    Dick and Dubya need to be impeached in that order, then tried for crimes against humanity and suffer the consequences if found guilty. Maybe then, America can once again earn and I mean earn the respect of the rest of the world. American used to be the Home of the Brave. I respect the students Bravado. Keep us the good work

  4. John M says:

    Dick and Dubya need to be impeached in that order, then tried for crimes against humanity and suffer the consequences if found guilty. Maybe then, America can once again earn and I mean earn the respect of the rest of the world. American used to be the Home of the Brave. I respect the students Bravado. Keep us the good work

  5. Virendra Dhuru says:

    I wonder if the US government ban on its citizens to travel to Cuba also applies to citizens of other countries (such as Canada) with Permanent Residence in the USA.

  6. Virendra Dhuru says:

    I wonder if the US government ban on its citizens to travel to Cuba also applies to citizens of other countries (such as Canada) with Permanent Residence in the USA.

  7. I have both Dutch and US passports so I wonder if I would be exempt from such US governmental harassment?

  8. I have both Dutch and US passports so I wonder if I would be exempt from such US governmental harassment?

  9. The U.S. government on this and so many other issues is like a terrier on a chewtoy. No offense to terriers. It will just not let go even if you grab the other end and whirl it around. Not that any such action should be taken with a terrier irrespective of size or perceived jaw strength.

    That our embargo has failed utterly and embarrassingly is beyond question. The regime has outlasted eight U.S. presidents and countless congressmen. To claim that we have “contained” Communism is to put lipstick on the corpse of our Cuba policy. To claim that we as a nation could not conduct relations with a despotic regime is to close an eye-and-a-half to our dealings with brutally-repressive “elected” governments who happen to be sitting on oil or near our former/current enemies.

    The one blessing that may have come as a result of our embargo is that the Cuban people have been spared forty-plus years of globalization. Hopefully, when the anti-Castro lobby buys itself a clue and the island can once again open itself to the outside world, Cuba will be able to pick and choose from the various models of development available to it rather than simply become the main course in a multinational feeding frenzy. Nothing like the prospect of a thousand Starbuck’s driving the domestic Cuban coffee industry out of business. Or a string of big box stores on the flattened remains of the Malecón.

  10. The U.S. government on this and so many other issues is like a terrier on a chewtoy. No offense to terriers. It will just not let go even if you grab the other end and whirl it around. Not that any such action should be taken with a terrier irrespective of size or perceived jaw strength.

    That our embargo has failed utterly and embarrassingly is beyond question. The regime has outlasted eight U.S. presidents and countless congressmen. To claim that we have “contained” Communism is to put lipstick on the corpse of our Cuba policy. To claim that we as a nation could not conduct relations with a despotic regime is to close an eye-and-a-half to our dealings with brutally-repressive “elected” governments who happen to be sitting on oil or near our former/current enemies.

    The one blessing that may have come as a result of our embargo is that the Cuban people have been spared forty-plus years of globalization. Hopefully, when the anti-Castro lobby buys itself a clue and the island can once again open itself to the outside world, Cuba will be able to pick and choose from the various models of development available to it rather than simply become the main course in a multinational feeding frenzy. Nothing like the prospect of a thousand Starbuck’s driving the domestic Cuban coffee industry out of business. Or a string of big box stores on the flattened remains of the Malecón.

  11. wendy holm says:

    wonderfully powerful imagery sobsister!

    only one thing to add. as a canadian agrologist working in cuba for 10 years (building bridges of capacity between our farm communities, also teach a canadian university field studies course in cuba on sustainable agriculture) my feeling is that rather than soon being “able to pick and choose from the various models of development available to it” cuba is quietly defining it’s own unique model of sustainable and sovereign development that warrants close examination by the rest of us. beginning with agriculture and education.

    the question i ask my students at the end of their 3 week travels thru cuba is “what is happening here, why is it happening (what are the drivers) and what, if any, relevance does this have to issues of global concern. ” the papers and presentations are awesome.

    final thot? on the food and community side, the priority is not only food security and sustainability, it is also food sovereignty. economic concentration in the food sector and the new trading rules this power has evoked threaten the ability of nations to define sovereign food policies that respect both community and the environment.

  12. wendy holm says:

    wonderfully powerful imagery sobsister!

    only one thing to add. as a canadian agrologist working in cuba for 10 years (building bridges of capacity between our farm communities, also teach a canadian university field studies course in cuba on sustainable agriculture) my feeling is that rather than soon being “able to pick and choose from the various models of development available to it” cuba is quietly defining it’s own unique model of sustainable and sovereign development that warrants close examination by the rest of us. beginning with agriculture and education.

    the question i ask my students at the end of their 3 week travels thru cuba is “what is happening here, why is it happening (what are the drivers) and what, if any, relevance does this have to issues of global concern. ” the papers and presentations are awesome.

    final thot? on the food and community side, the priority is not only food security and sustainability, it is also food sovereignty. economic concentration in the food sector and the new trading rules this power has evoked threaten the ability of nations to define sovereign food policies that respect both community and the environment.

  13. wendy holm says:

    for more on what canada’s farmers are doing to support sustainable agriculture in cuba, visit http://www.theholmteam.ca

  14. wendy holm says:

    for more on what canada’s farmers are doing to support sustainable agriculture in cuba, visit http://www.theholmteam.ca

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