How to obtain representative diversity at the facility
Imagine you had a scratch-off lottery ticket and it read, 50 million dollars. Well, that’s what happened with the New York State Fair and the New York State budget. According the Governor, their goal is to turn the facility into a year-round attraction. The NY State Fairgrounds, Located on 375 acres in the Town of Geddes, on the shore of a newly refurbished Onondaga Lake. During the annual New York State Fair the sleepy campus-like environment turns into a small city of over 100,000 people.
Now the question has been raised, what will that money do for the fairgrounds? How can the minority community become part of the repurposing of the over 140 year old institution?
Several years ago while visiting the New York State Museum I came across a historic replica of a Harlem Commercial Streetscape. This exhibit froze Harlem in time during its first renaissance; this could be the focus of the institutions makeover when it comes to diversity. Let us recreate a Harlem, NY streetscape complete with operating businesses. The overriding goal of the project should be economic development and sustainability.
The centerpiece of the Upstate Harlem experience would be a restaurant along the lines of Sylvia’s. For entertainment, partner with The Apollo Theater to create an entertainment venue as a performance home to traditional African-American music celebrated at the legendary theater. A simple explanation would be to compare this to Branson, Missouri where there are Country singers who have their own theaters. These performers are “in-residence”, there for a set season. This could be the premier Rhythm & Blues Theater outside New York City. Artists could perform in residence for several weeks or a week end at a time. Festivals could be held showcasing the artists that would play the newly minted arena.
During the New York State Fair, the area would be a centerpiece of art, commerce and culture.
As New York State funds a re-imagining of the New York State Fairgrounds, the African-American community has a stake in this project and must have a seat at the table. Not representative leaders from other places.
I’m talking about people who’ve been in this area for 20 or 30 years. These are the African-Americans routinely left out of decisions that affect their environment and ability to seek and find suitable employment.
Under this reconfiguration of the fairgrounds entrepreneurs of color have an opportunity for true economic development and incubated growth. Failure to be inclusive of the ideas of long-time and native Syracuse African-American residents’ makes this 50 million dollar investment in the fair, another one of those projects that simply passed us by.