Reviving the Cultural Scene of the South Bronx: Exploring the Unique Influences on Businesses in New York

The population growth in the Bronx, New York, has led to a unique combination of Latin, jazz, and R&B musical genres with lyrics in both English and Spanish. This fusion was not only between black and Latino cultures, but also between Caribbean culture, showing how life in the Bronx was lived side by side in neighborhoods across the city. New York City's cultural sector is a powerful force that unites communities and makes them more resilient, promotes public health and safety, improves educational outcomes, creates a platform for civic participation, employs hundreds of thousands of workers, attracts tens of millions of tourists, and generates billions of dollars in economic activity every year. The South Bronx, made up of neighborhoods such as Mott Haven and Port Morris, is currently experiencing a cultural revival that is likely to last more than a minute in New York.

Streets like Alexander Avenue and Lincoln Avenue are filled with new and revived small businesses, many of which are owned by Latino and black Bronx natives (and long-time residents). These businesses create a palpable positive energy that you feel as you walk around the area. Some refer to the Bronx as the last vestiges of “true New York City”; part of that is because of the people who have been around for a long time and who, together, have overcome the obstacles that New York City has faced in recent years. At an event called Meet the Neighbors at Sankofa Haus, I had the opportunity to witness this energy firsthand.

The minds of many local businesses and creative entrepreneurs from the South Bronx mingled and came together. Read on to learn more about some of these South Bronx small business owners who are at the forefront of this push. New York City is renowned for its cultural movements such as the Harlem Renaissance in literature and visual arts; abstract expressionism (also known as the New York School) in painting; hip hop, punk, salsa, freestyle, Tin Pan Alley, certain forms of jazz and (along with Philadelphia) disco music in music. It has been considered the world capital of dance and is frequently featured in novels, movies (see List of films set in New York City) and television programs.

New York Fashion Week is one of the most important fashion events in the world and has extensive media coverage. Artists have been drawn to the city by its opportunities; its government funds the arts with a larger annual budget than the National Endowment for the Arts. The city is also home to more than 400,000 induced and indirect jobs related to its creative and cultural sectors. No singular style emerged; instead, there was a mix that ranged from the celebration of Pan-Africanism, high culture and street culture, to new experimental forms in literature such as modernism, to classical music and improvisational jazz that inspired new forms of jazz poetry.

Co-founder of the Bronx Berlin youth exchange Naison has published articles on Bronx music and culture in multiple languages including English. The arson, divestment, and abandonment of buildings that took place in the Bronx proved to be anything but unique. Matthew Swain described his relief when he moved from Andrews Avenue in the West Bronx where many buildings were on fire to Mill Brook Houses - a public housing project in the South Bronx where DJs played records in parks every summer. This was also where New York blues - a type of blues music characterized by important jazz influences - was born.

By 1976 parties where DJs competed with each other to create danceable interludes using disco rhythms were held all over the Bronx - in parks, community centers and abandoned buildings. From its epicenter of working with what you have in the Bronx hip hop has expanded to become a multi-million dollar business. Many musicals in New York became pivotal national cultural events such as Marc Blitzstein's union opera The Cradle Will Rock directed by Orson Welles and produced by John Houseman. The exuberant atmosphere of Getting Lite circles whose participants act out of “street credibility” reflects that of outdoor jams that helped create hip hop culture in the Bronx during 1970s.

In addition a recent report published by Social Impact of Arts Project (SIAP) indicates that cultural activity in New York is related to important social benefits such as prevention of violence reduction of obesity and improvement of literacy.