Keisha Townsend Tait – Harlem

Keisha Townsend Taitt – Chief Inclusion Officer

My aspirations in advertising brought me to New York City shortly after graduating college. Realizing I couldn’t afford to live near my office in the East Village, the place I called home for a decade was Harlem. Known as the “Black Mecca” of the world, my newly renovated apartment was a signal of the gentrification trickling in.

I moved around a lot as a child, but always in an suburb versus a big city. Needless to say, there was a lot to get used to living in New York City. It was also the first time I lived in a location where Black people were the majority.

I didn’t realize it then, but my experience living in Harlem is what prompted my pride in being Black and greater appreciation of Black culture.

When I first got there, I also realized how societal conditioning and perpetuated stereotypes impacted me. Living across the street from housing projects, or the “Pjs,” as we affectionately call it, was a new experience for me. And when I first moved in, I was afraid to walk out of my apartment at night. Was there crime in my area, yes, but the longer I lived there, the more I realized that most of the people I’d come across were just like me, trying to survive. And the community was a lot more familial and friendly that it is often portrayed.

On the weekends, I would find myself never leaving Harlem! I stayed “at home” between 110th and 135th and it had everything I needed. Arts and musical entertainment, shopping, beauty supply stores and my stylist, my church home and my absolute favorite foods.

Eating with friends is my favorite thing to do, and we did a lot of that in Harlem. Brunch, dinner, or a snack, we never needed a reason to go eat. Some of my favorites include Rusty’s Flavor (the BEST Jamaican food), Red Rooster (when someone came to town and I wanted to impress them) and Lolita’s (to this day, my favorite Mexican food).

Harlem was also home to me for so many pivotal moments: my first promotion, bringing home my new dog and finding out I was pregnant with my daughter.

The neighborhood continues to change every time I go back, but I don’t think (and hope) gentrification will ever fully remove the essence that is Harlem.


2235 5th Avenue


New York