Sunday, July 29, 2018


 If there are 8 million stories in the naked city then Harlem has a million of them.

THE DISS  ---  Listen to a small time drug dealer as he makes a name in the crack game. He will soon   learn that it’s not what not what you do that matters, but what you say that does.

.HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS--  Then there’s the rehabilitated writer who returns back to Harlem a place where his past and present collide and only he can tell the difference. Unbeknownst to him he is about to write his greatest work – his life.

WHERE IS THE LOVE --  Hear the voice of the talented photographer tormented by artistic obsession and carnal desires.  He encounters a mysterious woman who reveals the  one thing both have tried to avoid -- the truth

JAZZ IS HIP HOP --Then there’s the jazz connoisseur who watches with apprehension as the young rapper moves into his building. This sets into motion a chain of events, which proves change if even not welcomed is inevitable

These are some of the voices of men who scream because they can’t be heard.


Author, filmmaker, playwright

James Gillard is a filmmaker writer whose films and plays focus on telling the stories of the African Diaspora that are true to the integrity of the global Black experience (struggles, identity, moral conflicts and social conditions).  

His first short film, “Out Of Focus,” was selected as the “1999 Best Short Film Winner” of the Harlem Film Festival.  It was also a finalist in the 2002 “Hollywood Black Film Festival.” It has been in numerous festivals in the country.   Most recently it was featured at the 2004 BAMCINEMATEX Next Cinema slam.

His last few projects have included the production of two stage plays.    “A MESSAGE IN OUR MUSIC” written by James and produced by famed playwright WOODIE KING as part of Henry Street Settlement’s “GREAT BLACK ONE ACTS 2000.”    It was also featured in the “FRINGE NYC 2001 Play Festival.

His full length play “DESTINY MANIFESTED” premiered at the 2003 Downtown Urban Theater Festival, where it won “best audience winner,” it has since been showcased at The Theater For the New City, presented in June 2004 at The “JUNETEENTH LEGACY THEATER”,  and showcased at the University of California at SANTA CRUZ.   In May of 2005 it was presented at the Paul Robeson Theater in Brooklyn.

  One of his short stories, ”THE DISS”, was published in the 2003 edition of the Literary Journal, “SIGNIFYIN HARLEM.”    His other short story “Jazz is Hip-Hop” was featured in the Summer/Fall 2003 edition of NYU’s Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire magazine and recently won the Harlem Short Story Contest sponsored by The  NATIONAL BLACK PROGRAMMING CONSORTIUM

In June 2005 his play “PENDEMONIUM”, opened the 5th annual Downtown Urban Theater Festival at the Cherry Lane Studio Theater in New York and in Nov 2007 was showcased at Van PUTTEN STUDIOS in New York City. .   In April 2006 his short film version of the play “PENDEMONIUM”, premiered at the ACTNOW Foundation screening in Brooklyn New York, and has since been screened at the San Francisco Short Film Festival, and at the BET SHOWCASE in CALIFORNIA 2008.  In 2009 James was awarded a HARLEM ARTS GRANT for the film “Jazz is HIP HoP.  In 2010 he was awarded a HAA grant for his children’s film VOICES OF YOUTH.  In 2012 his docudrama series Zora returns to Harlem was awarded a LMCC grant.  In 2012 he completed his first book IF HARLEM COULD TALK IT WOULD SCREAM. A collection of short stories.  In 2013 he completed his second book , “CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME , VOICES OF YOUTH”


     A full length screenplay written by James Gillard

                                                SCREENPLAY  FINALIST IN THE 2018 
                                                   Harlem International Film Festival




                                                                  with friends. 

                                                            Read an excerpt from

                                                     JAZZ IS HIP HOP
                                    by James Gillard 


When I open the door to the building I see that boy standing right there at the mailbox. Just looking like he up to no good. Pants down as usual, big boots on, and wearing one of them Doo Rags on his head. Charlie Bryant from apt 2a come down and checks his mail. We acknowledge one another. You know just simple chit chat. ―How you doing Mr. Lankford,
Good and yourself Charlie,Look like we got another hot one                    

Yes, we do, dress lightly son.
See that‘s just the way I was raised. Then I see Deloris Taylor headed out the building with her daughter. She moving so quickly I couldn‘t see her face but I still heard her mouth. ―Have a good day Mr. Lankford. Now here we got all these people showing courtesy to one another and that boy standing right there and can‘t even open his mouth.
When he turns to go up them stairs, I just had to say something. I guess it was Ms. Grace getting robbed, that young girl on the train, and me feeling unwanted.

―It‘s time for you to show some respect to your elders, this world don‘t evolve around you? That hall got real quiet like. But I didn‘t care, cause I meant every word I said. I could see it caught him off guard. ―Time for you to show some respect to your elders ―What you say pops? He said turning around all angry. ―I said it‘s time to show some respect to your elders and my name is not pops.  Now as soon as I said this, he just look at me, shake his head and keep right on walking. Now there‘s three things in life I can‘t stand. The first is the tour buses that come through Harlem. The one with all them white tourist peering out the windows and looking at us like we some kind of zoo exhibit. The second is to be interrupted while playing my jazz.  The last and the most important one is for someone to turn their back on me when I‘m talking to them. So I had all that working in me when I said ―you bringing shame on this building with the way you carrying on. You bring shame on your people also. This time I got his attention. He stopped right there at them steps that lead to the exit way. I could sense it was about to get scary up in that building. ―Yo, pops don‘t you ever come out your face like that to me again. You the fucking Uncle Tom in here!

                             WATCH THE TRAILER FOR THE PLAY
                      Performed at the NUYORICAN POETS CAFE


                                                   OTHER WORKS BY JAMES GILLARD
                                   OUR YOUTH ARE TALKING BUT IS ANYBODY LISTENING?

Watch a clip of the award winning Youth films by James Gillard
Bad things come in Three.
Taken from the book 

Radio Raheem
From Do the Right Thing



by James Gillard
"Jim, get upstairs now, it's getting late." That was the familiar voice of my mother reminding me of the uneasy balance of giving your child space but also setting parameters. It was the mid 70's and it was a time that represented friendships, new discoveries, and danger -- all intertwined in this village of Harlem. Long gone was the renaissance era. Harlem was in a time of economic woe reflected in many urban spaces throughout the country. Heroine, dilapidated buildings, poverty, and crime.
At the time I didn't understand the magnificence of this place, it was just home to me. Yes, there were names I heard in my journeys to school. Names like Langston, Billie, Baldwin, and X. But that wasn't the Harlem I could touch or feel not as of yet.
My Harlem experience came from how others viewed me. The times when I would visit family in the South and they could sense something about me. Swagger, a Harlem swagger. The way I talked, walked, or just observed. They would always say yeah that my cousin from NY. Harlem. So in a confident way I didn't need to know the history in some way I felt I was making history -- just because of this place Harlem.
Mind you I grew up in Lincoln Projects on 135th and Madison. My world at the time was about as far as four avenues. Park, Madison, 5th, and Lenox. It was a concrete jungle filled with about 15 buildings. Within that space I saw life, experienced love, played ball and at times experienced sheer terror. But in essence this was my Harlem. A Harlem filled with soulful encounters with the elders who reminded us of the blocks that Malcolm walked, Men and women who could party hard the night before and still get up and go to work. Then there was the stark reality of innocently playing on a street corner that was next to the same spot where a dead brother or sister laid. Yes, it was a Harlem that was rich with black life, good bad and indifferent.
I guess this is why Racism, was a distant thought. My life didn't consist of feeling oppressed or unworthy. In some ways Harlem sheltered us from the world outside of 110th street. I only encountered few white people unless they were teachers at my elementary school or a salesperson. As I stated this was a Harlem to me that was only about 4 avenues..
In my early teens my world expanded (7th and 8th ave) and things soon changed. I could travel venture out beyond my 135th home and 125th, to 155 became my new home. I went from catching bees and playing scalies, shooting the dozens to chasing girls and hanging out a bit later. Really much later, “sorry mommy.” .At about this time in life those early names of those voices from year past began to come to existence to me in different ways. Langston, the great poet laureate of Harlem words were introduced to me and I listened. His work introduced me to Baldwin, and Wright. Suddenly the Harlem I had not knew of became a lot more touchable. I still couldn't fathom the depth of this place.
Summer times changed and the street developed a rhythm. Young brothers were doing something new with music. Our local park became a gathering place for a concept that would bring about beauty, individuality and a whole new creation that would change the way we view ourselves and the way we are viewed. HIP HOP.
Late 70's albums, microphones, and young brothers telling stories in rhyme. My block had changed. Jams in the park were full of life, break dancing, kangols and girls. Girls loved hip-hop and this was our time. Stories were told about life in rhyme and Harlem as well as the Bronx was feeling this new energy. Although hip hop started to flourish Harlem's economic woes pretty much stayed the same. Desolate buildings and brownstones littered certain blocks, Reaganomics affected our programs of child care and in time Hip Hop reflected this shift with edgier lyrics. Materialism: and in essence the introduction of a little rock that destroyed the fabric of the black family.
Harlem had now become the poster child of what’s wrong in America. An economic social disaster. But this was the opinion of outsiders. I delved into the short stories of Langston now, and began to read the Autobiography of Malcolm. And amongst this turbulent backdrop I fell more in love with Harlem.
The crack epidemic ravaged this historic community. It's been said that in the early 80's - mid 90's that more drugs came through Harlem than anywhere else. Urban legend, but as a youth growing up in Harlem I had a drug dealer friend on about every corner. At this same time the city began to sell abandoned property (brownstones) for 1 dollar. There were some takers but not many. Although you could buy the property for a dollar what was not told was how much you had to pay to get the property re-furbished. This set in motion the introduction of a new population. A group of people who at times we felt uneasy about. Gentrification, and economic vision was the goal of the new Harlem.
This Harlem had superstores and restaurants in mind. For some of Harlem’s older citizens it felt like an invasion. Harlem at one time the mecca of the black experience was now becoming a village of status, and economics. MY HARLEM.
So as I continue on in my journey my goal is to document these stories of the Harlemites who still reside here and to continue to discover those voices who I only read about but now I experience. This is the continuous story of my discovery of Harlem.

read an excerpt of THE DISS



Here is something you can’t understand; I could just kill a man. Al turned the radio down, and looked directly in the man‘s face and said, ―Let me make this shit clear, cause obviously you ain‘t hearing me. I don‘t take no fucking change, go somewhere and turn them pennies into dollars before I put my foot up your ass. The man‘s body cowered with the delivery of each word. Al‘s point had hit home. Turning back up the radio, he watched the man meekly walk away. Al thought to himself, ―who ever made this crack shit, was brilliantly evil. It made men  leave their families, wives became 2-dollar hoes, and friends would kill friends -- all for the love of this little rock.      He
knew the man would be back, after all he was a crack head and Al had the best crack on 132nd street -- Green top. The day had been good. He had rocked about three grand and he only had to diss two people.  First the young boy who
obviously forgot where he was and who he was dealing with, trying to sell red top on his corner. Saying ―he didn‘t know anybody was clocking there. When I told him to bounce the little nigger got indignant.    Talking bout, it‘s enough for all of us to get paid.  Al liked his heart and if he didn‘t have pressing matters, he would take him under his wing, but now was not the time for him to be a teacher.
―Little nigger you better take your ass home and play with your Lego‘s and while you at it put a towel behind your  ears cause you dripping wet, I been out here hustling before your mother and father met. Al could see tears in the boy‘s eyes. He knew he had broken his spirit. But he admired the way he sucked it up and didn‘t let his boys see him rattled. The second was the fool that had just stepped to him with pennies. Taking a deep swallow of his soda, Al surveyed his environment, two bodegas, one number hole, a coke spot, abandon buildings, a courtyard and the projects. Skinny Tony owned the first bodega. He was an Italian cat who swore he was black. Wore jewelry down to his stomach, and was always slapping five with the brothers. ―What‘s up my niggers, ―What‘s up my niggers? At the same time, he would turn around and sell you moldy ass bread, and green meat. He was a piece of work. Al still couldn‘t get over the way Tony dissed him when he wanted to set up shop outside the store. ―I know you not selling that dope outside my door, no dope outside my door; take that shit back to the projects!


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