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West Valley City Journal

Evening in Harlem celebrates black artistic culture and contributions to business community

Feb 01, 2018 08:22AM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

Guests are invited to dress in traditional 20's and 30's attire for the Evening in Harlem event. (Photo/James Jackson)

On Feb. 2, the Utah African-American Chamber of Commerce will kick off Black History month by celebrating the Harlem Renaissance at the 3rd annual Evening in Harlem event, hosted by the Utah Cultural Celebration Center (1355 W. 3100 South).

“It just kinda took on a life of its own,” said James Jackson III, executive director of the Utah African-American Chamber of Commerce. “What we thought would just be a simple after-hours chamber mixer now has turned into one of our most anticipated events of the year.”

What began as a free event, a mixer for around 100 local business owners to meet and greet, doubled in attendance the second year with a cover charge and a bigger theme and entertainment.

“Someone mentioned the Harlem Renaissance because that’s when blacks started to culturally express ourselves through art, music, and poetry,” said Jackson. “Last year, we recognized people who we felt were Harlem Renaissance individuals within Utah.”

Attendees can come dressed in 1920’s attire and be treated to catered dinner authentic to the era while the Jazz Vespers Quartet, headed by Utah saxophonist David Halliday and DJ from G Fire Productions provide music both contemporary and classic for guests to dance to. The Jazz Vespers Quartet is a Salt Lake-based Baptist Jazz group that has headlined the Evening in Harlem the last two years.

“The Evening in Harlem event is really about sharing the black culture that is here in Utah, the black organizations that are here and growing and getting bigger,” said Jackson.

Jackson founded the UAACC in December 2009 in the hopes of expanding resources and opportunities to Utah’s black community scattered throughout the state.

“The goal is to bring us together so we can engage, socialize and network together as well as bring that visibility to the rest of the valley so that people know that there is a black culture that is building and growing here as well,” said Jackson.

Along with building the social aspect throughout the community, the chamber has two missions: to follow economic development by finding the small businesses and assisting people in job opportunities, like organizing job fairs and partnering with other ethnic businesses to form diversity career fairs. The Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Asian Chamber of Commerce mentored the organization when it began in 2009 and that’s how the UAACC became involved and partnered with the Utah Cultural Celebration Center for the last three years because they celebrate all cultures, said Jackson.

“We provide visibility and education resources for the small black business in Utah,” said Jackson.

The UAACC holds other events throughout the year like an annual BBQ to draw in the community and introduce them to the resources available to the growing numbers of native Utah residents and those relocating from out of state. The website for the chamber includes recommendations for finding ethnic foods, hair stylists and churches to make the transition easier and engage with the community. 

Networking and leadership seminars are offered around the Salt Lake valley. The UAACC partners with companies like Goldman Sachs that employs around 200 black and African-American employees at their Utah location. 

“There is a very diverse culture here, it’s just a matter of getting engaged with us and you can discover all of the wonderful color here in Utah,” said Jackson.

To purchase tickets to the Evening in Harlem event at the Utah Cultural Celebration center, visit: