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Protesters Challenge Harlem Hate Church

Text and photos by Aleksandra Konstantinovic

A controversial church in Harlem claims that gentrification has brought the sin of homosexuality to the neighborhood and is waging a campaign through hate speech and signs to stop the “sinners”.

Atlah, an organization that identifies as a Christian ministry, regularly posts offensive declarations on a marquee outside its building on 123rd Street, often with a message of “taking back” Harlem. The anti-gay and anti-Obama rhetoric of leader James David Manning and his congregation has attracted protests and outrage around the city and the country.

On a cold evening in November, new and old Harlem residents stood in front of the Atlah building holding signs such as “Love Not Hate in Harlem,” and demanded that the church take down its offensive signs.

The group was met with Manning and his congregants who held signs “Repent Whores” and “Jesus Saves.”  Both sides tried to drown the other out in song

As the protest dispersed, some demonstrators said Atlah may be the most vocal church, but many others in Harlem are intolerant of LGBT members, leaving residents to search outside the neighborhood for alternative places of worship.

Magnum Foundation produced an installation of Matt Black’s The Geography of Poverty on 110th Street as a part of The Value of Food: Sustaining a Green Planet, which is on view until April 3, 2016 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Inspired by the installation in the neighborhood where they go to school, Nina Berman’s students at the Columbia Journalism School looked locally at economic disparity in upper Manhattan.

Katerina Voegtle