“Investing in urban renewal and not Negro removal is

[the] key to keeping [Harlem] diverse” was the quintessential message of Marcus Samuelsson’s TEDxHarlem talk on March 27th at the Riverside ChurchSamuelsson is the owner of the restaurant Red Rooster Harlem and a business leader in Harlem’s 21st century renaissance movement.

Red Rooster Harlem has become a beacon of hope within Manhattan’s high brow culinary world and attracted the attention of patrons worldwide, including President Obama who hosted a campaign fundraiser there in 2011.

Samuelsson spoke more after his talk concluded about his restaurant’s latest socially aware entrepreneurial venture, a fresh food farmer’s market that will take food stamps. All food will ideally be locally grown, thus reinvesting in the local agricultural community as well as enabling the urban community.

Red Rooster Harlem is working to shift perspectives in both the local and international business communities so business owners will see Harlem as an emerging market; a necessary step in bringing the neighborhood to a globally competitive and comparable level of “normalcy,” according to Samuelsson.

“What we strive to do is to create a sense of normalcy to the Harlem community, where regardless of [a community member’s] economic situation they have access to fresh and healthy foods.”

Samuelsson was hesitant to speak about whether his work will ever lead him to work with city or state agencies, or perhaps even lead him to run for office one day, but he was adamant about the importance of calling world attention Harlem’s unique community and its rich artistic and culinary history.

“I’m asking questions like ‘how can the young creative minds of Harlem be nurtured’ to prevent the brain drain I’ve seen in Africa where the best minds too often leave”, clearly relating his perspective as an Ethiopian immigrant to America, by way of Sweden.

Samuelsson is not only a community advocate, social entrepreneur, and restaurateur; he is also a reality star from Top Chef fame, and an up and coming celebrity on the New York nightlife and national social scene. Clearly he is using his celebrity for more than self-promotion as he has also been a global ambassador for UNICEF since 2000.

“We have to hire from within Harlem and return the wealth to Harlem in order for it to prosper.” Words of wisdom? Perhaps. Words of total devotion? Certainly.

– Darrel