Saturday, January 07, 2006

Trouble for the Boys Choir of Harlem

The world-renowned Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem has faced several serious financial and management problems over the last few years. Now, they are facing eviction from the public school housing the Choir Academy of Harlem by January 31.

Unfortunately, at least from the articles I've read, it appears the Department of Education is justified in this act. Allegations of sexual abuse--and mishandling of such allegations--are pretty much the worst things that can happen to an organization dealing with children. It appears that choir director Walter Turnbull did not take appropriate action to deal with the allegations, to manage the organization's finances properly, or to hold up his end of the deal allowing the choir to stay at the Choir Academy by hiring a new executive director (becoming artistic director instead). His assertion that "They want to marginalize me as a black man" simply doesn't seem to stand up to the facts.

If you ever have the opportunity to hear these outstanding choirs, take it. I did a few years ago, and I'm so glad I did. This organization has an amazing mission and has seen some excellent results, and I hope they are able to responsibly recover from these issues. Their most recent recording is God's By Design. It's the first album to feature the Girls Choir as well.

Here's a roundup of related stories:

Troubled Boys Choir of Harlem is Facing Eviction (New York Times, December 24, 2005)
"The choir, which has at least $3.5 million in debts, laid off nearly all of its staff in recent months and no longer provides instruction to the [Choir Academy of Harlem]'s students, only 125 of whom perform with the choir."

Harlem Boys Choir Gets Eviction Notice (, December 25, 2005)
"The choir failed to fulfill a 2004 agreement to find a new chief executive to replace founder Walter Turnbull, said department attorney Michael Best in a letter Thursday. Turnbull was demoted to artistic director after an investigation concluded he did not act on reports that an employee was sexually abusing a student."

Boys Choir of Harlem Faces Eviction (, December 26, 2005)
"Despite efforts earlier this year by 50 Cent and the Game, The Boys Choir of Harlem has been asked to leave the public school where it practices by January 31, 2006. . .In March, 50 and Game came together to announce they were squashing their beef and donating $253,500 to the Choir, which rehearses for free at the Choir Academy of Harlem, as part of a 12-year collaboration with the Department of Education."

Deal Offered to Save Boys Choir from Eviction (, December 29, 2005)
"The deal would allow it to continue as an after-school activity."

Boys Choir of Harlem Vows That Eviction Will Not Be Its Finale (New York Times, January 4, 2006)
"Former Mayor David N. Dinkins raised the possibility last week that he might take a leadership role with the organization, and the Department of Education relented slightly by proposing that the choir provide after-school instruction to students who attend the Choir Academy of Harlem, the school that had been jointly run by the city and the choir. . .Representative Charles B. Rangel of Harlem has also vowed to do whatever he can to make sure the choir survives. "

Roundtable: Katrina Tourism, Boys Choir of Harlem (News & Notes with Ed Gordon, January 6, 2006)


Sex Abuse, Corruption and the Boys Choir of Harlem (The Black Commentator, January 22, 2004)
"Turnbull was more concerned with bad news getting out than he was for the well being of the victim. He didn’t report the allegations to the Department of Education, to the police, or to the student’s parents."

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