top of page

Barack Obama, (adopted) son of Harlem

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

Planet Harlem mural by Paul Deo

Do you miss President Barack Obama? You might want to take a walk through the streets of Harlem. There may be a new president in the White House, but you wouldn't know it over here.

Scented oils on 125th Street in Harlem

Barack Obama images in Harlem

Stroll across 125th Street, the neighborhood's main commercial artery, and you'll find its iconic street vendors selling African-bead necklaces with our 44th president's face, handbags with his wife's visage, and scented body oils named after both ("Barack Obama" smells something like Davidoff Cool Water; "Michelle Obama" is all roses).

Portrait of Barack Obama at Harlem Shake

Order a burger at retro diner Harlem Shake on 124th Street, and an official-seeming photo of the former president–the kind you might see in a government office–casually hangs over a refrigerator with bottled sodas. It's very clear where this restaurant's loyalties lie. A bit further south, a colorful collage inside Harlem Food Bar includes the graphic portrait of Obama that appeared on the famous Hope poster.

On Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, a large stars-and-stripes banner from Obama's first swearing-in hangs in the window, a little rumpled and faded, but front and center nevertheless. "44th President of the United States: Barack Obama," it proclaims, adding the date: "Inauguration – January 20, 2009." Don't expect it to come down any time soon.

The President Barack Obama entree at Amy Ruth's in Harlem

At Harlem soul food standby Amy Ruth's, "The President Barack Obama" is the first on a long list of entrees named after African-American luminaries (order it and you get fried, smothered, baked or barbecue chicken with two sides). His name is followed by those of other black politicians, actors and celebrities, including Al Roker and Ludacris (Michelle's there too–I wonder how she really feels about fried whiting).

The list of local tributes goes on and on. But my favorite might be Paul Deo's "Planet Harlem" mural outside of Corner Social, which was just restored a few month ago (see top photo). There's a smiling young Obama headed on his way to do great things right between Zora Neale Hurston, Thurgood Marshall and other African-American role models. As usual, he's in excellent company.

Screen Shot 2020-11-18 at 2.39.32 PM.png
  • Black Pinterest Icon
  • Black Twitter Icon
  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon
bottom of page