Reverend Earl Kooperkamp
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
“Harlem is incredible. It’s like coming into a dream, and yet it is so real.”
Reverend Kooperkamp carries his light and his love for people in his eyes. His enthusiasm for Harlem and the people he serves just struts out of him and calls upon you to walk proudly beside him. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Reverend Kooperkamp migrated north to another small town to meet his destiny – Harlem.
“Harlem is special community because it is such an historic community. The history of Harlem stretches all the way from the original Dutch village in the 17th century, to the time in the 20th century when Harlem became the premiere black community in the United States. Some of this nation’s most creative and deep thinking intellectual minds - Zora Neale Hurston, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and Malcolm X - were nurtured here in Harlem.
I came to Harlem twenty-six years ago and the spicy mix of people makes Harlem a great place to live – and eat. As we come together, we bring the strengths of all of our different cultures such as the resistance to slavery and the essential desire for freedom and liberation. This has been the central magnet for Harlem as the Mecca for the black community.
Just to walk up and down 125th Street is such a joy for me. I feel part of that great vitality and energy. I love that Martin Luther King Blvd. (125th St.) and Malcolm X Blvd (Lenox Ave.) meet at an intersection. And I also like the new statue of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. reminding us to ‘keep the faith.’ The spirit of this community is like a wind, it refreshes you, lifts you up and inspires you. I was about eleven years old when I felt the call to the ministry. All of the pastors that I thought were great, back in Louisville, had gone to Union Seminary, so, even though I went to Hampshire College in Massachusetts, I knew one day I’d live in New York City. I hope that my legacy will reflect that I have been able to help people, but also that I have helped young people open up their lives to grow up and serve others.”