Home > Attitude, Gratitude > Harlem Grattitude

Harlem Grattitude

Sometimes things haunt me. Not necessarily in a bad way. They brew and boil and bake in my head it’s true but that just means they’re usually there for a reason.

grattitude Billboard

Several weeks ago myself and two colleagues took the train into the City for a conference. On my way into Manhattan, at 125th Street, Harlem, that’s where I saw this billboard for the first time and thought to  myself…

That’s interesting. I wonder if that word is misspelled on purpose?

Then I thought….

Who would put up a billboard that says ‘Grattitude’ and why?

I didn’t get it but couldn’t dismiss it, so it got me and the brewing began.

Later that day and in the days that followed, I found myself thinking about what I saw and why it wouldn’t go away. I’d already picked my “Word” for the year. It’s Faith, not gratitude. Gratitude. I struggled with the word’s presence inside my head from the moment I saw it sprouting from its concrete carpet straight up into the clear, blue sky.

It was so unexpected. So big. Who put it there? Why is it spelled wrong? Am I grateful? What am I grateful for and how grateful am I? The notion of it all lingered. The boiling set in and it stayed with me, simmering as things I eventually end up writing about often do.

A couple of weeks later I found myself Googling “gratitude in harlem” and came across an article from the Greenwich Post (2012) that offered an explanation for it’s existence.

“It’s a billboard with an obscure message for the powerful and wealthy, the dispossessed and poor, a billboard that says simply “GRATTITUDE.”  It is a copy of an acrylic paint collage of newspaper clips and art books by pop artist Peter Tunney, who added the extra “T” as an expression of, he says, turbo-charged gratitude.”

I found another site established in September, 2013, that uses the billboard to promote their GrAttitude Project.

I love the GrAttitude Project and believe whole-heartedly that no act of kindness is too small and I like the way Attitude is embedded in GrAttitude.

It is after all an attitude:  gratitude.

Last week I took the New Haven line into the City again. This time, to meet friends. Even though the weather was really bad, I was prepared, camera-ready. I craned my neck for 10-minutes before pulling into 125th Street station, afraid I’d miss it, wanting to catch a glimpse and possibly a picture of it this time. Sure enough, I did. Not without thinking “Why?” though. Why am I haunted by this?

It’s just a word. Right?

Not really.

It’s thought provoking.

And this time I noticed something different.

Baball 128

©2014 KarenSzczukaTeich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

The E is backwards. The E in Grattitude is backwards! I didn’t notice that before. That puts a whole new twist on things, requiring even more thought.

So, I keep thinking about gratitude.

Was the billboard like this a few weeks ago? Or was it like the one I found when I Googled it? What does it mean that the E is backwards now? Is “gratitude” as I know it backwards? Not communicated enough or effectively?

I don’t know.

And I really don’t know what the artist’s intentions were or if the billboard I saw last week is different from the one I saw several weeks ago. I still don’t know who put it there or why and it probably doesn’t matter but I do know this:  I considered myself to be a pretty grateful person until I saw this billboard and the word took up residence in the forefront of my mind.

Seeing this word in an unsuspecting place made me think.

A lot, as in turbo-charged. About gratitude.

That was the effect for me and it’s a profound one.


Courtesy my niece, this week, on the train, on her way to work!

In the middle of the South Bronx when people look up and see this billboard, maybe they see a message being sent to the powerful and wealthy, dispossessed and poor…… or maybe it’s just meant to make anyone who sees it think about gratitude and what that means for them, in their life. Gratitude is not bias. People are grateful for different things at different times of their lives. What I take for granted others may be very grateful for and vice-versa.

Sometimes, it’s nice to have a reminder come to you out of the clear, blue sky.

What do you think? Have you seen the billboard?

Photo Credits #1 & #3: Google Images

Photo Credit #2:  ©2014 KarenSzczukaTeich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

Attitude of Gratitude ~ Greenwich Post

  1. Anonymous
    February 23, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    What a great experience and story. I had a similar one that recurs for me in times, I think, of need. Just south of Garrison on rt 9d there are a couple of one-word, very small placards nailed to telephone poles. One says “pray,” I think, and there are a couple others, too. I don’t know exactly where they are and have avoided trying to pinpoint their location, preferring to rediscover them if and when I need to. The first time I saw them I nearly cried out in thanks for their message.


    • February 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm

      Thanks for reading & commenting Anonymous. Funny how things like that happen usually when we need them too 🙂


  2. Michael Wuttke
    February 23, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    I just finished reading a book every American should read, esp parents…the “Narcissism Epidemic.” One great antidote to this culture destroying trend is Gratitude… Love this message. Thanks for sharing Karen!


    • February 23, 2014 at 5:47 pm

      Thanks for reading, Michael! I appreciate your comments & will check out the book!


  3. February 23, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Nice, Karen. It is always wonderful to find those serendipitous reminders.


    • February 23, 2014 at 7:17 pm

      I agree & thanks, Anita!


  4. singleworkingmomswm
    February 24, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    Wow, I’ve never seen a billboard like that before, but how awesome is it?!?! It is always a good thing to be reminded to have an attitude of gratitude! 🙂 XOXO-Kasey


  5. February 24, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Yes, Kasey it is awesome!! And very beautiful and yes, it’s nice to be reminded to be grateful. Hope you & your gals are great!! xoxox Karen


  6. February 25, 2014 at 6:42 am

    Turbo-charged gratitude – I like that!


  7. Veronica
    February 25, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I see this billboard twice a day Mon – Fri. There is a saying that comes to mind when I first saw it, “keep an attitude of gratitude” and I just figured the advertiser was combing this saying into one word. I did not notice that the E was backwords though! I also think, “why did someone pay so much money to put that up there for so long with no brand/cause message?”! I just answer myself quickly with a smile and think, “someone is reminding me to be grateful each day”, which then helps me to bear the hour and a half long train ride ahead of me with a positive attitude!


    • February 25, 2014 at 10:34 pm

      Great thoughts, Veronica! Thanks for reading & commenting xoxox


  8. Anonymous
    February 25, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    lt is amazing that you took great interest of this sign. it is also beautiful.


    • February 28, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      Beautiful! Agreed. 🙂


  9. Anonymous
    May 30, 2014 at 8:56 am

    I also wondered about the backward E….I appreciated reading your thoughts on it and thank you!


    • February 28, 2015 at 4:26 pm

      Thank you so much for reading & commenting!


  10. Anonymous
    September 29, 2014 at 9:04 am

    I googled gratitude billboard in Harlem and landed here. Thanks!


  11. El
    February 6, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    What a nice thoughtful post. I stumbled across this site while Googling to see what I could find out about this very billboard, since the taxi I’m in just drove past it on the way to my home near Pelham Bay Park.

    I wanted to offer a gentle correction: the billboard isn’t so much in the middle of Harlem, as it is in the South Bronx near Hunts Point, just over the river from the 125th Street MetroNorth station as you travel north.

    It’s a neighborhood that is still slowly recovering from the horrors of the 1970s. There’s not a lot of foot traffic in that particular spot; the billboard is largely surrounded by warehouses, and a seedy strip club that may or may not be still in business.

    In that context the billboard seems positioned mostly so those of us on the highway and train can see it. It almost seems like a message to outsiders: “you might think you know how bad we have it here, but we have GRATTITUDE.”


  12. February 6, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    El, thank you for reading & commenting. Your gentle correction is noted & appreciated. I find your take on the billboard interesting. That was my hope, to discover how it spoke to other people. 🙂


    • El
      February 6, 2015 at 11:35 pm

      Thank you for putting your post out into the world for me to read 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. RJ
    April 20, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Maybe the ‘E’ backwards is literally giving back- the attitude of gratitude. You can’t keep it unless you give it away….


    • April 20, 2015 at 2:03 pm

      Indeed! And agreed!! Thanks so much for reading & commenting RJ. 🙂


  1. February 28, 2015 at 1:01 pm
  2. March 29, 2016 at 4:01 pm

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