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Honoring the Queen of soul food

Yvonne DeLaney Mitchel | 8/9/2012, 3:37 p.m.

The torrential rainstorm that poured down upon the metropolis were really tears of joy from the "Queen of Soul Food," Sylvia Woods, as her spirit reigned over her 50th anniversary party.

The sun shone just long enough for the brightest block party Harlem has seen in a very long time. Orderly lines comprised of longstanding residents mixed with the new regentrified stood side by side as breakfast, consisting of a piece of Woods' famous smothered chicken, grits and a biscuit, were handed out to all who cared to partake.

Class act that she was, seating was arranged for those who, once they had their plate, wanted to sit down and eat. But what would a block party be without a little fun and games? An easy ring toss was set up so that everyone who tossed could get a prize (I chose the cutest little pink colander, perfect for straining spaghetti or rinsing fruit).

For the creative, white aprons were handed out, one to a customer, with nearby tables lined with coloring pens where everyone was kept busy expressing themselves. Next--yes, there is a next--decorative pieces of material were available for the choosing, while seamstresses were eagerly waiting to sew on the finishing touches. It was great to see young ladies sewing on Singer sewing machines and to know the trade still exists. All of this was made possible compliments of Target.

Throughout it all, music filled the air. The first performance featured the incomparable Lonnie Youngblood, Harlem's hardest working showman, who wailed. He was followed by the cast of "Mama I Want to Sing: The Next Generation." This young group of soulful, gospel singers are amazingly talented. Their next scheduled performance is Aug. 18. You simply must catch this show at the Dempsey Theater, 127 W. 127th St. For tickets, call (212) 280-1045.

The celebration was completed with a cupcake parade while the crowd was treated to red velvet cupcakes to the beat of the Brooklyn Marching Band. The Manhattan borough president then proclaimed Aug. 1 to be Sylvia Appreciation Day. I can't wait until next year.

Aug. 11 promises to be another full day, as the 118th Street Block Association will hold its annual health fair. Vendors will be there representing New York University Dental, Harlem Hospital, Harlem United, the Sydenham Clinic, Chase Bank and Carver Bank. Screenings for eyes and blood pressure will be offered, along with food, music, fun and games for the kids and more.

The Explorers from the 28th Precinct are also volunteering their services--three cheers for the community!

You can stay in the community, too, as later that evening, Ginny's Supper Club at the Red Rooster presents the legendary Bobbi Humphrey, the "First Lady of Flute." Located on Lenox Avenue at 126th Street, performance times are 8 and 10:30 p.m.

Judge Debra A. James, currently acting New York County Supreme Court judge and friend of the late Bill Freeman, is seeking election to the New York State Supreme Court this November. Thus, the fundraisers have begun.