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Walking in soulful footsteps

JASMIN K. WILLIAMS Amsterdam News Staff | 3/28/2013, 11:52 a.m.
Tren'ness Woods-Black is following the lead of her grandmother, legendary Harlem restaurateur Sylvia Woods, whose...
Walking in soulful footsteps

Woods-Black is a co-founder of Harlem Park to Park, a non-profit merchants association that consists of businesses in Central Harlem."Our mission is to secure the CHARM--culture, hospitality, art, restaurant and retail and music of Harlem,"she said.

"There's a Harlem Restaurant Week, held twice a year, and an Earth Day event. Last year, the group produced the first culinary and hospitality conference at the Studio Museum in Harlem, which brought out top leaders to discuss the industry.

"Our signature event is the Harlem Harvest Festival at A. Philip Randolph Square, between 116th and 117th on St. Nick. We do fresh vegetables with a farmers market on one side and restaurants on the other side. We have a main stage with performances. We also do a 'Battle of the Chefs,' which is really popular. It's avenue against avenue. They battle each other with a three-course meal.

"We also do the 'Sidewalk Cafe Crawl' in the spring and a 'Battle of the Bars.' We're producing programing that engages the community. The 'Battle of the Bars' will create a specialty cocktail. The community votes on the winner. The person, restaurant or bar that gets the most votes wins.

"Each year, for the past four years, we choose a charity for Christmas and do a huge toy and coat drive and donate them to that charity. We've done Harlem Hospital Pediatrics and Phase Piggyback. Last year, we teamed up with Old Navy and the National Action Network. Everything we collected, we gave out to Sandy victims in Coney Island," Woods-Black said.

And if doing all that were not enough, she heads up her own company, Tren'ness Woods-Black LLC, a communications company that handles all of the marketing, programing and outreach for the restaurant and its many endeavors. She also works closely with City Meals on Wheels and the American Heart Association.

Woods-Black has also started a new series at Sylvia's Also Lounge called "Cornbread and Conversation," where the community comes together to pay tribute to the great women of Harlem.

The house that Sylvia built is getting an overhaul. The family is working on building a new, more modern Sylvia's. "But the same hospitality and down-home feeling of comfort will still be there," Woods-Black said.

"I'm an ambassador for soul food," she said. "I feel that soul food is one of the most important cultural identity markers for African-Americans. It's the Woods family's job to preserve that."