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The Cosmopolitan Review

Yvonne Delaney Mitchell | 11/28/2013, 6 a.m.

A small group gathered at the office of Sen. Bill Perkins in the Harlem State Office Building to honor Robert Smalls III, grandson of Robert Smalls, known as “The Boat Thief.” Organized very adeptly by Earlene Hilton, founder and president of the Preparation for Final Destination Organization; A Plan, A Vision, A Dream. It was a joyous occasion, but looking back on one’s family history and the accomplishments of one’s family often is.

“The Boat Thief” is a title that was facetiously given to Smalls, because he wasn’t a thief at all, but merely a man who took action when action needed to be taken. Born a slave in Charleston, S.C., (1872-1915) Smalls became a war hero and legislator. He was one of the first Black soldiers to fight in the Civil War. After the war, it was his troop that became known as the “buffalo soldiers.”

Eventually, Smalls saw his way clear to sit on the House of Representatives, representing South Carolina. From 1868-1900, there were three Black Republican delegates: P.B.S. Pinchback, Joseph Hayne Rainey and Smalls. Most notably, Smalls helped to initiate the Emancipation Proclamation and was personally acknowledged by President Abraham Lincoln. So great were Smalls’ accomplishments for a man of that era that Smalls is prominently featured in the book “Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s American Heroes: Robert Smalls, the Boat Thief.”

Amongst the memorabilia on display at the gathering was a copy of the book, autographed by Robert Kennedy. The book is available online and promises to be a compelling read, revealing a lot of interesting information about an important man and an integral time in Black history. Amongst those in attendance to recognize Robert Smalls III were Florence Rice (94 years old and still making it), community activist Maxine McCrey, media specialist Johnny Barton and the Rev. Willie James Gause, who traveled from Georgetown, S.C., just for the occasion.

Intimate gatherings are always such a great way for people to get together and have intimate conversations. Such events are as popular as ever. Making the grade was those fortunate enough to attend our very own Florence Anthony’s book signing, held at the very intimate Boulevard Bistro.

Boulevard Bistro is one of my favorite uptown haunts. Everything about it is so classy. I enjoyed an appetizer of Coco Shrimp with a dipping sauce that was très magnifique. The shrimp were medium-sized (not those tiny ones), were served 20 on a plate and were fresh (not frozen) and fried to perfection. They were so delicious that even though it was a healthy portion, I really wanted to order another round, but I refrained. Anthony was beaming as she spoke passionately about her new book, “Deadly Stuff Players.”

“This book has a little something about everything,” Anthony explained, “a little bit of a mystery, murder. Some of the book’s characters are built off of a lot of people that I know; it’s thoroughly entertaining.”

Anthony thanked good friend Nate Williams for organizing the event along with Marva Allen, while acknowledging actress Lorretta Devine, for whom she has great admiration.