Sistas’ Place—the watering hole for the Black soul

IMAN ESSIET | 8/27/2020, midnight
The legendary Sistas’ Place, one of the last Black jazz clubs standing in Brooklyn, closed out their very special outdoor ...
The Camille Gainer Jones Trio: Camille Gainer Jones on the drums, Endea Owens on bass and Keith Brown on piano Nayaba Arinde photo

The legendary Sistas’ Place, one of the last Black jazz clubs standing in Brooklyn, closed out their very special outdoor summer concert series last Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020, with the phenomenal Camille Gainer Jones Trio. Led by Camille Gainer Jones on the drums, Endea Owens on the bass, and Keith Brown on the keys, it was a night filled with unapologetic Black joy and vibrant culture.

This five-week series was developed to bring mental ease in this time of chaos. The global pandemic known as COVID-19 unfortunately cut the clubs’ regular jazz season short in March. However, with the lifting of restrictions, this spring/summer Sistas’ Place now had the opportunity to remind the Black community of Bed-Stuy that culture is still indeed OUR WEAPON. Just as the late president Samora Machel speaks of artistic expression for national unity, Sistas’ Place takes the same position. The emphasis on the preservation of our culture while being a place where all Black bands such as the Camille Gainer Jones trio can come with their art, and of course their politics.

The trio when interviewed spoke of their love of Sistas’ Place for not watering down their politics and for giving them as Black artists a place they can call home and find comfort. It’s not easy to be a Black artist navigating through this music scene, which is unfortunately saturated with predominantly white venues; you just feel like a token. Something that of course all Black people in this world can relate to—they want your labor, they want your gifts, but they don’t want you. This of course shows the need for Black cultural hubs like Sistas’ Place, which will be celebrating their 25th year this September on the 23rd (John Coltrane’s birthday). Sistas’ place is run with the hard work and dedication of volunteers such as Viola Plummer, Lateefah Carter, Loretta Vaughn, Colette Pean, Amadi Ajamu—some of the Sistas of Sistas’ Place who keep the joint running. Cooperative economics at its finest. They work hard to keep the music affordable and the atmosphere welcoming, serving the needs of the community. And the community without a doubt continues to show unwavering support to Sistas’ Place, because indeed it is a watering hole for the Black soul. As the saying at Sistas’ Place goes, which can be heard from their musical director Ahmed Abdullah every week: “Jazz the music of the spirit, at Sistas’ Place where culture is our weapon.”