It is with profound sadness that I mention the passing of Mitzi Turner. If you’ve ever known anyone who was the salt of the earth, then you knew Mitzi. Always pleasant, always one to greet you with a smile on her face and the warmth of a handshake-that was Mitzi. Filled with compassion and grace, it makes you wonder why the good die young.
A trooper to the end, Mitzi welcomed the hand of the precious Lord when, upon finishing her breakfast, she was overcome with a tremendous headache. She quickly prepared herself, called 911, walked downstairs to greet the ambulance and only then slipped into a coma. Two days later, she passed away.
She is being fondly remembered as one who really enjoyed life; she was a music enthusiast. Wherever she was, music was surely to follow. The Sag Harbor home she shared with her longtime mate, Dr. Tommy Day, who passed away a little over two years ago, was always filled with music. Whether it was jazz from the big band era, cool jazz or R&B, there was something for everyone. If I tell you Lonnie Youngblood was a personal friend of hers, need I say more?
Mitzi was also president of the Hillbillies Social Club, where she can only be described as the best. Diplomatic to the core with a hint of being a mom, she was always able to soothe everyone’s feelings and keep the bunch happy when opposite opinions started to fly.
I had the good fortune, honor and pleasure of hosting the club’s September meeting, the first of the season after the summer hiatus. Little did any of us know that it would be the last one Mitzi would chair. Maybe we had a hint that all was not well when she passed on having her favorite drink, the ultimate martini, shaken not stirred (or is it stirred not shaken?) with an olive. The upcoming Hillbillies year-end party is sure to be the holiday event of the season; it will be dedicated to Mitzie just as she would want it to be-a blast.
Mitzi has been cremated, and a memorial service will follow in the spring.
The Harlem sky was all aglow as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture opened its doors for the first of its many evening events. Back with a vengeance, crowds both old and new filed in for what was definitely a night to remember. Under the new direction of director Khalil Gibran Muhammad, the Schomburg has a host of exhibits, lectures and workshops lined up, geared toward educating and engaging the public in the Black cultural experience.
Currently at the center is its Junior Scholars program, “Africana Age: The Black World in the 20th Century-challenges, tragedies and triumphs” and the Romare Bearden and Malcolm X exhibitions. Upcoming events include a genealogy/family history research consultation, Oct. 13 at 6 p.m., and “Teaching Malcolm X: Educators’ Workshop,” Oct 18 at 5 p.m.
Back to the party. It was a wonderful evening out. In the seldom-used courtyard, music was provided by the Rakiem Walker Project featuring Kennedy on vocals. They were so good and the fresh evening air was so comforting, the audience was thrown into a musical trance as they played for two hours straight. The Walker Project can be seen and heard every Monday night when they perform at the Red Rooster.
Meanwhile upstairs in the Langston Hughes auditorium, the audience was equally enthralled with performances by Voza Rivers’ Impact Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, which is in the process of forming their touring company once again (hooray!), and a presentation by Muhammad, who spoke at length about his future plans for the Schomburg and his latest book, “The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern America.”
Happy birthday to Roger Daniels, Jamie Foster, Lil’ Kev (118th St.) Kevin Gaddy, Kevin (Coconut) Copeland, Shawn Manley, Charlie Yellowday, Herbert Moultire, Linda Roberson, Ralph Benjamin, Derrick (Fat Dickey) Stevens and Julia Viola Sarjent Mitchell.
Happy anniversary to Mr. and Mrs. Donovan, Tarrah Smallwood and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Carroll.
The afternoon was sunny, warm for a fall day but welcome just the same. The children had just come home from school and the streets were bustling with the usual late afternoon activity. All seemed peaceful and everyone’s thoughts were either on the task at hand, what was for dinner or idly dreaming the rest of the day away. Pop, pop, pop. Downtown, a helicopter crashed into the East River. Uptown, the all too familiar sound of gunfire went off as another one bit the dust.
There are a couple of crazy things in this recurring scenario. No matter how many times you hear gunfire, you still think-or maybe hope-that it’s just firecrackers going off. You almost tend to ignore it-maybe because you want to believe so badly that it is someone who just got hold of some illegal firecrackers instead of an illegal gun.
However, fantasy quickly turned back to reality as in less than five minutes the police sirens were racing through the air as patrol cars head to the scene of the crime. It’s amazing how quickly they respond after the fact. What’s even more amazing is how, in less than 10 minutes, the NYPD helicopter is in flight. Canvassing the neighborhood, the surveillance team peers into your window, invading the privacy of the innocent as they bear down on every street. Round and round they go, where’s the culprit, nobody knows.
While news coverage of the helicopter crash was extensive, there was no news about the Harlem shooting. Legislators rushed to announce the need for new laws regulating air traffic and the use of helicopters; after all, helicopter crashes are happening on average about once a year. As horrible as that is, how horrible is it that shootouts occur in Harlem, in the middle of the day, on a crowded street filled with innocent bystanders-children, the elderly who can’t run for cover, moms, dads, working people, people who are just people-on average once a week and NO ONE is doing anything about it? Sigh! Need I say more?
Until next week…kisses.