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.
Also there to give three cheers was Howell Jones, who, along with good friend Williams (Williams is talented and a very nice guy; he has a lot of friends), has formed the “Nate and How do 100” club. Basing their activities upon Time Out magazine’s list of the most popular 100 places to go around the city, Williams and Jones try to visit all the 100 places together. What fun.
Condolences on the passing of Kermit Moore, a cellist and composer who passed away at the age of 84. A pioneer in his field, Moore possessed a skill and deep understanding of the instrument that he mastered. He often played solo on some of the world’s leading concert stages, offering dozens of contemporary pieces where other cellists might only have at most one or two pieces. He collaborated with other jazz musicians, such as pianist McCoy Tyner and bassist Ron Carter.
As a conductor, he could be seen at the podium leading the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Detroit Symphony, the Berkeley Symphony and Opera Ebony. Amidst this, he still found time to form the Symphony of the New World, an ensemble put together by Moore in New York in 1964, allowing women and minorities the opportunity to perform in a symphony orchestra.
Moore’s ability to play jazz stretched across the spectrum, as he was just as comfortable playing classical works. To that end, he was also the founder and conductor of the Classical Heritage Ensemble, which specialized in playing rarely performed classical works. The list of Moore’s accomplishments go on and on.
Moore was born in Akron, Ohio, and his middle name, Diton, was in honor of the African-American composer Carl Diton. Moore studied at Julliard, New York University and at the Conservatoire de Paris. Moore is counted among one of the very few Black cellists in the United States to have held prestigious solo positions, but that loftiness didn’t keep him from coming back to his roots, as he also once taught at Harlem School of the Arts. He is survived by his wife, who is also a composer, and his sister, Mary Moore Nelson, a pianist.
Congratulations to Thelma Dye, executive director and CEO of Northside Center for Child Development, who was recently honored by the Nassau County of Jack and Jill at their 55th anniversary gala, held at the Carlyle on the Green in Long Island.
Check out Cecil’s Restaurant, located on the corner of 118th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. Formerly known as the hotel where the musicians stayed after playing a gig at Minton’s, which is still located around the corner, the restaurant boasts chef Alexander Smalls, a good friend of the late Bill Freeman. It looks very cozy from the outside; it’s my guess its even cozier on the inside.
Happy Thanksgiving to all, and don’t forget to count your blessings.
Until next week … kisses