June is busting out all over. I know I have said it before, but what a delight to say it again. Although we still have to contend with the one-day sunny, one-day torrential rain storm, it’s all good.
Currently underway is the big dig. Passing by the Riverton housing complex ensconced between Fifth Avenue on the West, Madison Avenue on the East, 135th Street on the South and 138th Street on the North, the whole interior grounds are completely dug up: playground, plants, benches and all. It was a sad day to see how the previous design dismantled the playground, transforming it from a once-communal meeting place for tots through teens to something of a kiddie-only barren land. Gone were the lush gardens and park benches where one could sit and be one with nature, replaced with catacombs that seemed confusing and uninviting. Obviously, that wasn’t working, and the only thing left of it are mounds of dirt and the long-standing trees. Thank goodness for small favors.
For those who aren’t familiar with the history of Riverton, it was the city’s answer to fair housing. It was the middle of the 1940s when, in an effort to ease the strife, and all things being equal, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company developed Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village for middle-class downtown folks while also developing Riverton to accommodate middle-class uptown folks. All one has to do to believe the story is take one look at the similarity in design of the two red-brick apartment buildings—identical. Riverton was vibrant and full of life, nurturing and providing a safe haven for the 1,000 residents who would bond for life. Those such as Glenn Hunter, Bert Balasco, Dawn Morrow, Debbie and Joanie Palmer, Keith Hanley, Jon Goodman, Rochelle Portier, Yvette and Marilyn Johnson, Steven Johnson, the LeVelle brothers, Jim and Michael Harding, Patti and Tina Page, Father Gregory Chislom, Dennis Skinner, Althea Gibson, Cassandra and Thomasina Grant, Curt Foster, Allen Spencer, Suzanne DePasse, Keith Wright, Frankie Johnson, Allison Greene, Jeanie Hudson and the list goes on and on, all have a story to tell about the good ole days and the original Riverton.
I don’t know what the new plans hold and whether it will be finished in time for the 70th reunion to be held over the weekend of Friday, July 21, to Sunday, July 23. However, hopes are high for a turnout for all Rivertonians, friends and lovers of the land alike. Go to www.harlemcultural.org to purchase tickets and learn more.
For those seeking to get out of the city and make the most of it, here is a travel tip that I came across and would like to share. When staying in a hotel, call the concierge before arrival to ask any questions you might have about the local area and special events or with special request. They’re there to help and you’ll be so glad you did.
Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group, with Jamal Joseph, senior executive artistic director, in association with Gertrude Jeannette’s H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players, with Roger Parris, artistic director, and John Mitchell Productions present “Chosen,” performed at the Julia DeBurgos Performance and Arts Center, June 8-June 11. This play is the story of the first Black recruits assigned to the Montford Marines, stationed at the segregated Camp Montford Point, located in Jacksonville, N.C. As the story of intrigue goes, recruiting began June 1, 1942, right on the heels of WWII. Although more than 1,000 Black men ready to serve flocked to the recruiting offices, segregation in the Marines kept them across the railroad tracks and forbade them to enter the nearby military base of Camp Lejeune, unless accompanied by a white Marine. (President Harry S. Truman put an end to segregation in the military when he signed Executive Order 9981 in 1948.)
By 1945 all the drill instructors at Montford Point were African-Americans, training more than 20,000 men. Not to be deterred or downtrodden, the men always found a way to keep their spirit high and faith strong. “Chosen” is the story of three such men, jazz musicians from Harlem who survived both racism and WWII. In 2012 the Montford men left standing, which include former Mayor David L. Dinkins, were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The play stars Gareth Lawson, Nicole Betancourt, Jerry Nelson Soto, Andre Ozim and Robert Homeyer. Original music is by Roy Meriwether and Clarence “Chip” Shelton, musical director. David D. Wright is the sound designer.
As the time is now right for friendly and familiar faces getting together to enjoy the longer days and warmer nights, if you’re hosting, don’t forget the essentials. Begin with a killer playlist with either six hours’ worth of music or set on replay, so you don’t have to worry about it, and plenty of finger food and napkins. When serving beer and white wine (which is really all you need), make sure it is icy cold. Quite often I will add a homemade punch in my gigantic punch bowl that is nonalcoholic and set a bottle of Grey Goose on one side and Bacardi Light Rum on the other and let the mixing begin. It’s nice if the party can begin around twilight, such a nice time of day, as the sun sets but the sky is still light, and as you ease into the night, remember to turn down the lights. It’s not your grandmother’s party. You don’t need a 100-watt bulb to see who you are talking to. I love a big bowl of mixed fresh fruit for dessert, with a couple of cans of Readi wip to douse whipped cream on top; guests love it. Just allow time to cut up all of that fruit. Of course there is always strawberry Romanoff, but that is not for the faint of heart because it consists of frozen strawberries doused in brandy. Definitely don’t forget the whipped cream, definitely.
Until next week … kisses.