Happy days are here again! The children have gone back to school! Although I enjoyed hanging out with my daughter and now miss her company, it is time for her to return to the classroom. Finishing up last minute chores and shopping for school supplies was only half of the fun; the constant companionship was the other. As we both have jobs, hers being school and mine being—well that’s another story—it is time to get back in the groove. Summer vacation is over.

Although, it is not completely over for Julia. Her birthday is Sept. 13, always a cause for celebration, it being one of the happiest days of my life, the other being the day I got married. We are foregoing the birthday party this year (whew!). Last year she had two parties. As her birthday fell on the first day of school, which was a half day, the first party was with her classmates. That was fun. I had tall garbage bags for the children to use in a sack race. Strips from an old sheet were used for the three-legged race. Unfortunately, the rest of the sheet totally ripped apart when they tried to play tug of war with it. But they fell down in laughter, so it was all good. The menu featured chicken fingers, french fries and broccoli (got to get in those veggies), a cooler full of Capri-Sun and, of course, a birthday cake, which I partially smashed when I tripped and fell while transporting it, but no one seemed to notice the damage. Her present was a small portable Wi-Fi speaker that we paired with the phone and had music! It was all fun, but that simple party cost me a fortune.

The second party was hosted by my mother in the community room at the Isabella House. Among the trivia games, I had beads, bangles and makeup for the girls to adorn themselves with and stick-on mustaches for the boys (yes, boys were there). For entertainment, we had Uncle Magic. Even if yours is an adult party you should definitely consider having Uncle Magic perform. He is that good. In the past, we’ve done Uno Pizzeria make your own pizza, a trip to the Hayden Planetarium (interesting and the children were captivated and therefore quiet) and Chucky Cheese. The one house party we had occurred for Julia’s fifth birthday, when she invited five children. We were living in a studio apartment at the time, and my husband swore never again. It’s amazing how much havoc five 5-year-olds can raise.

This year, for my daughter’s 12th birthday, we’re having a different kind of party as we will board a jet for the island of Bermuda to attend the wedding of the daughter of our good friends the Hon. Cheryl Chambers and Seymour James, Esq. Carole Meredith James will wed Shameeke Taylor Saturday, Sept. 16, at the beautiful Hamilton Princess Hotel. Everyone is beyond excited, and prayerful that we have a safe journey. The couple met two years ago one evening after work, when Shameeke was at a restaurant and Carole walked in the door, dripping wet because she had been caught in a rain shower. It was love at first sight. That just goes to show you never know when love will find you or how you look when you let your inner beauty shine through. I think true love and all of the good wishes will keep the Hurricanes K through Z at a distance, and a great time will be had by all.

Speaking of true love and dedication, Al Fonnie Hunter has been on my case for weeks asking that I write a story about some of Harlem’s legends—those who braved the turbulent ’80s, carving a niche, never to be forgotten. Having known some of those he speaks about, either personally or by reputation, I have been intrigued and honored to tell their tale but unable to wait a minute longer. Fonnie has written a piece of the story himself:

“We as baby boomers were raised in a section of Harlem whose motto was ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ During the late 1950s to mid-60s this part of Harlem, covering 110th to 125th, from Fifth Avenue to Saint Nicholas Avenue, produced and nurtured countless unsung heroes and heroines. Poverty, racism, the Vietnam War, drug epidemic, gangs and other negative obstacles led to the demise of many of our brothers and sisters. The bright side of this great legacy is how a concentrated portion of this community produced so many Harlemites who have excelled even with the deck stacked against us. Perseverance, and resiliency passed on from our ancestors, parents and numerous unsung heroes and heroines acting as mentors, played a major role in the survival, molding, nurturing and positive direction for thousands upon thousands who not only survived but thrived.”

Among these giant mentors were the Rev. Dr. Eugene Calendar, Bernie Greenfield, Hermenia Rowe, James Allen (church on corner of West 122nd Street) George Brown, Bob McCullough and Ernesto Morris (P.A.L.), Dr. Bert Brown (Board of Ed.), Buster Bryant (Milbank Center), Leroy Otis (St. Joseph), Ronald Williams (Rams), Donald Adams (Cooper J.H.S.), James Young (Columbia Athletic Field) and others too dedicated to mention.

From this village concept came a multitude of children, the mentees of the distinguished collection of mentors: Vaughn Harper, Abu Karrim Shabazz, Sam Penseal, Benjamin “Buck” Blakley, Al “Fonnie” Hunter, Laura Hunter, Jackie Rowe Adams, Anna Maria Horford, Lloyd Williams (Uptown Chamber of Commerce), Kenny “Eggman” Williamson, Clarence Brodus, Talmage Lewis, Leon Hughes, Joe Gibbons, Rodney Butler, Stan “the man” Tarrant, Lloyd “Carrot Cake” Adams, Herman Bagley, Marvin “Hammer” Stevens, Kelsey “Kid” Stevens (Children’s Aid Society), Jerry Canty, Stevie Harris, Carlton Brown, Ronald Peay, Randy “Bubba” McGhee, Knobby Jackson , Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland, Bruce Allen, Tom Adams, Satch Sanders, Melvin Nelson, Joe Hammond, Cliff Moller, Bruce Frazier, Bernard Palmer, Charles Williams, the Smith Brothers and many others.

All of the aforementioned mentees and a multitude of others pay homage to the priceless mentors. We love you and thank you from the bottom of our collective hearts. Respectfully submitted by your mentees and sons and daughters of the “Village of Harlem.”

There is also Stanley “Sockie” Ross, Cleveland “Kojack” Manley, Carl Burnett, Jake McGhee, Larry Caldwell, Eric Von Zip, Lowell Hill, Freddie DeLaney Jr. and so many others who came out of Central Harlem blazing a trail and making a mark that can’t be erased by time or gentrification. While there are 8 million stories in the naked city, there are 8 million stories about each of the aforementioned individuals that will make you smile, cry and feel proud. Kind of heart, true in spirit, these are our real soldiers. Some are gone but not forgotten, and others still carry the torch. To all of them, salute.

Until next week … kisses.