Happy Thanksgiving. The holiday brings out the sentimentality in us because at some point we stop to reflect on the things we are thankful for. Even my 12-year-old daughter is beginning to remark on how fast time goes by. Things that happened in April seem as though they occurred years ago, but I am nonetheless thankful. I think back to Thanksgivings past, with family members and friends who are no longer here. For me, it crystalizes how time marches on, and the importance of carrying on traditions while creating new ones. Besides the obvious, I am thankful to celebrate another Thanksgiving and pray for many more to come.
Thanksgiving is the one time organizations, politicians, the clergy and concerned citizens make sure everyone gets something to eat, at least in Harlem. Councilman Bill Perkins, along with his assistant Keith Lilly, assembled “care packages” that included a turkey, a can of cranberry sauce, green beans, a package of gravy mix, a box of stove-top stuffing, mashed potatoes and a pumpkin pie. Assemblywoman Inez Dickens and former Congressman Charles B. Rangel gave the blessing, and boxes upon boxes were distributed. Centers everywhere welcomed men, woman and children to sit-down dinners, where they could eat to their hearts delight. It’s a wonderful time of the year, when love and compassion are put into action.
Also putting their intentions into action was the Greater New York Links Health & Human Services Community Partnership who hosted “The Many Faces of Caregiving: Caring for the Caregiver.” The program featured Rosemary Dias, 1199SEIU director of programs, and Paula Rice, manager of African-American outreach at CaringKind, who spoke on “The Heart of Alzheimer’s Caregiving.” The event, held at the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging at Hunter College, was co-sponsored by AARP, Abyssinian Development Corporation, The Carter Burden Center for the Aging and Harlem Advocates for Seniors. Aren’t we thankful for the support that’s given for those in need and those who give it.
Thanksgiving also kicks off the holiday season and so it is now official. The 125th Street corridor is adorned with holiday lights. The 18th annual Winter’s Eve event at Lincoln Square took place with the lighting of the Lincoln Center Square Christmas tree in Dante Park, accompanied by concerts, art, festivals, food and other activities.
Wrapping up just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving was the film production of “Paris Blues in Harlem.” Written by Nadhege Ptah, the Harlem native who is the actor/writer/producer/dancer/director, the movie was filmed at the famous Paris Blues jazz club, located on 121st Street at Seventh Avenue. The story, though loosely based on the venue, goes a lot deeper. It is the enthralling tale of a young woman (Paris) and her attempts to assist her grandfather’s monetarily stressed out Harlem Jazz nightclub. Paris has a few hours to convince her rigid elder to accept the real estate agent’s briefcase full of cash in exchange for his nightclub. But it’s not until she challenges his past and traditional habits that he eventually lets go. With only a few seconds left, Paris must either commit to legacy or money.
Paris Blues is a Harlem favorite owned by Samuel Hargress Jr. The nightclub was established in 1969 and is a classic “old school” establishment that has stood the test of time and managed to survive the many twists and turns that have defined Harlem over the years. The spot is revered by locals and tourists alike for its simplicity, friendly staff and the best jukebox in Harlem. Throughout the years, the club has maintained its daily performances by jazz and blues musicians and vocalists, its policy of no cover and a free buffet.
A famous Chinese proverb declares that wealth can only be kept in the family for three generations. “Paris Blues in Harlem” is a dynamic story that explores how a family’s legacy can often be compromised because of generational differences based on values.
When asked about the motivation to write and produce the story, Ptah explained, “I was inspired by my connection to Samuel Hargress and his business sensibility that helped him survive over the years. We want to use this film as a tool to inspire and educate many future generations and also to bestow the community with a visual nostalgic gift to emotionally connect and fill the void of the few remaining cultural institutions fragile to gentrification.”
A dynamic cast was lined up for the film. Ptah, herself an award-winning actress and producer, plays the role of Paris. She has an impressive portfolio and has starred in productions and produced the award-winning film shorts “Harlem Love” and “DoDo TiTi.” Also starring is Charles Weldon, a versatile veteran actor of stage, film and TV and the artistic director of the groundbreaking New York City theater company, The Negro Ensemble Company. He is best known for his roles in “Malcolm X,” “Stir Crazy” and “Sanford and Son” and will play her grandfather in the role of Pop Pop. Supporting actors include Tonya Pinkins, a Tony Award-winning American television, film and theater actress, best known as Livia Frye on the soap opera “All My Children,” and for roles in “Scandal” and “Gotham,” and multitalented American actress, creator and Award-winning producer Michele Baldwin. Additional actors making appearances are the legendary actor and director best known for his work in theater Arthur W. French Jr., WBLS radio personality Bob Lee, actor/radio personality C. Truth and Iris Gale.
When all goes well, MAAT Films will pursue and position “Paris Blues in Harlem” to premiere at any of the top film festivals, such as Festival de Cannes, Sundance Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival and others. Want to learn more and see more? Check out Nedhege’s website at http://www.maatfilms.net.
In the Thanksgiving spirit, the Black Women’s Leadership Caucus, Inc. is joining forces with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the Girl Scouts of New York and New York Food Bank for the NYC holiday “Diaper Drive” to collect diapers for low-income New Yorkers. Here’s how we can help. Bring new, sealed boxes of diapers—sizes 3, 4, 5 or 6, but especially 4 and 5—to one of Brewer’s two offices: 1 Centre St. (19th Fl. South) or 431 W. 125th St. (storefront). If you’re an Amazon customer, order from the Food Bank’s Amazon Wishlist for delivery straight to the Food Bank’s warehouse at http://amzn.to/2mq2P1V. Much appreciated.
Pre-Thanksgiving talk this year centered around Thanksgiving rules. Check to see how many you either violated, witnessed or will think about for the upcoming Christmas celebrations. The rules are listed below:
Don’t take the Tupperware to pack up your food to go before dinner has been served.
Have only one cocktail before dinner.
Leave all of the drama at the door—no talk of politics, no dirty jokes and no dirty language.
Don’t start eating before everyone is seated, especially the hosts unless they say it is OK to start.
Remember to say some sort of grace, no matter how short, even if it’s “Thank you, God, for everything.”
I recall my mother telling me stories of how once all of the food was set on the table and everyone had taken their seats, Granny would begin to say grace, which was so long that by the time she finished, the food had to be taken back into the kitchen and re-heated.
The rule I will make is unless you are specifically asked to bring a dish, resist the urge to do so. Although an appetizer, dessert or beverage is acceptable, never bring anything to add to the main course meal. Even then it’s a good idea to first go over your dish with the hosts. No one wants to have four dishes of string beans and no one has brought the candied yams.
No matter how much you love your mom’s recipe for potato salad laden with onions and heavy on the mustard, the pungent taste might clash with the hosts delicately spiced mashed potatoes. Or heaven forbid you bring your store-bought potato salad and the hosts has slaved hours over the stove boiling and peeling 10 pounds of potatoes to make a homemade salad, and here you come. Should you insist on bringing a main dish when you weren’t asked to, don’t be offended when at the end of the evening, the hosts hand you your dish back, untouched because she either didn’t serve it or only served it to you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Although some hosts insist that you only bring one extra guest, I am from the more the merrier school. There’s always room for one more, an extra chair and extra dish, even if I have to wash some of the dishes and utensils by hand to recycle. After all, the holidays are a time for giving of yourself and your time, and if your door is open, open your heart as well.
Until next week…kisses.