I have just returned from three weeks in Harlem, New York. Now I am aware that a city will be very inviting and alluring...when you are just visiting. People welcome you with curious, approving glances. Old ladies offer you directions with no prompting. A grocer gives you an extra orange. And such was the case with New York. People were gracious (except for the sister in the thrift store around the corner, my girl was not budging off of her funky-I'll-kick-your-ass attitude). I felt really comfortable walking the streets viewing Harlem through my camera lens. It helped immensely to be house sitting in a 5-story brownstone with a housekeeper around the corner from the Apollo Theater. What, pray tell, was not to like? I fully embraced the seduction.
People have often asked me if I would ever live in New York and I have always respond, "Yes, with $1,000,000 a year, a loft in Soho and a driver." Ok, so I have modified my requirements somewhat. I could be happy in a good space with a lot of light and an elevator in Brooklyn, the subway is tolerable and the $1,000,000 a year? Well, I'd be happy with a great project to work on, enough money to live on and to travel when I want to and save a bit. Universe, are you listening?!
The disgruntling aspects of living in Harlem were evident. The politics of gentrification is a contentious subject but for all the white people moving into black people's most sacred and historically significant district, there remains plenty of soul in Harlem. There were funny things about Harlem that only black people would get. For instance, I think there is more shea butter in Harlem than there is in the whole of West Africa. Seriously! I sweat there's not a shea butter bean left in Africa. On every corner, in every little shop and CVS there is shea butter, plastic container in $3, $5 and $10 size. Then there's the shea butter lotions, creams blended with coco butter, soap, hair creams. There is absolutely no excuse for any black person to be ashy in Harlem.
If you smell funky it's likely that you simply want to because right next to the shea butter is row after row of fragrant oils. Coconut, Rain, China Musk, Egyptian Queen, Moroccan Rose, Dark Kiss, Beautiful, Juicy Couture, Jadore, Vanilla, Cool Water, Honey Rain, Curve, Baby Powder and this is not even the tip of the ice berg. There's simple no excuse to smell bad in Harlem and you can pick up a pack of incense for your house while you're at it.
There is also no excuse for anyone to have a raggedy head of hair. There are more hair supply shops and businesses and salons along 125th Street it would take you months, if not years, to visit each one. "Hey, lady, lady. Braids, braids?" sing the African sisters offering their card as you exit the subway. They sit on the streets outside of their shops. Straight, natural, locked, woven, pressed, braided, poofed, twisted, bald, an array of wigs. Take your pick. However you choose to adorn your hair, your vain pleasure can be satisfied along 125th Street.
I can't wait for my next visit.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor
Next to Etta James, Elizabeth Taylor is the only woman I know to have uttered the words "Tell Mama" and have them shimmer with such sensual promise. She was a force of nature whose life and talent we were privileged to witness and have a role in.
Her passing marks the end of a grand era we will never see again, when there were larger-than-life Movie Stars that sparkled gloriously in their own distant galaxy. There are a handful of formidable actresses working today but not one of them can hold a candle to Elizabeth Taylor. Heck, they don't even call themselves "actresses" these days but prefer to be called "actors," like their male counterparts. With her allure, magnetism, those magnificent lavender eyes, and a lust for living life on her own terms, I can't imagine she would have bothered with such gender distinctions or question her own power as a woman working in a male dominated industry.
For all of her professional accomplishments, the husbands, the scandals, for all of the magnificent jewels her men lavished upon her, when it's all said and done, it is her humanitarian legacy that outshines the glamourous life she led. That she gave of herself unselfishly, completely unaffected by her own grandeur. Elizabeth Taylor was a brilliant, magical essence. I wish her spirit well.
Monday, March 14, 2011
The new year has commenced with a searing bang, full of immense hope for freedom as well as profound tragedy. My prayers and sympathies go out to the people of Japan. May the world come together to help them recover and heal as quickly as possible. And of all the souls lost ~ may they rest in peace.
Monday, January 17, 2011
A Rose for Dr. King
It is stunning to reflect on the impact Dr. King ultimately had on the world during his brief 39 years of life and profoundly sad to witness how far backwards we have devolved from his message of peace and humanity.
Perhaps today's remembranc
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
In this season of great food it is indeed special to happen across truly inspired food. This was my good fortune last night when I happened by Paco's studio where Damian Moseley, food scholar and partner in Black Sauce Kitchen Catering, had laid out an amazing array of extraordinary food in celebration of jazz singer Ethel Ennis' Birthday Celebration Concert taking place down in The Patterson Theater.
With the assistance of his lovely wife Regan, Damian treated the guests to delectably smooth Plantain and Black Bean Tamales neatly wrapped and bowed with corn husk. They were a delicate sweet blending of ground bean and corn. The Roasted Pumpkin and Beef Short Rib Empanadas were pocketed in baked envelops of crust that was crunchy on the outside and a little chewy on the inside. Very satisfying, especially with the Tomato Salsa. There were mounds of sweet potatoes, the familiar dark orange ones and the surprising Korean sweet potatoes that were a creamy ivory color grilled with fine herbs offered with wonderfully tart tomatoes. The menu was completed with Pumpkin Biscuits, Buttermilk Cornbread with Molasses Butter, Spicy Wildflower Honey, and Black Bean Puree. But the biggest treat of the night was the AMAZING Garlic Mojo, a hot spicy garlic salsa. Talk about magic in the mouth. Every bite was better than the last. Mojo, indeed.
Baltimore is blessed to have Damian Mosley as a resident. Not only does he create gastronomic wonders, he is also moving the scholarship of food forward. A Ph.D candidate in Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University, his writing has appeared in the journals Gastronomica and Food Culture & Society and the on-line magazine TheRoot.com. His food explorations have taken him as far away as Dakar, Senegal to cook. So, not only can he prepare The Food but he can put it into nutritional, historical and cultural context, as well. And to that end, here is an article by Mosley on the complex problem of obesity in our urban centers:
For decades soul food, as we know it, has nurtured and comforted us in times of celebrations and times of sorrow. It has brought us together and, as many can attest, has kept us together. Black Sauce Kitchen's food illuminates another culinary dynamic that I am always searching for in food - this was food for the soul, food that elevated eating and self-nurturing to a deeply profound level. With each bite it was as though I could feel the cells of my body electrified with the healing flowing from my taste buds.
Mosley's food is a joyful celebration of the ritual partaking and sharing of nourishment. His combinations were adventurous and creative. With the intoxicating flavors of well-seasoned, healthy ingredients prepared with a love of purpose, he reminds us that this is the way to eat and how we should embrace the food we put into our bodies....and our souls.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Like many, I have tired of bombastic politicians who play roulette with our lives for power, influence and privilege. Instead I train my eye on those things that bring us together, that bind us in shared aspirations and goals. If there is any
positive outcome for the painful situation our country is living, it is the awareness that we are all in this madness together and we have to help one another. We have to offer a hand.
Through a series of unpredictable circumstances I find myself alone for this day of gratitude and thanks giving. Being free of the weight of mounds of food and overeating released me to consider other options. So, I walked less than a mile to the Patterson Park Recreational Center where Bea Gaddy Family Center was set to serve turkey dinner to 50,000 people and volunteered my time in service to others in need.
Tall, short, young, teen-aged, carmel-colored, ebony black, grey-haired, pink hair, skinny and then not so much, Goth, and urban, fraternity brothers, ex-military, pink cheeks, nappy hair, curled, pressed, and dyed, dread-locked, uncles, aunts, grandmas and grandpas and cousins, neighbors. And these were just the volunteers, so many that we worked in shifts to give everyone a chance to help. The mass of humanity crammed into the gymnasium was humbling and witnessing the number of hungry Americans on this day, in this one city, at this one location was overwhelming. Especially considering the many times this picture is repeated throughout America.
Patterson Park was home to a soccer game and vendors
to feed easily 1,000 observers and their families. Syncopated salsa rhythms pulsated through the frigid fall air. I passed a food stand with a little, round-faced grandmother pressing and cupping ground cassava into the palm of her hand. She stuffed it with some delicious looking mixture and once it was nice and evenly round she slapped it onto a sizzling hot griddle to brown. I couldn't resist. It was served with a cabbage slaw and a sinewy slice of grilled beef. Yummmm.
I sauntered home through the piles of fallen leaves, happy and grateful for this Thanksgiving Day Holiday.