Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Celebration of Women's History Month: Ruby Dee


March is Women’s History Month and every year, Harlem One-Stop pays homage to women who have achieved great things and made valuable contributions to society. This year, we’re honoring Ruby Dee, an actress who has appeared in hundreds of plays, movies, and television shows, the author of several books, and a staunch political activist.

Ruby Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in 1922 in Cleveland, 
Ohio, and grew up in Harlem. She fell in love with acting during her teen years studying at both Hunter College and the American Negro Theater in Harlem. Dee began her career as a stage actress making her debut in 1946 in the Broadway production of Anna Lucusta and was married to blues singer Frankie Dee Brown from 1941-1946. In 1948, she married fellow actor Ossie Davis, her best friend and frequent co-star whom she met while starring in Robert Ardrey’s play Jeb about a black soldier who returns home to his family in the south with a broken leg after serving in World War II.  Dee then made her film debut playing Jackie Robinson’s wife Rae Robinson in the 1950 biographical film The Jackie Robinson Story starring Robinson himself. Dee’s next big break came in 1959 when she landed the role of Ruth Younger in a Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun in 1959, for which she received critical acclaim. Sidney Poitier was her co-star in the playing the role of Ruth’s husband Walter. Dee and Poitier would reprise their roles in a 1961 television version the play.

Dee continued getting more and more honorable roles in film, theater, and television and often collaborated with her husband. She starred in Davis’ 1961 Broadway play Purlie Victorious in which Davis played the title role of preacher Purlie Victorious Judson who tries to save a local Georgia church and Dee played a housemaid. The two would play the same parts in a 1963 film version of the play. In 1965, she became the first black woman to star in lead roles playing Cordelia in King Lear and Kate in The Taming of the Shrew at the American Film Festival in Stratford, Ct., and she was the first black actress to star on an evening soap opera playing Alma Miles on Peyton Place in 1968.

In 1980, Dee and her husband launched a half-hour talk show called Ossie and Ruby that aired on PBS where they presented the work of black artists. They received high praise for their roles in Spike Lee’s 1989 drama Do The Right Thing where Dee won an Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture and Davis for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture. In 1998, celebrating 50 years of marriage, the two wrote an autobiography called With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together which is an honest account of their lives as a couple and as individuals as well as the professional and personal challenges they’ve faced and overcame.

  
Ossie Davis’ unexpected death in 2005 was a devastating loss for Dee, but despite her grief, she continued to work receiving a Screen Actors Guild award and an Academy Award nomination for her role as the mother of notorious drug dealer Frank Lucas played by Denzel Washington, and most recently narrated the 2013 biographical television film Betty and Coretta about the widows of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Other notable roles during the later years of Dee’s life include those of Grandmother Baxter in a 1979 television production of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings based on Maya Angelou’s classic novel, prolific author Zora Neale Huston on the 1990 PBS special Zora Is My Name, and Rowena in the 1991 film Decoration Day for which she won an Emmy.

Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were very active during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s participating in several marches including the 1963 March on Washington where they served as emcees. They spoke out on numerous issues fighting for the rights of African Americans, and were close friends with both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X with Davis delivering the eulogy at the latter’s funeral. Dee was a member of many civil rights groups and organizations including NAACP, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The two have also earned many awards and recognition for their activism and contributions to the arts. Dee won a National Medal of the Arts in 1995 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 2000. In 2004, she and Davis received Kennedy Center Honors. In 2007, Dee and Davis’ memoir With Ossie and Ruby won a Grammy for best spoken word album, a category that includes audio books.

Other books Dee has published include My One Good Nerve which features a collection of short essays, stories, and poems, and the children’s books Two Ways to Count to Ten, and Tower to Heaven.
While Dee has firmly established herself as a successful actress and activist, Dee has never forgotten her roots and credits growing up in Harlem to be a major part of her identity. "I don't know who I would be if I weren't this child from Harlem, this woman from Harlem. It's in me so deep," she has said. 

Ruby Dee passed away on June 11, 2014 at age 91 at her home in New Rochelle, N.Y.


Alison Martin for Harlem One Stop

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Monday, February 08, 2016

7 Days to Valentine's Day - A few ideas to get you started..



Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and you’re probably thinking about what to get that special someone in your life for this most romantic day of the year. Harlem’s many boutiques and gift shops, including museum gift shops, offer an array of treasures that will surely bring a smile to both your and your loved one’s face. Below is a list of some neighborhood gems and their featured wares.

What would Valentine’s Day be without flowers? Harlem’s premier florist, La Fleur d’Harlem, will be open all day Saturday and Sunday February 13 and 14 for those looking for the traditional
dozen red roses for their sweetheart, or for one of owner Louis Gagliano’s creative custom arrangements. You can get the time-honored dozen long-stemmed beauties (or “two dozen,” says Gagliano), or have your roses arranged in a round bouquet. If you want, he’ll also make up one of his special floral “sculptures” using two types of orchids on a dogwood frame. Tell him what you need, and he’ll try to help. “People use us as consultants,” he says. “They tell us their stories, and want us to give them something that will help their relationship.” At 203 W. 144th St., (646) 850-5973.


The handcrafted, artisanal delights of the Harlem Chocolate Factory will be on sale at a special “Made with LOVE” Valentine’s Day pop-up on Saturday, Feb. 13, from noon to 4 p.m. at Vivrant Beauty, along with the creations of a local jewelry maker and other Harlem artisans. And, of course, Vivrant’s own selection of skincare, hair care and cosmetic products are available too. At 220 St. Nicholas Ave. (at 121st St.) (212) 865-0100.


There’s a Chocolate Day Lecture at the historic Morris Jumel Mansion, on Saturday, Feb. 13, from 2 to 4 p.m., where you can learn more about the food you love the most! MJM Executive Director Carol Ward and Assistant Curator Kelsey Brow will discuss all things chocolate, from the history of its consumption to the ways and means of the chocolate pot. Tastings, of course, will be included. At 65 Jumel Terrace, (212) 923-8008.
Admission: $30, $25 for members. Advanced registration is required.

The Museum of the City of New York’s Gift Shop, in the museum is a Valentine’s Day treasure of love, with bargain gifts ranging from a Floating Hearts Note Card Set for $11.95 and a Guide to New York’s Most Romantic Spots for $24.95, to higher-end handmade jewelry from New York designers like a pair of Double Heart Clip Earrings, signed by the artist in 24-karat green gold over silver alloy for $540. At 1220 Fifth Ave. (at 103rd St.) (212) 534-1672.

At the Gift Shop of The Studio Museum in Harlem,
you’ll find attractive items at reasonable prices such as a trademark Studio Museum Umbrella for $9.99, T-shirts and mugs inscribed with the truism “Black is Beautiful” (T-shirts $25, mugs $12 )and a colorful Stanley Whitney Pocket Tote Bag for $25. At 144 W. 125th St. (212) 864-4500.



For that stylish special someone, a chapeau from Flamekeepers Hat Club, might be just the ticket. This unique boutique sources its hats and caps from designers all over the world, and also design its own. Most of their wares are sold to men, but owner Mark Williamson points out that “30 percent of our clientele are women.” Caps start at $45 and hats at $85. At 273 W.121st St., (212) 531-3542.

 

At Nilu, a small but welcoming space that’s a community favorite, you will find simple but creative items from local artisans and designers. The shelves display chic designs alongside homey items, with offerings that include decorated scarves, unique jewelry, purses and totes, and stylish shirts, dresses, sweaters, hats and shoes that will dazzle your special lady. There’s also an assortment of scented candles and some original paintings. At 191 Lenox Ave. (at 120th St.) (917) 806-8635. 




Dress your man up and put a smile on his face with items from Harlem Haberdashery, an upscale men’s clothing store that offers stylish clothing, shoes, hats, and other accessories from the exclusive 5001 Flavors brand popular among celebrities and sports figures. Each piece combines the distinctive style of fashion from the Harlem Renaissance era with the latest, cutting-edge trends in fashion today. The products are designed in the store’s Harlem facility and are not available anywhere else in the world. At 245 Lenox Ave. (bet. 122nd and 123rd St.) (646) 707-0070.



Appealing skin and hair care products for men and women with the most luscious scents imaginable at Carol's Daughter, founded in 1993 by Lisa Price and named for her mother.
Tantalizing scents include Almond Cookie, Black Vanilla, Monoi, Ectasy, and Ocean found in body lotions, colognes and shower gels with prices ranging from $8-$32. Or try some of the limited edition items like Vanilla Truffle Body Cream and the Lavender and Vanilla Body Cream both for $29. At 24 W. 125th St., (212) 828-6567.


Alison Martin, Contributor
Harlem One Stop/Beat on the Street 

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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Harlem's Heritage: Lindy Hop and Swing Dance…. Frankie Manning and His Influences Harlem Roots -World Impact



Part 2 -The Beginnings: Influences and Innovators - the 1920's thru 1935



"Never doubt or underestimate that a small group of dedicated dancing Harlemites can change the American tapestry of dance - and the world. 

They already have."  B.A. Jones




Culture...Dance...Jazz....Lindy Hop...SAVOY....Swing!  These are the lively rhythms and sounds of Harlem that came alive during the Harlem Renaissance.  This was especially true at Harlem's famed Savoy Ballroom that was on West 140th Street and Lenox Avenue.

It was at this landmark venue where a new dance called the Lindy Hop was perfected, and one of its innovators groomed this dance to new heights.  His name?  Frankie Manning.  Such was his influence and vision that in May of 2014 there will be an international celebration in New York City and Harlem of this Lindy Hop Legend.

In Part 2 of this series celebrating Harlem’s historic dance and its history makers, we’ll go back to Harlem’s humble beginnings and its most celebrated era of culture, music, jazz, and dance.




Before Lindy Hop Legend Frankie Manning and The Whitey's Lindy Hoppers hailed as a premier group from the Savoy Ballroom there was another legendary pioneer group of youngsters leading the way with innovation and steps - that influenced Frankie.

This group started a trend in Harlem's Savoy Ballroom that continued for close to 30 years.  And Mr. George "Shorty" Snowden lead the way also, as legend has it, in naming what was to become a national dance craze of its time.



 A Classic Era: 1920’s Harlem, The Savoy Ballroom and The Birth of Lindy Hop

The Cultural Renaissance of the 1920s raised the profile of African American vernacular culture in whitecommunities within the United States, but in particular in New York. The HARLEM Renaissance: The popularity of African American dance and music - became a fascination. Harlem's increasing popularity as an entertainment district, as well as a vibrant creative center for African Americans in the 1920s and 1930s eventually saw both the creation and popularizing of Lindy Hop.  This happened both in social dance spacesand on the stage.


Did you know there were over 30 ballrooms in Harlem at one point for social dancing and special events?  Long before TV and the internet, folks were out dancing to the sounds of jazz, blues and more!  Just to name a few top ones: There was the Renaissance Ballroom (or the Renny), the Golden Gate, the Dunbar, the Alhambra, The Rockland Palace and the Audubon. 

But the one where Lindy Hop was honed, crafted and developed was the Savoy Ballroom.



 The Crown Jewel of Harlem: Savoy Ballroom



The Savoy has been described as the largest
and most elegant ballroom Harlem ever had…

Owned by Moe Gale, a Jewish man, and managed by Charles Buchanan, a black man, the Savoy Ballroom opened its doors on March 12, 1926 right in the middle of Harlem, between 140th and 141st Streets on Lenox Avenue. The vision of the two young men created one of the first racially integrated public places in the country.  The ballroom was on the second floor of a two-story building stretching the entire block. The block long ballroom, 50 by 200 feet, had two bandstands, colored spotlights and a spring-loaded wooden dance floor. Approximately 700,000 patrons visited the ballroom annually.


Over 250 name and semi-name bands were featured at the Savoy. The most famous house band was led by Chick Webb, and later came to feature a singer named Ella Fitzgerald.  Webb’s popularity and musicianship had him come to be known as “The Savoy King”
Two bandstands allowed continuous live music all night, and provided the stage for the famous battles of bands. The most famous was the battle of Chick Webb vs. Benny Goodman, when both bands were at the crest of their popularity.
Herbert White, a.k.a. Whitey, an ex-boxer and bouncer at the Savoy, organized and cultivated a group of young Lindy Hoppers.  Eventually he had them appear in theaters around the world as well as in films.   According to Norma Miller in her memoirs  Swinging at the Savoy: The Memoir of a Jazz Dancer:  “The Savoy played an enormous and largely unrecognized role in the history of jazz. The Savoy should always be remembered along with the men and women who created music that America danced to… they deserve the admiration and respect of all who love good music.”

The Savoy Ballroom was built for black patrons, and for the first time in history a beautiful ballroom was made even more beautiful with no segregation.

 The Lindy Hop: Harlem’s Signature Cultural Dance 
  


 The Origins and Name
 The origins of the name 'Lindy Hop' are still debated in Lindy Hop communities today... almost 90 years later.  A very influential revived was started back in the 1980’s by American, Swedish and British Dancers.  And since that time Lindy Hop and Swing dancing is enjoyed throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia...  seemingly everywhere than where it began…

“Lindy”: In one account it is argued that, in the slang of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a 'Lindy' was a young woman.  The word "hop" has been documented as early as 1913 as a term for swing dancing, used by early Texas Tommy dancers to describe the basic move for their dance.

In the more colorful account dancer "Shorty" George Snowden renamed the breakaway dance as the Lindy Hop in a dance contest. Snowden was one of the 24 couples that competed in a negro dance marathon that began on June 17, 1928 at the Manhattan Casino, a ballroom that was located at 8th Avenue and 155th Street in Harlem (later to become the Rockland Palace ). During the contest Snowden stated that he decided to do a breakaway:  fling his partner out and improvise a few solo steps of his own. Fox Movietone News was there to cover the marathon, and took close-ups of Shorty's feet.   An interviewer asked him what was he doing with his feet, and Snowden replied 'The Lindy'".

Whether Snowden meant it or not, Lindy Hop became associated with Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic airplane flight, completed in 1927 ("Lindy" was the aviator's nickname).  This three way association between the aviator, George Snowden and the dance continues in Lindy Hop folklore.

Lindy Hop was a combined number of dances popular in the United States in the 1920s and earlier, many of which developed in African American communities. Just as jazz music emerged as a dominant art form that blended and joined with other forms of music, the Lindy Hop could absorb and integrate with other forms of dance. 

 For many Lindy Hop historians, the Charleston has Lindy Hop's basic footwork and timing. The transition from Charleston to Lindy Hop came by means of the Breakaway, a partner dance which introduced the 'Swing out' and 'open position' of dances such as the Texas Tommy to the 'closed position' and footwork of partnered Charleston.  As jazz music in the late 1920s changed likewise did jazz dances.

Frankie Manning in his memoirs Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop stated that “the Lindy Hop developed out of three social dances being in done in Harlem in the late 20’s: the Charleston, the collegiate and the breakaway.”  The Lindy Hop rode on the popular trend of the Charleston and took it further… so much so that the Lindy swept the country in the mid thirties.


Often referred to as the "first generation" of Lindy Hop, dancers such as George Snowden, Leroy "Stretch" Jones, Twist Mouth George and Edith Matthews inspired many other dancers and troupes (including Frankie Manning) to take up Lindy Hop.  Gradually the Lindy Hop was danced across Harlem in ballrooms, night clubs, cabaret clubs, rent parties, private apartments, and street parties — almost anywhere people came together with music to dance!

George Snowden – Pioneer and Innovator





“Shorty” George Snowden ranks among the most famous of the original Lindy Hop dancers at the Savoy Ballroom and had a huge impact on the dance as it developed. He was the reigning dance champion at Savoy, until up-and-comer Frankie Manning and Frieda Washington unseated him in a dance contest at the Savoy Ballroom in 1935 in which they introduced the first airstep to Lindy Hop.



This pioneer group set the pattern and wave for many other Harlemites who were intrigued with Lindy Hop.  George Snowden is immortalized and honored with the famous dance “The Shorty George” being named after him.  And the Shorty Snowden Trio was the first professional dance team to take the dance out of the Savoy with performances. It included the three couples you see pictured.
 There has been a lot written about this dance master – here is but one of many links http://www.swingornothing.com/shorty-george-snowden/  And below see him and his partner  Big Bea strut their stuff


Enter Frankie Manning



Frankie Manning got his start as a teenager at the Alhambra (still standing on West 126th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard), and then worked his way to the Renaissance Ballroom (the shell of which is on West 138th  Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard).  After that he “graduated” to the Savoy Ballroom which was located on Lenox Avenue and West 140th Street (the Savoy Park House are now there).  Frankie was lured into the Savoy by hearing the great swing bands of the day and seeing dancers from the Savoy go to the Renny… and show off their smooth moves! Since the new dance craze of the Lindy Hop was being honed there he just had to go.


In his words: “The Savoy was the ballroom because it had the best orchestras, and from that they got the best dancers.  Even though a lot of people went to ballrooms to listen to music, back then bands played for the dancers… they were called dance bands.  Band leaders knew the temps that would keep people on the floor, and played a range from slow to fast to please us”


Norma Miller, The Queen of Swing:  A Reminiscence 


 Norma Miller is a Lindy Hop Legend and versatile Entertainer willing to share her cherished insights.  She continues to entertain, teach, dance, write, travel and more at the ripe young age of 94!




Norma lived right across the street from the Savoy, with a birds eye view to the music and more.  She first entered the Savoy at the age of 13 with the help of Twist Mouth George on Easter Sunday 1932 to be his dance partner. However she, like Frankie Manning, worked her way up to the Savoy thru dancing at other ballrooms first…


According to Norma Herbert “Whitey” White had two main dancers: Leon James and Frankie Manning. He was determined to take Lindy around the world.  However Whitey “picked Frankie. You could see it in his eyes as he watched him dance – the love of a proud father.  Frankie represented everything that was the best in Lindy Hop dancing.  He could execute, swing, lift a girl effortlessly, and never miss a beat”.  Through Frankie Whitey could see Lindy Hop going professional, and despite this seeming favoritism Frankie did not think of himself only. Through Frankie’s efforts Whitey eventually invited him and his friends to be a part of Whiteys superior dancers on the 141st street side of the building (came to be known as Cats Corner).






The First Harvest Moon Ball - and Harlem’s influence



 


In the beginning the Harvest Moon Ball was held usually on a Tuesday or Wednesday in August or September and was sponsored by the Daily News in New York (News Welfare Association, Inc.This contest ran for nearly 50 years and was highly popular.

Prelims would be in many clubs and ballrooms thru-out the city… such as the Savoy Ballroom, (later the Savoy Manor) and even the Roseland Ballroom.  There were six to seven contest divisions one could enter, and in the coming years would include Rumba, Conga, Lindy Hop, Jitterbug Jive, Fox Trot, Rock and Roll, Polka, Tango Waltz and even the Hustle.  At the end of the contest an “All Around Champion” was awarded.  Prizes included cash, medals and trophies … and in later years a spot on the famed Ed Sullivan television program.


This contest was to become very famous around the world: It’s official song and theme was “Shine On, Harvest Moon”.  The music at these contests were provided by first class musicians of the times such as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Tito Puente, Nan Rodrigo, Machito, etc. 
Here is a glimpse of the 1935 event


Harlem in 1935: Norma Miller recalls....


“Every weekend I fell into the fantasy world of the Savoy…  I was blind to the frustration and anger building…  But in March 1935 the rage exploded and could no longer be ignored”

Norma Miller
 By 1930 Harlem had an almost entirely black community numbering more than 200,000.  This number would swell and eventually have Harlem termed as The Black Mecca.

But the spark that led to an explosion in Harlem began at 2:30 in the afternoon on March 19, 1935. The rumor was that Lino Rivera, a sixteen-year-old black Puerto Rican, had been beaten by an employee at the Kress Five and Ten store (just across the street from the Apollo Theater) after Rivera had tried to shoplift a 10-cent penknife.



According to reports the employee admitted to intending to “‘beat the hell out of’” Rivera, and Rivera acknowledged that he had bitten the hand of the employee in the struggle.  This led to the police calling an ambulance. In the meantime, a crowd had begun to gather outside around a woman who had witnessed Rivera's apprehension and was shouting that Rivera was being beaten.  When the ambulance and a hearse coincidently arrived at the scene, a rumor spread  like wild fire that Rivera had been murdered. The crowd became a mob increasing in size … and in utter protest and anger stores were looted and vandalized.  Over 600 windows were smashed, deaths occurred and hundreds of thousands in damages. The devastation continued until the next day.


According to Norma Miller eventually a meeting was called between Mr. Charles Buchanan, Whitey and two men from the Daily News to discuss a dance contest.  The Daily News wanted to boost the city’s morale as well after the riot, and felt a city-wide competition with the Savoy Ballroom in there featuring Lindy Hop would be good exposure and morale for all. 

There were concerns for Whitey and Mr. Buchanan that the dance had broken away from the traditional dance aesthetics, and about judges judging a new dance that in their minds may have inappropriate standards.  After that initial meeting Whitey had an intense meeting with his favorites Leon James and Frankie Manning - before Norma and the rest of the group would know the full situation.

Later she states “when we learned about the contest we were told it was our chance to put Lindy on the map, and we needed to start rehearsing yesterday.  Whitey told us that we would meet at the ballroom daily and work out routines”.


The first official start date was in the Fall of 1935 at Madison Square Garden....  and we will wet your appetite with that incredible story in our third installment in February 2014. Frankie Manning, Norma Miller, Leon James and other enthusiastic and innovative Harlem youth would be on their way - BIG time!


Contributor: Barbara Jones

_____________


Frankie Manning quotes are from “Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop”, by Frankie Manning and Cynthia R. Millman.  Temple University Press, 2007

Norma Miller quotes are from “Swinging at the Savoy: The Memoir of a Jazz Dancer”, by Norma Miller and Evette Jensen.  Temple University Press, 2001




To learn about the May 2014, The 5 Day Frankie Manning Centennial Festival and World Lindy Hop Day in Harlem please go to www.frankie100.com



To take lessons for dancing Lindy Hop and Swing dance socially contact The Harlem Swing Dance Society (THSDS) at theharlemswingdancesociety@gmail.com or 347 – 709 - 7022