During Black History Month 2005 Harlem Heritage Tours had the pleasure of working with many within the arts community including one of my favorite poets “Harlem 125”. I experienced Harlem 125’s work for the first time at a poetry function in 1999 at a place called the Sugar Shack which is no longer operating. Harlem 125 lit up the spot with his signature poem: “I’m from Harlem”. I knew I had to work with this guy and hired him several times to be a part for my Harlem Renaissance shows presented at different historic locations in the community. Harlem 125 is not just a great Poet he is also an educator who broke down his poems (below clip) for Eastside High School and advocated against drugs, violence and dropping out of high School.
I loved the poem “I’m from Harlem” because it took me on a ride through the urban happenings of that time and mentioned many of my favorite places and things to do in Harlem. I still love the poem but many of the businesses and and some of the cultural phenomenon are gone. The concession is that we have some cool new places that I enjoy but I will never forget the following places mentioned in the poem by my man Harlem 125:
Nikki’s was a venue located on 124th and St. Nick Ave. I would go to this spot every weekend with tourists from around the world as part of my “Harlem Heritage Bar Hop”. The place held about 40 people comfortably with walls adorned with black and white 18 x18 photos of jazz greats such as Charlie Parker. If I remember correctly, Nikki was the Founder of the establishment running the place with her daughters until her passing. The daughters were drop dead gorgeous and throughly familiar with the urban scene. One night I had a conversation with one of them and remember her talking passionately about her Mom.
The Sugar Shack was located at 138th or 139th and Frederick Douglass Blvd. I remember one day during the summer of 1999 working at Citibank as a Lending Officer, leaving my desk for lunch and coming across this new place called the Sugar Shack. The place had a lounge atmosphere with a restaurant component. I attended many functions at this spot and liked the energy. Usually Ya Boy is in control, but one night I had to much to drink at this spot and my girl friend at the time had to take me home – I will never forget that night and she won’t either..LOL
The Roof Top was located on 155th and Frederick Douglass Blvd. and was the place where all the urban stars partied during the 1980’s – what a spot, what a time. I never went to the Roof Top, but many of my friends did and the stories they told were amazing. Lifestyles of the Harlem rich and famous – fast cars, the latest custom made fashions and of course beautiful women. I would love to see pics from the Roof Top days of the 1980’s.
Lucy’s was located on 124th and Frederick Douglass Blvd. Lucy was an African-American women married to an older Caucasian gentlemen who seemed to be known by all in Harlem. Really authentic place with regular live performances. Every Monday night the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra performed at Lucy’s. The Harlem Renaissance Orchestra consisted of approx. 20 members and played a lot of 1920’s jazz by greats such as Duke Ellington – good stuff. The exterior of place needed some work but I liked it and so did my guests.
Willies was on 145 Street and Frederick Douglass Blvd. and was owned by a local entrepeneur named Willie. Willie had a multifaceted business of which his burger stand was best known: Willie Burgers. Im from Lower Harlem, which had (1980’s) a different feel and complexion from the Northwest area where Willies once existed. Many of the big street names were from this area. Nowadays the neighborhood is in a state of transformation consisting of new Condo’s and internationally known brands.
Thats just a few places the poet mentions – click below and let me know what you think – Enjoy
Ya Boy is from Harlem