Sunday, July 13, 2008

Friends & Family Day at Jackie Robinson Houses

Wow Family!

Yesterday I had the most fun I have had in a very long time! It all began when I received a call earlier in the week from my cousin Emma inviting me to the annual Friends & family day celebration at Jackie Robinson Houses in East Harlem. Further tempting me with the prospect of potato salad and sweet potato pie...I told her I would most definitely be there!!!

Now, I have mentioned my cousin Emma in my blogs before...she is one of my most beloved relatives! Our family elders all came up from South Carolina and lived together in Queens till everyone got on their feet and began relocating to Harlem. Her son Steven and her daughter Lorraine and I came up together and the three of us attended John F. Kennedy High School together, Steven and I graduated together and Lorraine came out the year before.

Steve and I have always been close since our days at CS 30-31, then IS 201 and we were on the track team together at Kennedy. Steve has always been my favorite cuz and his family is quite large so I was excited at the prospect of seeing them all at one time.

I decided to spend the earlier part of the day with my mom & stepdad and then I headed back to Harlem at around 3pm. The festivities were scheduled to begin at noon and go on until 5pm, so I figured 2 hours would be a nice amount of time. I exited the 4 train at 125th and Lexington Ave and found myself standing in front of Pathmark. I knew I had to stop there to pick up a few things before I headed home so I made the quick decision to head to Jackie Robinson first and hit Pathmark right before I went home.

Jackie Robinson Houses is located between 128th & 129th Streets between Lexington and Park Avenues. I grew up two blocks west on 128th St between Madison & Fifth Avenues. I was a stone cold neighborhood girl. I went to PS 24 (lol right NEXT DOOR to our apartment) for Kindergarten thru 1st Grade. I received a scholarship in 1st grade and as a result I spent grades 2nd through 5th downtown at The Lenox School for Girls on East 70th Street, returning to Harlem in Grade 6 to attend Community School 30-31 on 128th St btwn Lexington & Third Avenues and I attended middle school at I.S. 201 from there I went to JFK. I remember the summer of one of the NYC Blackouts that I walked PAST my house (where I KNEW my mother would make me come and walked straight down to Jackie Robinson to hang out with my cousins, I remember that although the lights were out the phones still worked so I called my mom to let her know I was safe and was absolutely giddy at the thought of spending the night with my cousins...we watched from the safety of their apartment windows as people returned from 125th st, arms filled with stuff they had just looted and were now hiding in the bushes on the grounds of where Alice Kornegay Houses now sit. - we even sat outside in the same area where the celebration was taking place with a bunch of other folks because it was the middle of summer and blazing hot.

Now I just took you all on a journey down my own personal memory lane with me to make a point.....when I approached Jackie Robinson Houses the walkway was decorated with Blue & White Streamers and Balloons, I could see the crowds of people even before I'd completely entered the complex. Everyone had their spots marked off with name cards and folks had set up barbecues, cabanas, tables, chairs....the event was so large that it spilled into the parking lots as well. As I walked around the complex I saw that there was one of those traveling carnival rides on 129th street between Park & Lex (the street was blocked off) and the children were all clamoring for brought back more than a few memories for me. As a young child I rode on more than a few of those rides during the block parties that were held on 129th St between Park & Madison where I lived for a while.

Anyway, I put down my bag and sat next to my cousin Emma and some of the other elders surrounding her and quickly got caught up on things as my cousin Cathy began making plates for everybody. I got lots of love from all of my family members but especially from the little ones who remember seeing me on TV.....which made me laugh cuz I remember when they were little I could barely get them to crack a smile at

I immediately pulled out my camera and began taking photos of everything and everybody....I started seeing familiar faces, some that I hadn't seen in at least 10 years. After chatting with my family I began to circulate around the complex seeking out old friends....

First face I saw was that of Karen Bunyan-Shuler, a friend of mine going back to our JHS days at IS 201 and she was with Adrina Price (they have been best friends since FOREVER) and I sat and talked with them, sipping Long Island Ice Teas until I spotted a tray of ribs on the table behind her - she saw me looking and told me I should had some of everything ya'll - ribs, chicken, fish, grilled shrimp, greens, potato salad, mac n cheese....the list was absolutely ridiculous...but I didn't want anything but ribs and boy were they good - I sat there eating and licking my fingers (and toying with sticking that rib bone in my and then I got up and continued mingling....

I hadn't taken but a few steps when a young man came up to me and hit me with "Is your name Sharon?" Yes, I replied. He looked SO familiar to me but I simply could not put a name with the face..."You don't remember do you?" he asked with a big smile on his face - completely puzzled I told him "you look familiar but I can't figure it out". He told me his name was Marvin Scott and I nearly died - once he said his name, I remembered him

Marvin's older brother Darryl was one of my early teen crushes/loves and our families interacted closely. Marvin was the younger one and although he looked the same in the face....he was clearly all grown up now. He walked me over to his mom and dad (who I hadn't seen in many many years, since they left NYC) and his older brother Ronnie (lol...who didn't remember me at all). I grew quite close to his mom and I used to check in on her frequently when I lived on the east side. He filled me in on his life (he's retired from the military and now working in law enforcement) and we exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch.

I looked up and saw my cousin Steve talking to Roosevelt Glenn, so I walked over to say hi. Roosevelt and his brother Harry, my cousin Steve and I were all elementary school classmates at CS 30-31. Harry & Steve were best friends and Harry was killed in the towers during 9/11 (R.I.P. my brother). I talked with Harry's mom for a while and saw that they were ALSO grilling's mom gave me the "go ahead" signal and I was OFF!!!! One of the Glenn brothers hit me off with a few ribs that were coated in this absolutely DELICIOUS mustard based BBQ sauce. As I dug into my ribs my cousin Steve (who was chomping on a cheeseburger) joked with me "You weren't playing when you said all you wanted was ribs!!!" I was dead serious - I eat chicken and burgers all the time but because I live in a "Pork free" environment at home - I don't get to eat ribs that much - so when I see's usually all that I want (unless there's some REALLY good potato salad to go along with it!)

But back to the Glenn family ribs....I thought the Ribs i'd had earlier were good but whatever they put in the special homemade sauce!!! THEY OUGHTA BOTTLE IT!!!! It was so good I just kept licking my fingers....I was TOTALLY in heaven ya'll! We eventually made our way back to our family area where I found that a lot more of my family had just arrived. I looked behind me and saw Carl Williams and his family. A few members from my old church Shiloh Church of Christ Disciples of Christ sat a few tables away. I ran into a young lady that I had performed with in a production of "Once on this Island" in New Jersey - lol...small world!

There was a moment of silence as everyone stopped what they were doing to pay their respects to our friends and family that have passed on. White balloons were released into the air and then the party resumed with the children that live in the complex treating us to a little dance number that they had put together and the party just took off from there. As the sun began to set, I decided it was time to head back West and I went up to my cousins apartment to pick up a little present she had left for me in the refrigerator - a sweet potato pie and some of her homemade potato salad!!! I was joyous because she makes the best pie & potato salad that I have ever had!!! I also spied that she had made some banana pudding - so yeah...I snuck some of that too!!!
It was an amazing day and I loved being able to see my family and old friends like that. Special thanks to my cousin Emma for inviting me.....I look forward to attending next year....Enjoy the slideshow and photos fam!


“There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are
created, strengthened and maintained."

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