By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
I’ve not been hanging out as much as I normally do. I know my friends have noticed, but I’ve been up to my elbows in studies. So when a friend of mine recently invited me out to a belated birthday dinner at Ashford and Simpson’s Sugar Bar in mid-town Manhattan, I literally jumped at the chance. I had not been there in months. And all I can say to my friend, Preston, is thanks muchly. What a blast! I had a fabulous time!
Traditionally, Thursday night is OPEN MIKE NIGHT at the Sugar Bar, drawing talent from around the world, as well as local regulars, and those just starting out, who belt out their favorite songs, with the back up of the house band and the vocalizations of Valerie Simpson, Kathie Jordan-Sharpton (the former Ms. Al Sharpton), and others on the side.
What fun! Of course, you have to have either guts of talent to get up there - or equal amounts of both. And there are some real talented people in our fair city.
There are a fair amount of celebrities who gather there to dine and dish, while the rest of the audience is made up of New Yorkers, tourists, and other artists who come out to hang, have a good time and perhaps scout other talent.
Allyson Williams, Ron Grant and Freddie Jackson were among the crowd that evening. Freddie, in rare form, was hanging out with Nick Ashford and some of the other guests. Bobbi Humphrey, a regular there, was missing action, having just returned from the funeral of Joe Barnes mother in St. Louis, MO.
Ron Grant, who had just returned from watching his daughter graduate from college in Miami, Florida, stopped by long enough to sing one of his signature songs, before going in from the evening.
Always stunning, Allyson also sang, but was equally excited about the upcoming events at Sugar Bar: beginning Saturday, May 1, 2010, Sugar Bar will host First Saturday Comedy Night.
Every Tuesday, beginning May 11, Sugar Bar will host Nuttin’ but the Blues open mic nights. Ebony Jo Ann will be one of the featured artists.
Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 9 they will host Mother’s Day brunch featuring jazz artist, Nicole Zuraitis.
As wonderful as the cuisine is, and it was -- I had the Crusted Red Snapper with Rice and Beans, Collards, and Cornbread; my friend had the Teriyaki Salmon and Mixed Vegetables, and that monster sized Avocado Salad! That’s not what turns me on to Sugar Bar.
And as fabulously Afrocentric as the interior is -- all African Artifacts put together by none other than Nick Ashford himself --I am begging him to do a book on Afrocentric interior design --Even that is not what turns me on to the Sugar Bar.
What has always made me appreciate Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson and the Sugar Bar is their consciousness, concern and tie in with the Black community.
Regardless of whatever else is going on, they take time out to pay due respect or mention issues and concerns that impact Black people. And that evening was no different, when Valerie reminded the audience of the passing of Dr. Dorothy I. Height, former President of the National Conference of Negro Women, former President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (my sorority/my soror), who recently made her transition at the age of 98. She asked that the audience pay homage to Dr. Height and not allow a gap between the service she’s given and what they can give.
I am also reminded that it was Nick and Val who held memorial celebrations in honor of the late, great Nina Simone, which they have continued since her demise.
So, in addition to providing a place where we can come and be entertained, be surrounded by positive culturally based décor, and interacting with positive, people, the level of consciousness is part and parcel of who they are and what makes them great.
The rest is just the pure fun and enjoyment we had watching the various talents get their song on at the Sugar Bar, knowing there will be no Sand Man Simms to pull them off, no matter how bad or bizarre they are.
It’s to their credit that they have been able to hang in and provide entertainment and hospitality to keep us bonding and enjoying each other’s energies. If you haven’t done so already, or if you haven’t been there in a long time, go and check them out.
Stay blessed &