Mike, The Knife Sharpener

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Mike is planning to return to our neighborhood this Wednesday. We’ll put out details when we know more.

Great prices, great sharpening, just in time for the holidays (even though we have much smaller celebrations this year, it is still great to have sharp knives for cooking!)

The Dark Tower

A’Lelia Walker’s home at 108 West 136th Street (from 1885-1931) – one of the key cultural nodes of the Harlem Renaissance – was known as “The Dark Tower”. This residence became famous for the lavish salons which she hosted – drawing in writers, musicians, and artists during the 1920s. It was named after a sonnet by the poet Countee Cullen:

From the Dark Tower

We shall not always plant while others reap
The golden increment of bursting fruit,
Not always countenance, abject and mute,
That lesser men should hold their brothers cheap;
Not everlastingly while others sleep
Shall we beguile their limbs with mellow flute,
Not always bend to some more subtle brute;
We were not made to eternally weep.

The night whose sable breast relieves the stark,
White stars is no less lovely being dark,
And there are buds that cannot bloom at all
In light, but crumple, piteous, and fall;
So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds,
And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.

 A’Lelia Walker was the only child of Madam C.J. Walker, an entrepreneur and hair care industry pioneer who is recognized as America’s first self-made female millionaire.

Her Irvington, New York, home, Villa Lewaro, is a National Treasure of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

With her inheritance, A’Lelia purchased these two townhouses on West 136th Street and combined them into one residence with a new façade:

Cultural soirees for the Harlem and Greenwich Village “glitterati,” white and black, serving caviar and bootleg champagne and providing entertainment by queer performers and others like Alberta Hunter, Jimmy Daniels, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, Muriel Draper, Nora Holt, Witter Bynner, Andy Razaf, Taylor Gordon, Carl Van Vechten, Clarence Darrow, James Weldon Johnson and many others attended and reveled in the Dark Tower’s glamour.

Langston Hughes later wrote that A’Lelia’s parties “were as crowded as the New York subway at the rush hour.”

In October 1927, the Dark Tower—envisioned as a private membership club—officially opened in a room within the Walker Studio, which had now expanded to the second and third floors of the townhouse.

One year after opening, in October 1928, the Dark Tower closed. Walker had begun charging for food and refreshments, which was a hard adjustment for many to make. She continued to rent the townhouse out for events, and she continued her arts patronage and philanthropic endeavors. But in 1929, the market crashed. Fewer parties were thrown during the Depression.

Walker died in 1931. After that point, the townhouse was rented out to the City of New York, which used the space for a health clinic. Then in 1941, the townhouse was demolished. In its place, the New York Public Library built what would become its Countee Cullen Branch.

For more check out the fantastic Code Switch Podcast.

First Lady Michelle Obama Reflects on The 2020 and 2016 Elections

“This week, I’ve been reflecting a lot on where I was four years ago. Hillary Clinton had just been dealt a tough loss by a far closer margin than the one we’ve seen this year. I was hurt and disappointed—but the votes had been counted and Donald Trump had won. The American people had spoken. And one of the great responsibilities of the presidency is to listen when they do. So my husband and I instructed our staffs to do what George and Laura Bush had done for us: run a respectful, seamless transition of power—one of the hallmarks of American democracy. We invited the folks from the president-elect’s team into our offices and prepared detailed memos for them, offering what we’d learned over the past eight years.

I have to be honest and say that none of this was easy for me. Donald Trump had spread racist lies about my husband that had put my family in danger. That wasn’t something I was ready to forgive. But I knew that, for the sake of our country, I had to find the strength and maturity to put my anger aside. So I welcomed Melania Trump into the White House and talked with her about my experience, answering every question she had—from the heightened scrutiny that comes with being First Lady to what it’s like to raise kids in the White House.

I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do—because our democracy is so much bigger than anybody’s ego. Our love of country requires us to respect the results of an election even when we don’t like them or wish it had gone differently—the presidency doesn’t belong to any one individual or any one party. To pretend that it does, to play along with these groundless conspiracy theories—whether for personal or political gain—is to put our country’s health and security in danger. This isn’t a game. So I want to urge all Americans, especially our nation’s leaders, regardless of party, to honor the electoral process and do your part to encourage a smooth transition of power, just as sitting presidents have done throughout our history.”

Drug Testing of Newborns and Parents

NEW YORK CITY COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS LAUNCHES INVESTIGATIONS INTO THREE MAJOR PRIVATE HOSPITAL SYSTEMS’ PRACTICES OF DRUG TESTING NEWBORNS AND PARENTS
The investigation seeks to determine whether the hospitals’ policies and practices target Black
and Latinx parents and infants
NEW YORK—Following concerns from advocacy groups regarding drug testing practices that
may disproportionately target Black and Latinx parents and infants, the New York City
Commission on Human Rights announces investigations into Montefiore, Mount Sinai, and New
York Presbyterian hospitals, which, collectively, have facilities in the Bronx, Manhattan,
Brooklyn, and Queens. The investigations examine the hospitals’ policies and practices
regarding drug testing of pregnant people and newborns to assess whether those policies and
practices demonstrate discriminatory racial bias against Black and Latinx families. The
Commission-initiated investigation seeks to root out and end any such discriminatory practices.

https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/cchr/downloads/pdf/press-releases/Hospitals_Press_Release_11-16-2020.pdf

Aaron Douglas

The esteemed Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas has two of his amazing works up at the Whitney Museum.

These large 5′ square works are signature examples of his mature style – one that you might recognize if you visit the Schomburg which owns a number of his pieces.

To learn more about Aaron Douglas, see:

https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.38654.html

And to visit the Whitney, see:

https://whitney.org/visit

NYC’s Open Storefront Program

The Open Storefronts program is available October 30 to December 31, 2020. 
The Open Storefronts program assists existing ground-floor storefront businesses who want to use outdoor areas on a temporary basis.  The program allows eligible businesses to conduct activity on sidewalks, on roadways in the Open Streets: Restaurants program, or a combination of both.  To learn about siting requirements for storefronts and sidewalks, who is eligible and FAQ CLICK HERE