“I’ve been an artist since I was 2” Yusef Sirius El is a a man of many talents. Painter, musician but he is known for his success as a footwear designer. Name the brand..Adidas, Nike, ENYCE, he has designed for them. Millions have worn his designs. Our conversation covers the story of Yusef, footwear designer.
“When I first became homeless, I use to pray that I die for 6 months…that was back in ’87” Jerry,52, may be homeless but his mind isnt. I met Jerry in Tribeca. Our conversation is inspiring to say the least. The street lights are on a timer. They come on and off every 2 minutes. Jerry’s face begins to appear at the :35 second mark. He shares his story, a new year’s resolution, tips if you become homelsss, this favorite Bible passage and strongly suggests that everyone “diversify their finances”.
I along with millions of Americans have grown up “Fatherless”. And today 40% of American children live in a fatherless home raised by single mothers, aunts, grandmothers and other female caregivers. Kobie Brown’s 2012 film From Fatherless To Fatherhood explores the causes, effects and possible solutions to turning the corner on father absence. We met at Central Park for an unscripted, insightful conversation about the inspiration for the film, his family story and his goals. I love and support what Kobie is doing, solutions through dialogue.
“Before You leave this planet, it is important that you get in touch with what your purpose is and not be defined by what your job or career may be..but find out what it is you are suppose to do for the betterment of mankind and everything else will fall into place.” – Kobie during our Central Park conversation
I was having my usual sorrel & ginger beer at Spur Tree catching up with owner/chef Sean John and I see a Maxim magazine on the bar. The Braised Oxtail is the 2011 #2 Best Dinners in America according to Maxim. And reggae artist Sean Paul wrote the review “When I’m in New York, I like Spur Tree down on the Lower East Side for authentic Jamaican food. It’s a small restaurant, but the taste of the food is huge. It keeps me coming back, especially when I’m homesick. They do an oxtail Jamaican-style, so it’s braised and stewed down. The meat’s really tender, and it’s served with a really thick sauce and rice and peas covered in gravy. It’s bone-lickin’ good. I was home recently and thought, Lemme make some oxtail. I did, but it wasn’t as good as theirs.”
I coax Sean outside and ask him the small story with Maxim, new items on the menu, we happily sample the new Jamaican-asian mini-jerk steam pork buns..so good….so good..u cant go wrong. ..and where the name Spur Tree originates. 2011 is Sean’s year. He was also selected by MACY\’s as 1 of the Top NYC Chefs.
14 NYC stories in 14 minutes. A thread of conversations beginning with a new New Yorker who is proof that people move to NYC from all over the world; a man roller skating w the bottom of a mannequin on his head in soho; Freedom Bradley Dir-City Parks Foundations on what else “NYC Parks”; Founder of cleanplates.com the online healthy version of zagats; Guy wearing airtrekkers on Park Avenue; Iesha of Street Corner Resources, anti-violence teen protest @129 & Lenox; DJ Moma on going from engineer to DJ and “escaping the rat race”; Abby & Tori on the call that sent them to Haiti; Footwear designer Yusef Sirius El on 5 and 10 year business plans; Opera singer Joanna Bergin on the day she knew opera was her calling; Stylist Jason Rembert@Rocawear pop-up store on how he got his first internship at Elle; my first Yankee game, in the parking lot I get schooled on Yankee culture by my host and former Yankee exec onYankee branding..but he has a World Series ring, I LOVE NYC; Cinematographer/producer Shawn Peters on what is Weeksville.
“Bitchin about what Brooklyn is now is like bitchin about what Hip-Hop use to be like..aint gonna happen..Paid In Full is not coming back out again.” Amy moved to Fort Greene 28 years ago from the Lower Eastside. We have been friends since the 90’s when I lived in Fort Greene & Clinton Hill. After a stroll around my old neighborhood reminiscing about my Brooklyn days – my house parties, Brooklyn Moon Cafe, Madiba, Franks, Mikes Diner, The Friendships – I met up with Culture Critic-Substitute Teacher Amy Linden at the entrance of Fort Greene Park for an animated conversation on 28 years in Fort Greene, Rafael Saadiq, Charter Schools & Obama.
IF you ride the NYC subways, with delays comes entertainment.The West 4th station has the best bucket-drummer in NYC – Larry Wright. And yesterday, I along with 75 other people waiting on the uptown and downtown orange line were well entertained..as will you. People cheered from platform to platform. The 5 minute delay was definitely worth it. Gotta Love NYC!
On March 3rd, I was in the right place on the right day. The Nuyorican Poets Cafe opened 38yrs ago, but this is poet Algarin‘s 1st reading at the cafe he co-founded. He read a poem inspired by a visit with Miguel Pinero to William Burroughs’ bunker on NYC’s Lower Eastside. “Willy B..Willy B..Willy B!!” It was a rare night organized by Ra Araya, the Poet Poducer Punk, for a person who founded the most influential poets cafe in America.
Founded circa 1973, The Nuyorican Poets Cafe began as a living room salon in the East Village apartment of writer and poet, Miguel Algarin. Algarin, a college professor at the center of this blossoming arts community, was dedicated to bringing new work into the public eye. By 1975 it became clear that there were many poets and too much energy for Algarin’s living room. William Morrow Inc. had just published an anthology titled “Nuyorican Poetry”. Miguel Piñero’s “Short Eyes” had just won two awards as best play of the 1974 season. Poetry, the vital sign of a new culture, needed to be heard live. So Algarin rented an Irish bar, the Sunshine Cafe on East 6th Street, which was christened The Nuyorican Poets Cafe. By 1980, the overflow of audiences led the Cafe to purchase an “in rem” building at 236 East 3rd Street to expand its activities and programs.
“The storied café currently is in the process of expanding its three upper floors with the help of a $500,000 grant received from the city. The money is going toward developing additional performance space, a classroom and a multimedia lab.” Wall Street Journal article
After sharing a poem on Facebook in response to the revolution that was happening in her home of Tunisia, Samia was asked to read for Miguel Algarin, the Founder of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Samia is the 1st Tunisian poet to be published in English; and, read at the Nuyorican, one of the most important venues for the development of poetry, music and theater in New York. In 1973, Algarin’s mission was to create a multicultural venue that both nurtures artists and exhibits a variety of artistic works to both enlighten and empower the underclass, it is a mission that has remained true to this day.
“If you have the baby here tonight, the baby will be named Nuyorican” Miguel said with a laugh to Samia before her reading. I filmed my taxi conversation with Samia enroute to the venue about Tunisia, NYC, language and poetry. Ra ,a seasoned Nuyorican organizer, explains how he discovered Samia and why he “wanted her to read for Miguel”. She read 5 poems that night. I shared the poem Samia read in Arabic titled ارادة الحياة ( English translation “Will To Live”) written in 1933 by Chebbi. Part of the poem is the Tunisian anthem and now chanted during the ongoing revolution in Tunisia and Egypt. She is also featured @ The Poetry Foundation.
Spur Tree was selected by MACY’s Culinary Council as one of NYC’s hottest restaurants and Owner/Chef Sean John was asked to prepare a dish for Black History Month @ MACY’s department store’s kitchen studio. He is preparing a Jamaican national dish with coco bread: Ackee and Cod Bruschetta. I included the recipe for us all to try at home. Visit Sean at 76 Orchard Street (btwn Broome & Grand Streets) http://www.spurtreelounge.com/
1 lb (500g) of salted cod
2 dozen fresh ackee pods or 3 cups (12 oz/350g) canned ackee
1 scotch bonnet or jalapeno chili, deseeded and sliced
2 spring onions
1 medium onion
1 medium tomato
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 loaves of coco bread
4 cherry tomatoes (for garnish)
1.Soak the salted cod in cold water for 3o minutes, then drain and place in a pan with 4 cups (1 liter) of water. Bring to a boil, drain, then break the fish into flakes with a fork. Set aside.
2. If using fresh ackee, romove them from the pods. Discard the seeds and gently remove the pink membranes with a sharp knife. Parboil the pegs of ackee by covering them with salted water in a medium saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat, drain and set aside.
3. Set up a large skillet over medium heat and heat oil. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the chili, sring onions, and onion and sute until tender. Add the salted cod, ackee, tomato and black pepper and cover low heat for minutes.
4. Open coco bread loaves and cut into 4 triangles. Warm in the oven for 1-2 minutes and plate.
5. Spoon the ackee and cod onto bread triangles and top with a halved cherry tomato.
Serves 4. Preparation time: 45 minutes, Cooking time: 15 minutes.