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June 20, 2007

Two Treats at the Haley House Café

I had the privilege of being entertained by vocalist Fulani Haynes and her band of musicians at the Haley House Bakery Café in Boston, MA. Her group consisted of Larry Roland, Bass; Mike Shea, Keyboards; and Yusef Douglin, Percussion. The all newly prepared food at the Sunday afternoon bunch was fantastic. In addition to the excellent food served to please the most exquisite palette our ears were fed a great selection of old and occasionally modern tunes of the Jazz legions.

Fulani’s voice gracefully conformed to the scat style of Ella and to the low reaching notes and nuances of my heroin, Nina Simone. Not to be outdone the remaining band members were first-class. The group consisted of some of Boston’s best players. They blended admirably in the background while demonstrating real talent during their respective solos. Larry, Upright Double Bass player, used an unfamiliar ‘modern’ instrument whereby the output fed a loudspeaker. I had never seen an Upright Bass like this before; however, it worked! Yusef, Percussion, outdid himself on the Djembes. His excellent tone, consistency, and rhythm reminded me of the exceptional quality I heard on my last trip to Senegal, Africa. The Keyboard, often considered the most constraining instrument, provided a lush variety of old Jazz tunes. Mike’s adaptive ability on song after song proved he could ‘hang’ or lead with the best of Boston’s talent.

A Sunday Brunch at the Haley House with Fulani’s ensemble cannot be toped. It is a beautiful way to spend an afternoon. You hear terrific music and your stomach enjoys the benefits of food freshly prepared by the Haley House staff.

Dr. Alvin Foster
Retired Businessman and Music Devotee

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The Play on Sugar Hill
By Andrea Shea

speaker Listen to story (Real Audio)

BOSTON, Mass. - April 09, 2007 - Katherine Butler Jones is a longtime leader in education and community activism in the Boston area. She co-founded the METCO busing program in the 1960s and has also published a number of historical writings.

At 70, and a mother of eight, Jones is adding one more title to her extensive resume: playwright.

Her new drama is called '409 Edgecombew Avenue: The House on Sugar Hill' about her childhood home in Harlem. It's being staged in Boston by 'Up You Mighty Race,' a Dorchester-based theater company that produces historical plays about the experiences of black people in America.

WBUR's Arts and Culture reporter Andrea Shea has more on the story.

TEXT OF STORY

ANDREA SHEA: At a recent rehearsal the nine actors who star in '409 Edgecombe Avenue: the House on Sugar Hill' mill around the theater at the Boston Center for the Arts...moving props and waiting for direction. Off to the side Rocque Bridgewaters practices his part.

ROCQUE BRIDGEWATERS: The opening line is: 'I grew up here, when this house was a centerpiece of the Negro community. Walter White, executive secretary for the NAACP and his family live next door to our family on the 13th floor.'

SHEA: The NAACP's W.E.B. Dubois also lived on the 13th floor of this landmark building in Harlem. Thurgood Marshall was on the 9th. Actor Paul Robeson and poet William Braithwait were neighbors. And it's said Duke Ellington partied at 409 Edgecombe Avenue.

KATHERINE BUTLER JONES: It was a fascinating place to grow up, especially at the time I was living there.

SHEA: That's Katherine Butler Jones. She's been in Boston for 50 years, but lived in the real 409 Edgecomb from 1936 to 1957, during and after Harlem's heyday. Jones says the building was like a 'vertical community' back then, with people from all walks of life living and working there. Now it serves as the backdrop for her first play. The set she says, is like a time machine...with its glass doors, herringbone floor, vintage telephone and gated elevator.

BUTLER JONES: This lobby is really the exact replica of the lobby in 409 I feel like I'm back in the building.

SHEA: But during her twenty-one years in that building Jones says a very flamboyant and influential woman was never mentioned: Madame Stephanie St. Clair.

BUTLER JONES: So I wanted to know why is it I haven't heard about this lady. (laughs) She's not in any of the books about African American women and the reason is because she was involved in something that was considered quasi-legal at the time.

SHEA: And now Madame St. Clair is at the center of Jones' new play. An immigrant from Martinique...St. Clair was known as the 'Harlem Numbers Queen' in the 1930's. She was rich and powerful...and while she held her own against some of the toughest crime bosses in New York...including Lucky Luciano...the Queen also bought advertising space in the local paper to speak her mind...and to encourage people in her community to vote. It's these contradictions that make St. Clair such a juicy character, according to the play's director, Akiba Abaka.

AKIBA ABAKA: So how do we bring them all together, where do we find the truth, how do we create a truthful character on stage that's not stereotypical and that's not unchallenging at the same time.

SCENE FROM PLAY: 'So you think you can come into Harlem and run numbers on these so-called stores, well I'll show you how welcome you are.'

SHEA: Actress Fulani Haynes is Madame St. Clair in the play.

SCENE FROM PLAY: 'If you don't get out of Harlem now something worse will happen to you.'

ABAKA: The name of our company comes from a speech given by Marcus Garvey, he once said 'up you mighty race you can accomplish what you will.

SHEA: Akiba Abaka is in her late twenties and founded 'Up You Mighty Race' six years ago. It's based in Dorchester, and early on Abaka says the company focused on classics about the black American experience.

ABAKA: You know in the past we've done the work of Lorraine Hansberry and August Wilson, Ed Bullins and some of the more noted writers. As we continued to develop what I saw was that we could develop our own plays and so that's what inspired this season which is called 'news from the locals.

SHEA: Locals such as Katherine Butler Jones and her first-ever play '409 Edgecombe Avenue.'

KAY BOURNE: Theater is a collaboration, so that's not so rare. What is rare is the subject matter and its relationship to Boston.

SHEA: Kay Bourne was Arts Editor for 'The Bay State Banner' for forty years. Now she's working on a book about black presence in the Boston arts scene over the centuries. Bourne attended a reading of '409 Edgecombe Avenue' before it was fully developed into a play, and says 'Up You Mighty Race' director Akiba Abaka is doing something that isn't often done in Boston.

BOURNE: There are many theater artists in Boston who have been somewhat neglected, among them playwrights. If you don't get your plays done you don't grow as a playwright. Akiba is being quite courageous to do new playwrights because frankly the critics slam new playwrights unless they're well-established and come from New York.

ABAKA: I don't think we have anything to lose by welcoming new playwrights.

SHEA: Again, Director Akiba Abaka.

ABAKA: I don't really look at it as risky...to go from thought...to text...to stage...to performance that's a great ride.

SHEA: It's been more than a great ride for activist-turned-playwright Katherine Butler Jones. Jones says she's always loved theater...even as a kid in Harlem...but thinks the scene here is lacking.

BUTLER JONES: Obviously there are not enough plays that are done that do indeed address the community of color, so that's an issue that needs to be raised to the surface, and the limited opportunities for actors of color, that needs to be changed. So there's a lot of room for improvement in Boston in that area.

SHEA: And, in light of the recent spate of violence in Boston, Katherine Butler Jones says she hopes audiences will hear the message that's central to her play: that we're not going to make it unless we form community.

For WBUR I'm Andrea Shea.

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Central Boston Elders Services presents the 2nd Annual UNITED FOR ELDERS EXPO today, JUNE 15, 11am - 6:30pm at The Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, 1350 Tremont Street, Roxbury. The exposition will be a great opportunity for Boston's elderly community and their caregivers to network and learn about a wide range of services that are currently available. It will also allow members of the elderly community to have an in-depth dialogue with their local and State Representatives concerning issues that are important to them and their caregivers. Maureen Feeney, President of the Boston City Council, will present the keynote address during the open-forum town meeting from 4-5:30 pm. Invited guests include: Governor Deval Patrick; Mayor Thomas Menino; Commissioner Eliza Greenberg, Commission on Affairs of the Elderly; Secretary Jennifer Davis Carey, Executive Office of Elder Affairs; State Senator Diane Wilkerson; Dudley Area Businesses and Dudley Main Streets; Live Music Performances by the Central Boston Elders Services choir. Free to the public. Fulani Live Productions (Jazz Collabrative) Played Creative and Standards Jazz Standards For The Luncheon. Collaborating With Vocalist Fulani Haynes Was Bassist-- Larry Roland, Pianist -- Mike Shea And Percussionist -- Yusef Douglin

 

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"409 EDGECOMBE AVENUE: THE HOUSE ON SUGAR HILL"
by Katherine Butler Jones
directed by Akiba Abaka
Madame Stephanie St. Clair … Fulani Haynes
St. Clair’s Henchman; Mr. Braithwaite … Rocque Bridgewaters
Nathan … Michael Nurse
Wilber … Santo Cupon
Meme Clark … Ramona Alexander
Grandmother … Deama Battle
James Jones … Eric Daley
Gladys White … Pamela Lambert
Madam Futtam … Lau Papides
Eunice Carter … Christina Marie Bynoe
Sufi Hamid … Keith Mascoll

409 EDGECOME AVENUE: THE HOUSE ON SUGAR HILL, courtesy of Up You Mighty Race, is Katherine Butler’s Jones’ lengthy history about her former Harlem address, now a designated landmark, and the people who lived there in the 1930s and 40s; in this, her first play, Ms. Jones alternates between the powerful Mme. St. Clair who ran a numbers racket and faced stiff competition from the mob and everyday life at the 409 where Nathan the doorman and Wilbur the elevator man gossip in the lobby, the tenants come and go through the glass doors (the same doors through which the audience enters) and where the elevator arrow always points to the third floor (Mme. St. Clair), the eighth floor (Meme Clark, a hairdresser-confidante) or the thirteenth floor (the snooty Gladys White); other tenants include Sufi Hamid, who marries Mme. St. Clair but soon strays, and Attorney Eunice Carter who clashes with Mme. St. Clair on legal vs. illegal issues as well as their contrasting backgrounds (American Negro vs. Caribbean Negro). Thus the evening rambles despites its smart, well-researched dialogue, and Ms. Jones is determined to have Mme. St. Clair remembered as a forgotten Great American (albeit a dubious one), her chosen path being one of necessity rather than vaulting ambition --- there is no bridge between this tigress and the wide-eyed innocent, in flashback, being given a charm before departing for America; even her being sentenced for attempted murder becomes a cry of injustice, instead. Only the St. Clair-Eunice scenes strike sparks, especially when the former offers to join the latter in cleaning up their neighborhood --- sadly, a premise soon dropped --- ah, what drama could have been wrung from such a pairing!


As conceived, Mme. St. Clair is all mask and furs but Fulani Haynes polishes her surface to a dazzling shine; Christina Marie Bynoe is such ballsy fun as Eunice that it’s a pity she doesn’t have more to do, and Michael Nurse is warm and golden as the all-seeing, mostly-all-knowing Nathan; I’ve seen Mr. Nurse on past stages and he remains a welcome presence, anywhere, anytime. Peter Colao has transformed the Plaza Theatre into a tundra of simulated floor-tiles, giving 409 EDGECOMBE AVENUE an epic, timeless quality --- even the elevator with its glowing green interior becomes fascinating, after awhile --- but, oh, that one set-piece that comes thundering at you in the dark, not once, but repeatedly!


"409 Edgecombe Avenue" (5 - 21 April)
UP YOU MIGHTY RACE

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Ask any Harlem cabbie to take you to 409. He’ll drive you straight to the neighborhood locals call "Sugar Hill", stopping directly in front of the swank thirteen floor apartment building on Edgecombe Avenue. The address was that well known in the heyday of Harlem when it was a community-on-the-go for people of color. Among the Black leaders and celebrities, mingled in with more ordinary residents, who lived at 409 in the 30's were NAACP stalwarts Thurgood Marshall, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Walter White, and poet/anthologist William Stanley Braithwaite (formerly of Boston).

katherine Butler Jones

(pictured: Katherine Butler Jones)

Katherine Butler Jones’ play, "409 EDGECOMBE AVENUE" about her childhood home, which she describes as “a slice of life in Black America in Harlem,” focuses on Madame St. Clair. The flamboyant Stephanie St. Clair, an immigrant from Martinique, was once the richest woman in Black America. She made her fortune by organizing a gambling operation, and had, at the height of her illegal business, forty runners and numerous security guards important in her battles against Dutch Schultz and other gangsters eager to take over her clientele.

Also residing at 409 in Jones’s play is Eunice Hunton Carter, the first Black woman to work as a prosecutor in a New York D.A.’s office, and the only woman and only African American on Thomas Dewey’s staff prosecuting organized crime (which convicted Charles "Lucky" Luciano). Carter wants nothing so much as to put St. Clair away for running a numbers racket. (Carter’s grandson is Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter, author of the best selling, unconventional mystery novel 'Emperor of Ocean Park,' who came to academia after serving as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s clerk.)

Interestingly, however, while these two women butted heads when it came to the law, they had in common a passion for improving the lot of Black people. Carter had, since a tiny child, been involved in her parents’ goal of opening up the services of the YMCA to people of Color, an activism she continued into her adult years. St. Clair operated a center for French speaking Black immigrants to Harlem where they could learn English and were encouraged to become U.S. citizens. She also bought space regularly in the Black community newspaper, 'The Amsterdam News,'for a column run with her photograph in which she on the one hand taunted the likes of Dutch Schultz, yet also urged readers to register to vote.

The battle royal between two celebrated figures in the Harlem of the 30's, “409 Edgecombe Avenue,” has its debut in a production from Up You Mighty Race theater company. Directed by the esteemed artistic director of UPYM's Akiba Abaka, the historical drama opens April 5 for a three week run in the Plaza Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, in Boston’s South End. Featured in the nine person cast are Fulani Haynes as Madame St. Clair and Christina Bynoe as Eunice Carter. Tickets are on sale at A Nubian Notion and www.bostontheatrescene.com or call 617-933-8600 for more information.

(by Kay Bourne)

 

 

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"“The Best House on Sugar Hill”
Moves to the South End"

By Beverly Creasey

409 EDGECOMBE AVENUE is Katherine Butler Jones’ sprawling valentine to the glamorous place where she grew up. The stately Harlem building (now a historical landmark) was a magnet for the Harlem Renaissance elite, an address everyone knew, whose halls echoed with art, music, politics and intrigue.

The Up You Mighty Race production (playing at the BCA through April 21) featured Fulani Haynes in a tour de force performance as the mighty queen of the numbers game, a formidable woman who kept Dutch Schultz and the mob out of her territory, wrote a weekly newspaper column and defied the authorities every step of the way.

The play unfolds GRAND HOTEL style, like the famous film in which we meet each resident and hear each person’s story against a historical backdrop of famous names and events. There’s even an aspiring actor named James Jones who works at 409 but we’re left to speculate if his stage name added an “Earl.” The rest of Harlem royalty earns at least, and often much more, than a mention from the playwright.

Jones takes a while to set up the queen’s set-up but when she does, the drama literally explodes. (Until then, it’s anybody’s guess just what the real focus of the play is, partly because all the other residents are so fascinating.) Swirling around the charismatic Mme. St. Clair are a fiercely loyal doorman/confidant ( played with wry comic finesse by Michael Nurse), a husband-pinching fortune teller (Lau Lapides sizzles as the sexy seer) and an endless stream of bodyguards, henchmen and tony party-goers.

Pamela Lambert amuses as the haughty NAACP society matron, Christina Marie Bynoe dominates as the take-no-prisoners district attorney, Keith Mascoll slinks about (in a cape!) as the two-timing firebrand and Deama Battle shakes the ether as Mme.’s charismatic grandmother. At my performance, director Akiba Abaka niftily stepped in to portray the resident hairdresser (based on the playwright’s mother), an inviting woman who came to know everyone’s secrets.

Akiba lets the action draw out slowly--- like a skein of yarn unrolling for the knitter--- so that we can savor every nuance of the story. It turns out the playwright has enough material for two plays and that’s just Act I! Peter Colao’s set is dramatic all by itself, from its black & white parquet tiled floor to its gold-wreathed columns. The set even replicates the period elevator, complete with cheeky operator, Santio Cupon.

Joy Adams’ costumes for Haynes are perfection, from the elegant, chocolate chiffon creation---topped with drop dead period furs--- right down to her black velvet evening coat and diamond earrings. Adams bathes Mme. in crimson for her bloodcurdling meltdown scene and strips away all the carefully design pretense for her heartbreaking downfall. See 409 EDGECOMB for Haynes’ rollercoaster ride to fame.

"409 Edgecombe Avenue" (5 - 21 April)

UP YOU MIGHTY RACE
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA
1(617) 427-9417

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Fulani,

It just so happens that I saw the play on Saturday but did not know that you were the actor playing the part of the Policy Woman. After the play one of my friends mentioned your name and I was aghast that I had not known that it was you I was watching.  I very much enjoyed the show and was there because I know who Kathy Jones is, as several of my friends do, and we wanted to see what she had accomplished and to support her.  I will be passing the word around to others to go to see "409 Edgcombe St."

I will certainly keep you in mind for future events where your talents would be very much appreciated and hope to get down to Haley House to hear you sing on the first Sunday. I am so pleased that Christley put me in touch with you.

Regina
Caines, Co-President of Zonta

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Pat Williams - The Word

HALEY HOUSE BAKERY CAFÉ SUNDAY JAZZ BRUNCH

Haley House Bakery Café is open for brunch every Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. While you eat a delicious, nutritious and affordable brunch, you can also enjoy live jazz music performed by a different artist each week. The first Sunday of each month features the music of the talented vocalist Fulani Haynes. To enhance your dining experience, Haley House offers elegant glassware, newspapers to peruse, a warm, friendly atmosphere as well as an extraordinary waitstaff, bottomless coffee, fresh fruits and juices and a baked goods buffet. All entrees are $14 and menu items include everything from Pulled Turkey Hash to the Belly Buster Biscuit and Egg Sandwich and new menu items have been added including Oven Fried Herbed Chicken and Waffles and Steak and Eggs. Seating is on a first‑come, first‑served basis. Haley House is located in the Dudley Square area of Roxbury at 12 Dade Street, just off Washington Street, one and a half blocks from Melnea Cass Boulevard. Free parking is available.

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Pat Williams - The Word

Last Sunday, I visited the Haley House Sunday Brunch with friends and had an absolutely scrumptious meal. For the second week, Fulani Haynes performed. Her smooth, sultry voice filled the room and is well suited for the small but intimate setting. Many thanks to the Chef DiDi for keeping me in the loop.

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Bobby Ward

In presenting some of the history of Jazz Fulani Haynes has
a very nice way of making it attractive to those who may not
know a lot of the history of the musics past. She also gets others involved during the show/sets by inspiring those younger to come up on stage and dance to the varied rythms which creates energetic freedom jazz _expression which is a joy to watch.

Fulani is also very concerned of the woman's role in this music,
not just women being pushed into the background, due to the music being very much male dominated.

AS A POPULAR/JAZZ SINGER SHE STANDS OUTFRONT.
........Bobby Ward, production percussionist who has performed with Illinois Jacquet, Sonny Stitt, Howard McGhee,Sonny Rollins, Eddie Harris,William (CAT) Anderson, Sam Rivers, Freddie Hubbard, Billy Skinner,DOUBLE JAZZ QUARTET and Salim Washington , The Roxbury Bues Aesthetics

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Crowns

Lyric brims with hats and gospel songs

The central character is Yolanda, a street-smart girl from Brooklyn, N.Y., who's sent down South to live with her grandmother after the girl's brother is shot to death by a friend. Mother Shaw (played by Fulani Haynes)has her own kind of posse, a group of women who gather to share in one another's joys and sorrows -- which doesn't stop them from teasing and trumping one another, particularly on the subject of hats.

It also doesn't stop them from breaking into song at the drop of a . . . you know what. Director Lois Roach and the Lyric have assembled a great cast of local singer-actors. Jacqui Parker's singing is a lovely extension of her graceful acting, here as the wise and wise-cracking Wanda. The rip-the-roof-off vocals belong to Merle Perkins as Velma, the one with the wild-woman past whose voice goes from one impossibly high plateau to another in ''His Eye Is on the Sparrow," and to Darius Omar Williams, who goes deep as well as high in a succession of male roles. Fulani Haynes, Michelle Dowd, and Mikelyn Roderick provide pretty harmonies throughout.

Ed Siegel, Boston Globe

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All Rise For Queens and Their 'Crowns'

Yolanda learns that adorning oneself for worship is a holdover from African
traditions and the wearing of a hat is less a fashion statement than a representation of who you are and where you are from. Her grandmother Mother Shaw (played by Fulani Haynes) and friends tell stories, sing songs, and guide her on a spiritual journey from attitude to "hattitude" (you have to possess it to wear a hat well). Heather Fry comports herself admirably in transforming from the bewildered outsider with a chip on her shoulder, to the contemplative skeptic, to the converted believer who finally connects to the older traditions.

Nancy Grossman, broadwayworld.com

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And speaking of fabulous events, Richard (Panther)Holder's party last month was
off the hook according to an email I received from the recent college graduate. The Herman Johnson Quartet featuring Hakim Law, Johnny Robbins, Tony Vaughn and special guest PJ Adamson performed. Photographer to the Stars, Kaicee King, hosted the event and vocalists Fulani Haynes and Yma Arrington mesmerized the audience with their sweet voices. Also, DJ Ohh rocked the
house......JUNE 2006

PAT WILLIAMS...THE WORD