Hola mi gente! Roz B is back in the building!!! My apologies for the small hiatus, but sometimes you just have to be in the mix to fully enjoy the ride. The last few months has truly been a whirlwind of fun, and now I’m here to report back to all my loyal readers. So, get your favorite mug of yummy goodness and your favorite quilt for all the juicy DEEtails.
MAY: THE DOMINICAN FILM FESTIVAL KICKOFF PARTY
May was the kickoff soiree for The Dominican Film Festival at VACCA Lounge sponsored by Dyckman Beer. All of Uptown’s creative community were in attendance to network and to pay homage to the night’s honoree (and former Washington Heights resident) Kiki Melendez. Ms. Melendez is a Dominican actress, writer, producer, host and creator of Kiki Melendez’ Hot Tamales Live – her programming showcases diversity through a wide variety of comics, sketch comedy and dancers. Sponsors of the DDFL was Dyckman Beer Co. Dyckman Beer Co. has now had a number of successes under their belt since its initial launch back in 2013. Post this event, Dyckman Beer Co.’s creator Juan Camilo has gone on to be interviewed by The New York Times, was proud sponsor of this year’s Brooklyn Music Festival, and was even honored by New York City Mayor, Bill DeBlasio, at this year’s Dominican Heritage Ceremony at The Mayor’s Office. Truly gratifying moments for Uptown’s movers and shakers – pa’lante mi gente.
JUNE: BEAUTIFICATION PROJECT, INWOOD FILM FESTIVAL MONTHLY SERIES, AUTHOR TALK AT WORDUP BOOKSTORE
June was the unveiling of 191st Street Beautification Project – numbers murals crafted by six extraordinary artists stretching well over 180 feet long. This new and improved tunnel (also known as the IRT Broadway – and Seventh Avenue line) was literally converted from average to spectacular. When the initial pitch had launch, the project organizers received hundreds of applicants from all over New York City eagerly wanting to participate – only six were selected. The lucky six were Cope2, Queen Andrea, Jessie & Katey and art duo Cekis. Artists spent 12 hour days creating their best depiction of The Heights. Project was made possible by the community of Washington Heights in partnership with the New York City Department of Transportation. Take a gander below and tell us what y’all think. We here at RBATC give the gorgeous new mural our “Doug-E-FRESH” stamp of approval.
Inwood Film Festival is the next big endeavor for our Uptown community. Filmmakers Jason Minter, Todd Cerveris and Aaron Simms are a group of Inwood residents (in creative fields) wanting to help connect aspiring and established filmmakers from the community. They have a monthly series where film professionals and film aficionados can congregate at local establishments discussing the ins and outs of film work. These meetings will eventually lead up to the much anticipated Inwood Film Festival. Inwood Film Festival is slated for an early 2016 debut, and will be the first of its kind showcasing films shot and produced by local Inwood residents. Skill level will vary between amateur and established. If you’d like to participate and/or offer your area of expertise, don’t hesitate to visit their Facebook page by clicking here.
Book Club Series at Wordup Bookstore moderated by Uptown Collective’s Led Black was my literary venture for the summer. Author talk and topic at hand was the book “Crossing Broadway.” This compelling book delves into the history of Washington Heights – and how many of its past issues still plagues our neighborhood today. Author Robert W. Snyder (a former Washington Heights resident) is an associate professor of Journalism and American Studies at Rutgers University. Mr. Synder’s books has always touched on the subject of New York history – but this book in particular “chronicles the rise, fall, and rise of Washington Heights, a neighborhood populated by immigrants from around the world.”
In this book, he breaks down the issues of segregation, discrimination, gang violence and its on-going issues of gentrification – a major concern that challenges our community to this very day. It was interesting to see so many of our community advocates congregate over the “hot button topics” that concerns this community. This author talk opened the floor to some rather introspective debates and riveting conversation. I look forward to making it to the next one, for sure.
JULY: NEW YORK CITY… WHAT A GEM!
July was my chance to explore the hidden gems and re-discover the hidden enclaves of my city. First spot was a trip to the colonial landmark known as the Morris-Jumel Mansion (FYI: this precious landmark has provided background to a number of films and TV series like Boardwalk Empire; and, it recently served as a source of inspiration for the popular Broadway musical Hamilton). During the month of July, the Morris-Jumel Mansion was a mix between the past meets contemporary. Artist Yinka Shonibare showcased “MBE Colonial Arrangements,“ an intricate yet pensive exhibition showcasing a number of statues (some headless) in African garb styled with a colonial aesthetic. His exhibition and how each statue was situated in each individual room drew tons introspective dialogue from spectators – myself included. Shonibare is a British-Nigerian artist and his work explores cultural identity, colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalization. If by chance you didn’t catch the exhibition, peep the eery yet fascinating pics below.
Next up was a swanky throwback to the prohibition era — yes, that’s right, we visited the grandiose cocktail bar known as The Campbell Apartment. This gem gave me Boardwalk Empire meets The Great Gatsby vibes all in one – and I truly felt like The Cat’s Meow. Nestled in the heart of New York City’s Grand Terminal, this 1920s stylized bar was once the office to American financier John W. Campbell. This 3,500 square foot space is the very definition of opulence with its Persian carpets, piano/pipe organ, mahogany fireplace, and exquisitely lavish ceilings. The drinks (of which can run you quite the hefty tab) were just deliciously sinful and packed quite the wallop. I had the “Prohibition Punch,” a concoction of 1oz. Appleton Estate Rum V/X, 1/2oz. Grand Marnier, 2oz. passion fruit juice, splash of cranberry juice, splash of fresh lemon juice, and 1oz. of Moet et Chandon champagne. And at twenty dollars a pop… I’ll let y’all finish that thought for me. *wink* Another cutie drink that caught my fancy was the “Robber Baron,” (for obvious reasons) a mix of rum or vodka, muddled mint, fresh lime juice and Midori. We’ll have to wait and see how she lingers on the palette on our next visit – so stay tuned for that update.
Next stop, the re-opening of The High Bridge. After its closing 40 years ago, this historic landmark opened its gateway doors to thousands of eager spectators and tourists alike. The High Bridge connects Washington Heights to our northern neighbors of the Bronx. On the day of its opening, residents alongside tons of press, stood in awe of its newly renovated gorgeousness. With this re-opening, The High Bridge now stands as the oldest standing bridge in New York City. On the day of my excursion, I got to walk to the Bronx; (minus transit) and for the first time ever, I got the chance to explore the newly built Yankee Stadium – all by foot. Not too shabby, eh? My legs were killing me by the end of the walk, but oh sooooo worth it.
And now for some fun in the sun with our trip to the historical Coney Island Beach. Coney Island Beach and its boardwalk is synonymous with summer, hot dogs and roller coaster fun. 1999 or early 2000’s was the last time I had visited, but with some sweet coercing of some yummy summertime treats (look for pics below to catch my meaning) I was in there like swimwear. As I re-explored both beach and boardwalk, I was glad to have seen improvements post the early 2000s, and of course, hurricane Sandy. It was exciting to see a vibrant community filled with the arts, a multitude of cultures, and its unrelenting entrepreneurial spirit. It’s here that I was able to explore the street art game by seeing a number of gorgeous murals painted by local and international artists like Miss Van. I also got to discover this new and up-and-coming eatery called MOFON.GO NY. Their specialty dishes takes a contemporary spin to the hearty and often comforting cuisine of monfongo – a traditional Latin American dish that differs in preparation from region to region. Their eye-catching logo and creative spin to the traditional has even captivated the attention from a number of web publications, including my former employer, Remezcla.com. Remezcla’s “Run the Dish” web-series’ main focus is to feature young and budding Latino entrepreneurs; and, in its first two segments. MONFON.GO NY’s owner Manolo Lopez, alongside Head Chef (Uptown’s La Marina) & restauranteur Kelvin Fernandez were their first two guests. Remezcla’s pre-screening of the web series was held at the popular Mexican restaurant “Cafe El Presidente” which set the perfect backdrop to make its series debut. Event showcased sample dishes from both culinary experts; and drinks was sponsored by Hennessy V.S. Hot summer tunes were provided by DJ Riobamba.
Late July was also my introduction to the music of Angola – a musical cornucopia of African, Portuguese, and Brazilian music all in one. It also infuses hints of meringue, kilapanda, zouk, semba, kizomba, and kuduro. To dance, you needed flexibility in the knees to achieve that prefect collision of the hips and for that perfect amount of closeness. Thankfully, I have dear friends and was able to score myself a ticket to go see a live performance of the much anticipated and much awaited singer/Peace Ambassador Paulo Flores at the famous Le Poisson Rouge. From what I gather, this was Flores’ first appearance in the U.S. and could very much be one of those one-of-a-kind performances (so if you missed it, you’re out of luck type deals) for his political beliefs reflective in his music. The contexts of most of his songs are highly politicized for its hardships of Angolan life, the war and corruption – making it difficult for him to travel back and fourth. We here at RBATC hope that’s not the case and are hopeful that we’ll come across another brilliant show soon. Aside from political contexts, there were these exquisite love songs that one can get lost in the lyrics for days. Listening to these ravishing rhythmic sounds, one can envision themselves on some tropical beach with a significant other – getting lost in those lyrics and each other’s eyes – ay, que ricura. What I’d give to be there again…but till then…*sigh.* And now for your audible pleasure, a new personal fave of mine titled “Mama Lele.” This youtube video I’ve placed below was shot at Le Poisson Rouge the night of his Paulo’s performance – see if you can clock me in the audience enjoying myself immensely. 😉
AUGUST: BLAST FROM THE PAST
As we continue with our new found sonic bliss, (aforementioned above) we here at RBATC came to uncover (no pun intended) New York City’s Brasil Summerfest. The festival is 10 days of contagious Brazilian musical acts (with well over 20 years in the business) performed at a number of venues (SummerStage included) with an elaborate closing after-party hosted at The Wick in Brooklyn New York. Tunes were provided by NYC’s global bass tag-team duo Que Bajo?! The stage showcased a fun and very samba/semba friendly environment equivalent to those spontaneous street parties in Brazil – scantily clad dancers included. Really fun approach to the already lively and carefree culture that is Brazil. Definitely an event to bookmark in your calendars for next summer.
And the party definitely continues as we sway from one event to the next. For our mid-August adventure we were dazzled by the twinkling lights and remarkable skyline seen atop Le Bain’s Penthouse Rooftop located at the The Standard High Line. For this evening, we patrons were treated to a sultry hotel aesthetic: dim lighting, Kamasutra-like wallpaper adorning its lobby, and a fully functioning (and rather kick-ass) jacuzzi in the middle of its dance floor. Sidenote: jacuzzi was a throwback feel to the popular NYC bathhouses made popular in the 1970s – let’s just say, Steve Rubell would be jealous. Now, as we reach the penthouse, we music lovers were met with salsa infused tunes provided by Fania Records’s All Star roster: Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon, and the night’s starlet, Ralfi Pagan. Classic Ralfi tunes are more well known out West for its Chicano fanbase – but the irony here is that Ralfi had been a Bronx-based musician. Wanting to revive Ralfi’s musical catalogue was part of a two year project orchestrated by NYC-based DJ and music producer Geko Jones. This record release party hosted at Le Bain was just a taste of what’s to come – a compilation of remixes of Ralfi’s biggest hits put to a concurrent sound. Ralfi Pagan’s Remixes Complied by Geko Jones (in its entirety) is set to release on November 6, 2015. To see the recently music video for the first single released “Latin Soul,” please click here. To hear the record’s second single “Negrona” remixed by Stream K. Sabroso, click on the Soundcloud tab below.
Last, but certainly not least, was my Bday. I had sooooooo much fun this year, and thought what better way to close out the summer than to go out with a BIG social club-esque “BANG-BANG!“ Like the song, get it? lol, anyways. I came across the restaurant Cubana Social online; and with further investigation, it came rather well recommended. I sent out the invites via FB and the night was just full of surprises. It’s aesthetically beautiful (palm trees and all) and very budget friendly – truly a win-win. Guests arrived at 6:30pm-ish for happy hour cocktails – (ps: I loooooved their mojitos, you must try) I however arrived roughly around 8:30pm – gotta be fashionably late, am I right? Two hours later, my guests were full and happy, (thank goodness) and unbeknownst to me, a “Happy Birthday” sing-along would soon follow. The staff came out from the kitchen with my birthday flan, followed by a bottle of bubbly that truly made my night. That was the most heart warming experience and one that I will not soon forget. Oh, and I have to make mention of my special guest, Mr. FABULOUS Inflatible Unicorn! He was truly the talk of the town wherever I went that evening post party. A spectacular end to the summer and I couldn’t have asked for more. Big thank you to all whom attended – and to those who sent lovely bday greetings, you are all appreciated from the bottom of my corazon.
And there you have it y’all. An update to my life and city adventures. There’s plenty of amazing stories to share after this post, so please stay tuned for that. And remember, until next time, the city is truly your oyster – make the most of it. Se me cuidan todos. Ps: Aside from official ads, pics provided on all posts were shot by me. If used, please site my blog por favor. Give credit where credit is due. Muchas gracias.
Till next time… artsy besos
By Roz Baron