Dining With Miss Lil: Harlem Bars & Restaurants Join the 2nd Annual Kwanzaa Bar Crawl

By Lil Nickelson

We met up at the Harlem meet up point at CS 154 Harriet Tubman Learning Center located at 250 West 127th Street beginning at 12 Noon. You had to bring your printed Eventbrite ticket or be able to pull it up on your mobile phone. There were eight teams in Harlem since there were eight venues in Harlem participating in the event, each with a team leader.

In between noon and 2:00pm DJ Matrixx was spinning the music as the Harlem Event Manager, Chloe Hillard gave various announcements to those assembled such as explaining the purpose behind the Kwanzaa bar crawl is the financially support black owned bars and restaurants that hire black people. Many restaurants in our communities don’t hire black people and we want to financially support those that do.
Since crawlers were encouraged to dress in whatever makes them feel black and beautiful and it was freezing cold outside that day, female crawlers wore African materials as head wraps or dressed like the male crawlers who wore dashikis on top of turtle neck shirts. Some wore African cloth jackets, coats and hats. People of all ethnic backgrounds participated in the crawl; black, white, yellow and brown.

Kel Spencer provided participants with a basic explanation of the seven principles of Kwanzaa and went about lighting the candles that were placed in the kinora (candleholder).

At about 2pm the team leaders started calling out the names of the team members and gave them the distinct colored wrist bands, cup and map. Two teams were called to the lobby area at a time to assemble and the crawl began at 2:30pm to give people enough time to walk to the first venue. You were allotted 2 hours at each venue and they estimated each team would visit four venues.

Media representatives such as myself and event organizers had all access passes. So, my friend Cherlyn, a sales representative for the liquor industry and I started out at the closest venue to the school, Lenox Saphire located at 341 Lenox Avenue on the corner of 127th Street; team #1 was assigned there as their first stop also. The crawlers were very festive and were have a good time there. Cherlyn was giving an impromptu lesson to the crawlers about the differences in the liquors and wines and which were more cost effective to buy in bars or buy to take to your home. We left after an hour because we were interested in visiting establishments we had never gone to before; Handy Dandy and Silvana.

We walked down to Handy Dandy located at 1890 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd in between 115th and 114th Streets. This was the first stop for team #6, led by a brother named Steven and the party was in full blast there. A group of Newark, NJ and Harlem residents were on this team and they were turning it up listening to Spotify on the laptop in the restaurant. We met Kiana Green and Chef Sean Hassan and so many others that we decided to hang out with them for the rest of the crawl.

Next, we headed over to Silvana located about two blocks away at 300 West 116th Street and was escorted downstairs where they had a DJ spinning some nice tunes. Besides drinking and purchasing small plate dishes at each venue, the first three venues were inhabited by just Kwanzaa crawlers and we were loving it.

The third stop for team #6 was Moca Bar & Lounge at 2210 Frederick Douglass Blvd on the corner of 119th Street, and by now it was 7pm. Well Moca’s regular customers were there and they were taking up their regular spots within the venue. The crawlers were not feeling the love. It was taking a long time to order drinks and food. Someone even said how they had a special menu for the crawler that was higher in price than their regular menu. However, I examined it very closely; their regular happy hour menu had one more item then the crawlers’ menu, but the prices were the same, not less. Their regular happy hour drinks were less than the crawlers’ menu drinks and to people who are in their third bar for the evening this means something.

Team #6’s next stop should have been Chocolat Restaurant & Bar a block away at 2223 Frederick Douglass Blvd on the corner of 120th Street at 9pm. However, because they weren’t feeling the love at Moca, most decided to return to Handy Dandy. A few did go over to check it out because it was on the next corner, but most went back over to the first restaurant they started out in. There were three other venues we didn’t make it too: Londel’s at 2620 Frederick Douglass Blvd, Nabe Harlem at 2367 Frederick Douglass Blvd and Shrine at 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.

My take away from this experience is when you have a great number of people gathered together for a cause like this, it should be a private event for the crawlers only. By the time we got back to Handy Dandy, Cherlyn and I were tired and so glad we lived in Harlem that we jumped in a cab and headed home. I hope that they expand the event in Harlem in 2018 and I hope the restaurant owners tell their regular customers to join in the festivities.

Read more article by Lil Nickelson’s Dining With Miss Lil here.

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