Last night I took my in-laws out for to dinner and a concert. It was a nice evening – full of great food and music, but also steeped in memories and reflections on the Civil Rights movement and the old Norfolk.
Our evening started out in Ghent at a great little restaurant in Norfolk’s Ghent called Supper Southern Morsels.
I knew my in-laws would love the southern fare – and they didn’t let us down. From the southern fried chicken with an amazing crust to the melt in your mouth cornbread and savory carrot casserole – it was all delicious!
Highly recommend you check out the place if you are local. I was the designated driver, so I didn’t try out the great list of craft cocktails – but see a date night in my future with Bryce to check them out.
But beyond the food, it was great to hear about the history of this re-energized section of Norfolk. About what the area was like while still segregated, about the old stores that dominated this section of the city before its decline, about their favorite memories of this section of the city. And it was terrific for them to see it renewed and vibrant.
From there we headed to the Crispus Attucks theater – a renovated gem of a theater from an earlier era. I have always loved how intimate every concert feels in that venue.
But I had never really thought about the history of the place, so it was great to hear about that bygone era, the heyday of the Attucks. It added a whole other dimension to the evening. And it has a great history! They intrigued me enough during our evening out that I had to do a little more research this morning – which led to more great stories!
The Attucks was built back in 1919 by African-American entrepreneurs, including African-American architect Harvey Johnson. During the height of his popularity, it was known as the ‘Apollo Theater of the South’ with African-American acts touring the south. You could see a movie followed by a show, with acts like Nipsy Russell, Cab Calloway and Redd Foxx. It’s the oldest remaining theater in the country financed, owned and operated by African-Americans. Since it was my in-laws first time back at the Attucks in many years, they were so pleased to see the the diversity of the audience, since their memories of the place were from a segregated time.
Then, to build onto the great history and memories, we had Mavis Staples (of Staples Singers fame) from the 60s and 70s.
She has this powerful voice full of passion and soul! At the age of 75nd on a day when she was feeling under the weather, her voice and presence and sound commanded the room. With a perfect blend of soul and gospel, she sang songs of determination and perseverance, of hope and passion and faith. She had the audience on their feet and rooting for her as she took breaks during the performance (performing after two knee surgeries that didn’t prevent her from shuffling across the floor when the spirit moved her!)
In keeping perfectly with the rest of the evening, she sang songs created during the Civil Rights movement (Freedom Highway, Wade in the Water) and told stories of the songs they sang on the march from Selma. She sang about identity and coming to accept and love those parts of herself that she once wrestled with (from I Like The Things About Me.) She had the crowd on our feet and singing along for an energetic version of I’ll Take You There to close the show! We were all cheering for Mavis by the end of the evening, and thankful that she was sharing her gift with us all.
All in all, it was a wonderful evening of music and memories. I got much more than I bargained for and so grateful for the experience!