Melba Wilson: Superstar

Sarah Slider, Superstars Leave a Comment

I came up with the idea for the Single Girl and the City blog late last year.  I wanted a kicky little site where I could write about topics that didn’t necessarily relate to my work as a Celebrant.  As a single gal of a “certain age,” I envisioned cheerful posts about interesting places and activities in our wonderful city.  The articles trickled out, but then…the pandemic.  It seems tone-deaf to continue along these lines, as our City has essentially been shut down.

Yesterday (which, of course, seems like three weeks ago), I had the idea to add a new category of musings.  Under the heading of “Superstars,” I plan to focus on women and men doing interesting, helpful, inspiring work during these very dark times.   I wasn’t sure about my first piece, but I started noodling around and brainstorming, in isolation, obviously.

This morning as I was having breakfast with my adopted MSNBC family, I heard Joy Reid mention the name of Melba Wilson, the restaurateur of a landmark Harlem eating establishment bearing her name.  Ah! A perfect candidate for my new project.  Some background: a couple of years ago, I was on a flight headed from Florida to New York City.  I was travelling alone and a fashionable African-American woman was seated next to me.  Before the peanuts were served, we launched into a spirited chat.  She’d just left her basketball super star son at a school in Florida.  We talked about boys, of course, and her restaurant.  I could tell straight away that she was a force of nature and had so many interesting, entrepreneurial activities going on, based out of Melba’s.

So when Joy Reid mentioned Melba’s name, I decided to see what she was up to.  Just this past week, she was featured on the long-running CBS News Magazine 60 minutes talking about the grieving process she and others in the hospitality industry were enduring.  She spoke with great emotion about cutting back on her staff, as seated guests are no longer able to enjoy a meal at Melba’s.  Like other eateries, Melba’s can now only serve take-out and delivered food.  She mentioned one name after the next of her employees, whose lives she knew and cared about deeply.  She proclaimed that the staff at Melba’s were part of her extended family.

She has partnered with Team Unity to launch Melba’s COVID-19 Employee Relief Fund.  She states, “The goal of the fund is to raise a minimum of $250,000 to provide financial relief to the dozens of hourly workers impacted by our establishment.”   As the recently elected president of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, her success is a fait accompli, I believe.  I see, too, that she is part of a food sharing brigade to serve the neediest in her beloved Harlem.

God Willing, when this pandemic dissipates, we shall all go Melba’s at 300 W. 114th Street, in Harlem, for some much-needed comfort food.  Kudos to you Miss Melba!

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