Sylvia’s Soul Food Owner Dead at 86: Harlem Loses the Queen of Soul Food

As Posted on PolicyMic

Seldom do we ever hear of a non-chain restaurant that is able to transcend the local mom and pop world and become a cultural icon. But a Harlem woman of humble beginnings was able to take a small luncheonette in 1962 and build an empire through soulfulness and congeniality. Sylvia Woods, the Queen of Soul Food, became a household name for serving the best soul food around;  and she did it all with a trademark smile and caring heart. This past Thursday, Woods died at the age of 86. She is survived by four children, 18 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren.

Some people may make the mistake of quickly glancing over Woods’ death in the headlines and completely missing out on how much of an impact she has had on the African American community and beyond. People from all around the country are likely to have a Sylvia story. I remember my family rushing to grab a sweat potato pie and waiting on Sylvia’s trademark long lines after we weren’t able to bake dessert in time for our fourth of July cookout. There was also all the commotion around town when Sylvia finally acquired space in Brooklyn during Brooklyn’s revitalization in the late 1990’s; saving us all the long subway ride up to Harlem. Even New York City hip hop mogul Funk Master Flex gave Sylvia constant shout outs and accolades on his Hot 97 radio show. And of course, every New Yorker knows that Harlem resident, and jazz enthusiast, Bill Clinton frequent Sylvia’s, even during his trips to New York as president.

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Filed under Culture, Policymic, Race

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