Kira Van Niel

Kira Van Niel was among the guests who who lined up for photos and to chat with the Kasi Lemmons. Lemmons is the director of the highly anticipated Harriet Tubman biopic and librettist for the Opera Theatre Saint Louis world premiere of ‘Fire Shut Up in My Bones’ as the OTSL community conversation Saturday night at Webster University.

The AKAs Airport takeover. The ladies of the Omicron Eta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha gave the girls a J15 to remember with their Founder’s Day set Saturday night at Lambert’s Concourse B. It was quite cute – and those sequined tops that a bunch of the pretty girls were prancing around in were absolutely everything. Sorors from millennial to baby boomer were in the building – done all the way up with their pinky fingers to the moon. I must say that quite a few of the men of Kappa Alpha Psi came through to show love. And they were looking super-duper dapper, with many of them in Eurofit tuxedos. Corey Clines, Jason Ware and Justin Triplett, I’m talking about you. I wish I knew the name of that cute little caramel-colored, fashion-forward Kappa so I could shout him out too – he wasn’t wearing a tux, but was still serving up a fly little look. I ran into my boy Bishop V Luv, who I haven’t seen in ages. I don’t know if he’s in any fraternity, but it’s always good to see him. I really enjoyed myself – to the point where it made riding around the departure and arrival pickup lanes until I got dizzy (which was totally my fault) absolutely worth it.

One in a million indeed. James Biko (the DJ and events producer formerly known as Nappy DJ Needles) is officially batting 1000 with his Aaliyah tributes. This year’s art show and spin session at Urb Arts featured several local visual artists and co-piloted on the wheels of steel by Agile One was totally worth that icky weather. I ran into my girl Christina Bailey over at Radio One. And I never noticed before Friday, but with a side swept bang and a 27-inch sew-in she could totally pull off some solid Aaliyah realness. I also ran into Shay Brown and Kristion Blackmon, Mimi Hood and a whole bunch of other folks who will most definitely be mad because I forgot to mention them. Hey Marty! I saw him too. I’m so happy that Biko is apparently making OIAM (One In A Million) an annual thing, because I always seem to forget just how much she slayed the game until it comes around to remind me. The visual art was the perfect touch, too.

Missing Mandarin already. Because I just couldn’t say goodbye to Biko’s Aaliyah jam, I missed Mandarin’s big farewell. The cozy second floor CWE hotspot gave me some of my favorite memories from the _______________(insert new slang for young, black and fabulous) scene. All of the VIPs of the uppity scene used to be jammed up in there for a cute little set from Koncepts and several of the other promoters that catered to the “we don’t think we’re bougie, but we don’t get mad if you call us that” crowd. It was the unofficial hang spot for the St. Louis Rams (LA Rams, killa). They had some hotties on that team. It was at Mandarin that I made friends with Orlando Pace, Derek Stanley (he is still so doggone fine!), Fakhir Brown and Torry Holt. It’s also where Pisa Tinoisamoa tore his drawers with me by trying to give me a fake name. “I was like, ‘Sir, ain’t nobody trying to get you … I’m just being cordial.” It was also at Mandarin that Steven Jackson earned a permanent place in the hall of fame of my heart. There was a big sexy on the dance floor grooving and minding her own business when a few of his former Rams teammates who were such non-factors that I can’t even remember if anybody ever knew their names. Isn’t it always the second-string folks that’s trying to show out? But anyway, back to the story. They were pointing and laughing at her – one of them was so awful as to make a pig noise. She went to retreat to the wall, but before she could get over there, Steven peeped what was happening and asked for her hand to dance. She thought he was joking, but he whispered something in her ear that gave her the courage to take his hand and head to the middle of that dancefloor. They cut a rug for at least five songs – I’m talking about straight up jukin’! And when their session was over, he gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. That was my favorite all-time Mandarin memory.

The Alphas MLK mixer. Now normally I don’t partake in purely social gatherings that are held in the name of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but since these were his frat brothers – and they had a program of sorts before the party – I decided to hit up Blue Lounge to show my support. I got in before the snow started and left before the roads became a mess – and I was glad I stopped through. It was a cute little gathering that got plenty of support from the AKAs. I lost count of the pretty girls that I saw at the airport the evening before. I ran into some Alphas I have mad love for – like  Henry, husband of Renee Thomas-Woods (one of my favorite AKAs) and Jacque Land, husband of one of my favorite Deltas ( hey, Leata). It was good little gathering with a delicious brunch menu.

STL Shed has begun. There’s a new urban open mic in town, and I have a feeling it’s going to be life more abundantly. Tish Haynes-Keys, Justin Hoskin and Katrina Reece (those were the ones wearing the STL Shed t-shirts, so forgive me if you didn’t have one on and I left you out) have teamed up to turn BB’s into a hub for R&B/Soul/Rap/Funk rising stars and familiar favorites from the local music scene every fourth Tuesday. The first one went well. Regulars like Brianna Brown, Tish, Justin, Katrina, Trunesia and TreG blessed the mic – and they had a rotating group of musicians going in and out. The audience was so lit, it made me want to sign up on the list and do a song or two. Or maybe I’ll do like that saxophone player – bring my own instrument and just sit in the audience and play along to every.single.song. I haven’t played the violin since the sixth grade, so I won’t be as good as he was, but if next month’s crowd is anything like the first one, the crowd will cheer me on and encourage me no matter what I sound like.

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