Editor's Note: Byron Hurt is a documentary filmmaker whose latest film, Soul Food Junkies, is scheduled to broadcast on PBS’ Independent Lens in January 2013.
A friend of mine called me Thursday evening and asked, “Did you hear the news about Sylvia?”
I knew right away which Sylvia my friend was referring to. Something must have happened to Ms. Sylvia Woods, the pioneering restaurateur whose soul food gave so many people comfort.
As I thought about the social and historical significance of Sylvia, what struck me is that my friend didn’t refer to Sylvia as "Ms. Woods" or "Sylvia Woods."
She simply said "Sylvia." It was as if she were calling to inform me that a family member or a close personal friend had just passed.
Though Sylvia Woods was not a blood relative, she felt like one to me, and to anyone who frequented her world famous Harlem restaurant. It was a place where you were home. You could let your guard down, relax and dig in.
In her restaurant, framed pictures show Sylvia smiling next to wealthy entertainers, powerful politicians, important foreign dignitaries and famous athletes. The photos are a testament to her wide array of fans across racial and cultural lines.
Read - Opinion: Sylvia's, like soul food, feels like home
Previously - Sylvia Woods, queen of soul food, dies at 86 and Sylvia Woods – beyond the label, a legacy of dignity and inspiration
I admit that the first and only time I visited Sylvia's in Harlem was when I shot a scene for 'Soul Food Junkies', directed by Mr. Byron Hurt. Due to my Vegan diet, I was never compelled to visit. Yet, my entry through the doors felt like I was visiting a very warm and hospitable Southern home. I felt a very "grandmother-like" spirit engulfing the atmosphere. I remember the staff of Sylvia's was very accommodating to the cast and crew of the documentary. I know she is legendary in her accomplishment and culinary offerings. I was saddened by the news. But, she has left a legacy and it continues to thrive. RIP Ms. Sylvia Woods
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