In order to give voice and perspective to a male-dominated theory that says only men (particularly white men) are the pitmasters, I want to introduce you to nine dynamic black women who have earned the title pitmaster, and helped create, in our culture, what we know now as the “barbeque experience”.
Barbeque and classic 70’s and 80’s soul music is one hell of a combo; ain’t nothing like it in the world. Come with me to the
“Pit” (a black-owned barbeque joint). It's 1973, in Oakland, California, America is in a recession, and it’s ludicrous to think of starting a business, but those rules don’t apply to these goal-driven, hard-working, take-no-mess, no-holds-barred women who were born and raised for this. Walk through their doors and all of your senses go into overload; the smell and taste is unsurpassed or subservient to non-other. In fact, it is superlatively superior to all its competitors near and far. Bow down bitches this is Fantabulous!. It is soul food-food of the soul.
This Labor Day I want to honor the BBQ goddesses who chopped up BBQ in the early 70’s and 80’s; the ones who took your money, and were the expert pitmasters. I'm talking about the eight Everett sisters and their mama from Everett and Jones Barbeque; nine fierce black, female pitmasters- Dorothy, Virginia, Annie, Dorothy Jr, Shirley, Mary, Helen, Yolanda and Sarah, (enough to field a baseball team), BBQ icons; forever in a class of their own and could stand toe to toe with any man claiming to be better. If the soul music coming from the jukebox didn’t get you, the “Brickhouses” behind the counter working sure did. With their SmokyFros (afros and smoke), short skirts and pantyhose; they made the place hot! If you hear any noise, it ain’t the boys getting down; it’s the sisters running thangs! These nine beautiful, classy, sassy, sexy, big-legged (they got it from their mama) queens made history and have come to take their rightful place on the throne.
Don’t get it twisted; the damn sexiness of these sisters didn’t limit their abilities to be some bad- ass cooks; these sisters could burn the roof off the sucker. They put fire in your soul and pep in your steps and not just with the hot sauce. The jukebox spinning 45’s from the corner of the restaurant hold the soundtrack and stories of the black experience; golden oldies and current monster jams. I dare you not to sway to the tunes. The food and music are connected-two natural forces working in perfect harmony doing a slow grind that should only be done at a basement party with a red light on. The music is the secret sauce and it made the BBQ taste better.
On Friday and Saturday nights, the Pit was packed like a house party. You were either on your way to the club or coming back and stopping to get some ‘que was part of the rotation. The jukebox was like a righteous deejay that kept the party going. Married men took off their wedding rings when entering the restaurant. They dedicated songs to the sisters . . . the way you walk and talk really sets me off to a 4 alarm, child, yes, it does, the way you squeeze and tease, knocks to me my knees ‘cause I'm smoking', baby. The way you swerve and curve, really wrecks my nerves and I'm so excited, child (yeah), woo, woo. Before Fire by the Ohio Players (1974) was the theme song for Gordon Ramsay’ Hell’s Kitchen it belonged to the Everett & Jones girls.
All night long men fed the jukebox, dropping quarters, stuffing the tip jar, dedicating songs to the sisters, in hopes for extra meat or at least a telephone number. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t depending on how strong their game was. Disco Lady by Johnnie Taylor (1977) got the cutie pie cutter groovin’ and choppin’ ribs to the beat . . . shake it up shake it down, move it in move it around, disco lady . . . sexy lady girl you drive me crazy . . . shake it baby shake it, baby shake your thang. The way these fine big-legged sisters are handling the meat cleaver is frightening; wouldn’t want to make her mad, but only made you want her more. The sisters could chop up a whole slab of ribs in 10 seconds flat, I ain't lying, into 25 to 30 pieces with precision and not leave any of her fingers on your plate. Perfection!
The fine, amazon, pit boss in her short skirt is built! She's stacked with all the curves that men like. You can tell the sister knows her BBQing shit; busting all stereotypes and doubts that women can’t barbeque-can’t compete, and can’t master the art of slow smoking meat over wood in brick smokers. You obviously didn’t know these women. “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” – Carl Carlton (1975) . . . look at her, she’s a bad Mama Jama, she’s just as fine as she can be . . . she’s poetry in motion a beautiful sight to see. As she goes about her work she has you hypnotize, mesmerized by her skills and when she stoops over to throw more oak wood on the fire, lawd have mercy, you have died and gone to BBQ heaven.
The doors of the brick pit are open now and smoke billows into the room; men try to steal a peek over the master’s shoulders looking for tips on how to up their “que” game. The pit (also the name for the brick smoker) is full. Beautiful beef briskets with dark bark can be seen along the back wall, golden brown pork ribs neatly lined in rows across the front. Homemade beef links hang like ropes across the top, while the chickens are stored in individual chard brown paper bags to catch its dripping. The smokin’ process is intricate and carefully done with perfection in the indoor brick pit. There were no burn barrels or other smokehouses out back that separated the customers from the full smoking process. It was all done in front of you subliminally making you buy more BBQ then intended.
Donna Summer is yelling from the jukebox that she needs some Hot Stuff (1979) tonight as you wait for your ticket number to be called. 2-way combos of either ribs and links or ribs and brisket with potato salad are flying out the door. Someone is asking for BBQ sauce on their potato salad and for extra white bread to sop up the sauce and then, Got to Give it Up by Marvin Gaye (1977) comes on the jukebox “Heyyy!!!”….and with the first beats everybody in the joint start rocking . . . I use to go out to parties and stand around ‘cause I was too nervous to really get down. You don’t mind the wait for your ‘que because you’re groovin’ in sync with everybody else. The maestro Barry White’s - Ecstasy (1977) is up next with his orchestra . . . with your body dancing in my mind, followed by the calm laid back Thankful for what you Got by William Devaughn (1974), . . . Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac gangsta whitewalls TV antennas in the back, you may not have a car at all, but remember brothers and sisters you can still stand tall. Just be thankful for what you've got. Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac, diamond in the back, sunroof top diggin' the scene with a gangsta lean wooh-ooh-ooh. Everybody in the joint knew the words.
The loud rapid chopping coming from the cutting board, which sits on top of a butcher block table, combined with the hum of voices talking, laughing and singing along with the music sound like back-up singers to the songs; That combined with the iron metal doors on the brick pit banging shut every time the cutter enters to get more beef or ribs, made it seem like you’d stepped into a choreographed stage production and were part of the show. There was a whole lot of rhythm going around. It was performance art at its finest!
Now on the jukebox, the Mothership has landed and the whole place is funkdafied. You are Not Just Knee Deep in a triple dose of some p-funk uncut by Parliament . . . you got ants in your pants and need to dance. Next up Aqua Boogie (1978) got you believing you can . . . dance underwater and not get wet; and finally One Nation Under a Groove – Parliament (1978) has everyone promising to . . . funk, the whole funk and nothin’ but the funk.
The classic authentic barbeque experience at black-owned BBQ joints never goes out of style: it’s in the DNA (Da Noisy Atmosphere). Mama Dorothy taught her girls that if you wanted the job done right, then move and let a woman do it. Nine Black Queens who have slayed every day to build their reputation for over 45 years of hard work. They did the same work as men; were twice as good, but got half the credit. They knew what they were up against and did not back down. Before social media, you had to work hard and consistently put out a great product to earn the title of pitmaster, now all you have to do is buy a commercial smoker, post photos, retweet and call yourself a pitmaster; Boy Bye! The family knew that odds were stacked against them, and some hoped they would fail, but they did it anyway. Just as classics will never go out of style neither will BBQ and music. Long live the 70’s and 80’s R&B, funk, disco and the history and legacy of black owned BBQ joints! #TheBBQEXPERIENCE . #BlackGirlMagic
By Shirley Everett-Dicko and Yvette Jones-Hawkins
10 years ago today. . . in remembrance of Dorothy Everett, founder of Everett and Jones Barbeque playlist. Love and miss you,
This beautiful poem was written by our long time neighbor and customer Larry Sullivan for our mother when she passed in 2007. Larry lived behind the restaurant on Fruitvale Avenue in Oakland. He would often yell his order to me from his window or over the fence if he saw me in the backyard. I loved his thoughtfulness and the poem. I share it every year on October 8th.
If a street can give barbeque a flavor then the secret sauce for Oakland style barbeque was 7th Street in West Oakland.
I received a tweet this past summer asking the question What BBQ story does the Bay tell? The African American roots of Oakland-style barbeque have deep cultural connections to West Oakland’s famous and historic 7th Street. If Streets could talk, West Oakland’s historic 7th Street would tell the story of Barbeque, Blues, Black Power and urban removal. If a street can give barbeque a flavor then the secret sauce for Oakland style barbeque was 7th Street.
Blues was the music they played on 7th Street and barbeque was the food they ate. Oakland-style barbeque is the Blues. Just like the Blues, American barbeque was birthed out of hard times on slave plantations, and is the pride and grit of the Black Power in the late 1960's. 7th Street to Oakland was what Beal Street is to Memphis. People went there to eat and be entertained.
Lowell Fulson was the most important figure in West Coast Blues in the 1940s and 1950s.
Blues on 7th Street Playlist
In the 1940's, 50’s and early 60s Slim Jenkins' Supper Club made 7th Street the Harlem of the West-home of West Coast blues, and Jenkins Original Bar-B-Que in the 1960’s helped define a barbeque culture and dynasty that could rival any barbeque city in America today. The Black Panther Party created a national black power movement that gave all power to the people.
The combination of all three-BBQ-Blues and a revolutionary created the smoky, charred, robust flavor which Oakland-style barbeque is known. Not only is it unique to its location, but it defines a culture. Still today it captures the hard work, funky groove and passion of 7th street.
Before urban removal swept through the Black community, barbeque could be found 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Before the Cypress Freeway cut the neighborhood in half and displaced 600 families and dozens of businesses; before the new U.S. Post Office Distribution Center demolished nearly 500 homes with a World War II surplus tank clearing 20-acres of land and destroying the customer base; before the Bay Area Rapid Transit (Bart) wiped out the remaining commercial street, 7th Street was lined on both sides with barbeque joints. Earle’s Famous Bar-B-Que was at 1483, Burk’s Seafood & Barbeque at 1479, Singer’s Bar-B-Q at 1496, Jenkins Original Barbeque at 1541, Crissie’s Barbeque Pit at 1546, and Fields Bar None Bar-B-Q at 1612.
During this time, 7th Street was filled with smoke, afros, leather trench coats, bell-bottom jeans, loud music and sharp cars. The smell in the air was of meat smokin.’ The sound of music blaring from clubs and jukeboxes was the Blues. The ladies of the night, with young sailors draped on their arms, worked on one end of the street while BBQ joints were smokin’ on the other.
Oakland-style barbeque is defined by Oakland’s Big Three- Jenkins, Flint’s and Everett and Jones-the standards-the heart and soul of this Bay Area town’s barbeque culture. But before there was a Flint’s or Everett and Jones, there was Jenkins.
The original Jenkins Barbeque, located on the corner of Henry and 7th Street, was torn down to make way for Bart, so Jenkins moved across the Street to 1660 7th Street. Jenkins Barbeque stayed open 24/7 operating 3 shifts, with lines out the door constantly. Jenkins offered take-out service; sit down dining and private dining booths in the back. Jenkins was the first barbeque restaurant to attract a diverse customer base. Jenkins took barbeque to the next level.
Jenkins Original Barbeque was owned and operated by Reverend Memphis Jenkins, the pastor of our church, King Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, located across the street from DeFremery Park in a Victorian-style home on Peralta Street in West Oakland. My dad, Reverend Cleveland Everett, founded King Chapel Missionary Baptist Church before Reverend Jenkins took over, and my mom, Dorothy Everett, was the church’s First Lady. Rev. Jenkins treated my mom like his daughter.
Many of my family members worked at Jenkins. My mother was a cook, and my brother George, sister Annie, three cousins, two aunts Nearvie and Polly, and I all worked at Jenkins’. My Aunt Nearvie tells the story of how her husband, Uncle J.C, a deacon in the church, had words with Reverend Jenkins one Sunday after service. Someone did not show up for work at the restaurant and Reverend Jenkins wanted Aunt Nearvie to go in and work the shift. Well, Uncle J.C. didn't want her to go to work and blew up at Reverend Jenkins and Uncle J.C never stepping foot in Jenkins again.
I remember going to work at Jenkins with my mom on the weekends. At the age of 13, I was only allowed to make the potato salad and season the meat that came in daily-20 cases of ribs, 10 cases of beef briskets, 10 cases of chicken. My brother's job was to stack all of the oak wood delivered to the restaurant. There was always a lot of work to do because the place stayed busy. It was weird to see and hear Rev. Jenkins, this big imposing man with a big voice, preach the gospel at church on Sunday in his suit and tie and later see him dressed down in all white, shirts, pants, apron and a paper hat at the restaurant giving orders and helping to serve hundreds of customers. He taught us a lot about the running of a barbeque business.
I remember his huge brick pit inside the restaurant that lined one wall. It was always spitting out heat and chars of wood. We had to be careful, wearing our flammable black nylon uniforms and aprons, not to get too close to the fire. I remember in the center of the serving area was a big old oak chopping block. It had 4 legs and would make a loud whack sound as the meat cleaver hit it. Whack! Whack! Whack! The electric fans were whirling overhead trying to cool down the place from the overwhelming heat produced from the customers packed inside and the fire-burning pit; you could lose 10 pounds in water weight before your shift ended.
When you work in a barbeque restaurant with an indoor wood burning pit the smell clings to you. You smelled of fire, meat, wood and BBQ sauce every day after your shift. You reeked of it; it clung to your hair, clothes and shoes. We used to joke that it takes a special person to date or marry someone who works in a barbeque pit, but we worked hard while the jukebox blasted West Coast blues.
With the destruction of the once vibrant African American community in West Oakland we moved into East Oakland and Jenkins followed. He opened on 82nd Avenue and East 14th Street. My mother eventually left Jenkins and later partnered with Willie Flintroy to lay the foundation for the first Flint’s Bar-B-Q restaurant at 66th Avenue and East 14th Street. Flint’s would become a powerhouse in Oakland’s barbeque culture. With mom’s cooking skills and recipes Flint’s dominated the Barbeque scene for many years, and when he died my mom decided it was time to open her own barbeque restaurant.
With her nine kids as her workforce, many years of experience with Reverend Jenkins and Mr. Flintroy, she was confident she could do it. My mother took an old condemned building on the corner of 92nd Avenue and East 14th Street, renovated it and in 1973 the first Everett and Jones Barbeque was born at 9211 East 14th Street in Oakland. Next door was the East Bay Dragons-the first all-black, all-Harley, all-chopper motorcycle club in Oakland. The East Bay Dragons are one of the oldest (1959) remaining black motorcycle clubs in California; and are still our brothers.
Everett and Jones Barbeque is committed to honoring the traditions and legacy of West Oakland’s historic 7th Street barbeque culture. Fun fact: Reverend Memphis Jenkins owner of Jenkins Barbeque and Harold “Slim” Jenkins, owner of the famous Slim Jenkins Supper Club-the street’s favorite night club at 1748 7th Street- were not related, but both were from Louisiana. Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party was also born in Louisiana, but moved to West Oakland as a kid. All three men- a night club owner, a preacher and a revolutionary, all from Louisiana raised the visibility and fame of West Oakland’s historic African American community on 7th Street to the national level.
From its historic beginning on 7th Street in West Oakland, the secret recipe for Oakland-style barbeque is this: take a southern, restaurant-owning pastor, a preacher’s wife, some traditional African-American southern soul food, add some West Coast Blues, mix in a Black Power Movement, season it with the scars from urban removal, mix it all together, smoke it over oak wood inside a mason-built brick pit; add a sweet, spicy tomato-base barbeque sauce and there you have it. It’s Hella Bay!
© Shirley Everett-Dicko 2017
© 7thStreetBBQ 2017
Historic fact: The West Coast headquarters of the International Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters, the first national Black labor union in America was also on 7th Street at 1716.
BBQ Culture Terms:
Barbeque - barbeque is spelled “que” instead of “cue” because it is black code. Before the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and just like the old Negro Motorist Green Book Guide Black travelers knew not to stop at a joint with a sign with the word spelled “barbecue” – it was code for a white business.
Barbeque pit - can mean restaurant, joint, shack or the smoker the meat is smoked in.
BBQ - is short for barbeque
Jenkins Original Barbeque:
The sizzling story of East Bay barbecue–Oakland Tribune, by Steven Lavoie,
Gwyn Crosson, June 30, 1993
First in the BBQ Hall of Fame-Oakland Tribune, by Steven Lavoie, Gwyn Crosson, July, 1993
Everett and Jones Barbeque:
Slim Jenkins Supper Club:
Slim Jenkins Supper Club
Slim Jenkins Nightclub and Coffee Shop
Blues on 7th Street:
Blues on Seventh Street
Blues Walk of Fame
Ester's Orbit Room
History of 7th Street:
The Rise and Fall of Seventh Street in Oakland
Black Panther Party:
All Power to the People-Black Panthers at 50 Exhibits
Oakland Urban Farm
A Brief History of West Oakland
Crossroads: A Story of West Oakland
We started from the bottom now we're here #SB50!!!!! Look at Everett and Jones Barbeque - Berkeley restaurant appearing in a Super Bowl 50 commercial with the singer Seal. Bay Area don't start no mess about that Dallas Cowboys' stuff in the windows it's called acting Lol. This commercial #SuperBowlBabies is so funny.
For today's Throwback Thursday here is a hilarious look back to July 4 and 5, 1998. Everett and Jones Barbeque-Jack London LLC is celebrating its 17th anniversary this month. For more Everett and Jones Barbeque history check out our History Corner.
So my daughter took me to the movies yesterday to see her favorite movie Star Wars The Force Awakens. I am a Trekkie and in my household Star Trek ruled. My three children knew that whenever Star Trek reruns came on the TV the rule was stop, drop and watch. But the force was strong with this one she rebelled and joined the Resistance.
My daughter Aiesha is a huge Star Wars fan she was not born when the first movie came out and growing up I bought her dolls and her older brothers, Donald and BJ, Star Wars toys but she turned into the biggest Star Wars fan ever. While driving to the movie theater she gave me explicit instructions not to talk to her during the movie, not a word even though she had already seen the movie on opening day, having attended the midnight showing with her cousins Shamar, Tibletese and Amani so this was her second time seeing the movie.
So after getting our large popcorn, soda, and red vines we made our way inside the theater and found seats dead center half way up. We took off our coats made ourselves comfortable, sat through about 20 minutes of commercials and previews as the theater began to fill up. I expected to be blown away by this billion dollar movie and I wasn't.
I was happy to see that Finn, the black guy, did not die in the first minutes like a Star Trek television episode and to see him holding a light saber and fighting back against the evil Empire definitely for me was a highlight. I sat quietly during the movie only breaking my promise twice once chuckling when Chewy and Han Solo appeared on screen, and once out of irritation with another scene I leaned over and whispered to my daughter that Spock would have just did a mind melt and been done with it. She pulled away as if there had been a great disturbance in the Force.
The movie ended and as we tried to remember where we had parked the car my daughter asked me the dreaded question "So how did you like the movie?" I hesitated and replied "Do you want the truth"? What followed was a lively discussion in the parking lot on my Star Trek versus her Star Wars until my daughter said "Mom lower your voice these people arriving have not seen the movie.” Then we went shopping.
Everett and Jones Barbeque had some unforgettable moments with Natalie Cole. We use to bring BBQ backstage to her and her band when she was in the Bay Area performing. We will miss you rest in peace.
Here is a great holiday gift founder of Everett and Jones Barbeque Dorothy Everett is included in the new book by local historian and blogger Gene Anderson. Available online @ arcadiapublishing.com
Founder Dorothy Everett and Everett and Jones Barbeque are included in the new book "Legendary Locals of Oakland" by local author and blogger Gene Anderson. The book features "some of the amazing people, historic and contemporary, who have helped make Oakland the great city it is". It is scheduled to be released December 7, 2015. You can buy it at Laurel Bookstore downtown, or pre-order it from Arcadia. For more information about the book click on the following link http://legendarylocals.ouroakland.net/
I Hella Love Oakland T-shits
Remembering our baby sister on her
birthday "Saucy Sister #8".
Sarah Angie Everett-Fuqua
1960 - 2013
We miss you so much!
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