The Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum puts on its dancing shoes and looks to the past to preserve its future when “The Cotton Club Comes to Vallejo” on Saturday, September 11th.
Askari Sowonde Productions is coordinating the gala, thank you very much from Museum Director Jim Kern.
“Like all nonprofits, fundraising is always a challenge for us, especially during the pandemic when we were closed for so many months,” Kern said. “Things are starting to normalize, so this event is an opportunity for the public to support the preservation of Vallejo’s history and have a great time doing it.”
“It’s the first time you’ve done something like this,” Sowonde said on the phone. “I’m excited. All the more excited because Jim has done so much for the community, not just the museum. He opened doors for a lot of people, so it would be great if people came out and supported his work.”
The event, scheduled for 5pm to 9pm, includes the big band of George “Jazzbeaux” Spencer and Vallejos Clinton “Socks” Sockwell, a Norah Khan Designs fashion show and a live silent auction.
The Cotton Club is reminiscent of Harlem, New York City, “a black club, our music, dance, camaraderie, having fun and just jamming and coming down,” said Sowonde. “That era was fun and explosive.”
“The Roaring ’20s were a pretty exciting time in Vallejo,” said Kern. “The city experienced an enormous growth spurt. The Lincoln Highway passed through Vallejo after the Carquinez Bridge was completed in 1927. That same year we built a beautiful new town hall (now the museum) and the Julia Morgan-designed Vallejo Women’s Club opened in 1921. The Vallejo General Hospital opened in the same year, and the Casa de Vallejo also became a large luxury hotel in the 1920s. “
Although the rest of the nation struggled through the Great Depression in the 1930s, “Vallejo kept looking up on Mare Island due to continued shipbuilding and the huge federal payroll,” Kern said. “All of this became a jazz soundtrack pouring out of the bars and clubs on lower Georgia Street.”
Sowonde hopes a few hundred people will come out to take a piece of the Cotton Club to downtown Vallejo with Spencer’s band and dance in front of the museum while other activities take place inside.
“It’s going to be a fun event,” said Kern. “We try to be aware of safety concerns, so we plan to have most of the event outdoors. We also hope people stay masked, especially when they enter the museum, but I think most people take that for granted these days. “
The auction items include a weekend trip to San Francisco, a “high tea” in Julia Morgan’s house followed by a tour of the house, an African photo safari, a limousine ride with chauffeur to Mumm Napa with a champagne tasting for four people and original artwork.
Spencer returns to the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum after performing here at a Black History Month celebration.
Spencer has worked with a long list of well-known headliners, including The Whispers, Vallejo-born Johnny Otis, John Handy, Nina Simone, McCoy Tyner, The Four Tops, and Oscar Brown Jr.
“I hope people come out and support Jim (Kern) who has been a blessing to many people in this church,” said Sowonde. “You don’t find too many people like him.”
The Cotton Club is coming to Vallejo is Saturday, September 11th, 5pm to 9pm, at the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, 734 Marin St. Admission $ 60. You can find more information at www.vallejomuseum.net.