[Aimee Allison | OaklandSeen] For much of the time Sweet Jimmies was the heart of Oakland nightlife in the 90's, I would catch glimpses of nighttime boisterous dancing and singing at the spot through the grainy lens of Soul Beat TV. Now Soul Beat and Sweet Jimmies nightclub are a decade gone, and I find myself longing for that Oakland spirit. "Sweet Jimmie" Ward died Friday night at the age of 74 - a former longshorman who was one of hundreds of thousands who came from the South to work at the shipyards or on the Army base during World War II and stayed to raise families and start businesses and shape neighborhoods. Ward made Sweet Jimmies into the place to go - dressed to the nines - where old soul from Mississippi and Lousiana and Georgia was alive.
Those in Sweet Jimmie's generation brought small town manners and blues and political organizing and art. They created a legacy and culture in Oakland that defines us today. Now, Oakland's black population has plummeted under the weight of unemployment and police sweeps and shady mortgages. But you can still see the storefront of the old Sweet Jimmies at 577 18th Street in downtown Oakland. Many people don't know that for many years it was an important meeting place for African-American political and community organizations. It was a center of influence. And while many celebrate the remaking of culture and nightlife in the city, I am taking a moment to mourn what we lost. See, Sweet Jimmies wasn't just another nightclub, Jimmie Ward just another nightclub owner. He represented an era here in Oakland. And that era is over.
The public service for Jimmie Ward is this Thursday at Good Hope Church at 5717 Foothill Blvd. The event will begin with a quiet hour at 7 p.m. A public funeral will follow on Friday at noon in the same location.
Aimee Allison is founder and executive producer of OaklandSeen.com. Join the facebook group at www.facebook.com/oaklandseen
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