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Moore’s Lounge GoFundMe campaign will help more than one of N.J.’s foremost jazz scenes

NJ.com logo NJ.com 3/4/2021 David Menzies, nj.com

Even before the pandemic officially hit last March, Moore’s Lounge had been getting back on its feet after a very complicated renovation process.

Before that, the tavern at 189 Monticello Ave. founded almost 52 years ago by Ruth Moore and the late Bill Moore and had regularly been host to jazz bandleader and drummer Winard Harper’s “Meet the Artist” series, featuring some of the top jazz musicians in the country, along with a weekly jam session.

Harper built on a monthly jazz event at Moore’s facilitated by jazz promoter Tracy Simmons, and as much had been possible post-renovation and -pandemic, has been holding social distancing-observed jazz sessions – in addition to playing with fellow out-of-work musicians on the sidewalk on his own Jersey City street when weather allowed.

“None of us have really had work for like a year,” Harper said.

But a few events are not enough.

“Bills haven’t stopped,” Harper said. “There’s no freeze on anything, so … especially for a small Black business, you have no money coming in but you still have bills rolling in. How do you keep things getting paid?”

The Moores’ daughter, Janice Moore, has set up a GoFundMe campaign: “Help Moore’s Lounge Stay in Business”: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-moores-lounge-stay-in-business.

As of March 2, the campaign has raised a little over $11K of a $30K goal.

“Just what I know from my work over the years in New Jersey, I think what we had established before they closed down was probably one of the foremost jazz scenes in New Jersey, especially being that close to New York,” Harper said. “It was a little more potent than anything than would have been anywhere else.”

There are no other regular spaces in Jersey City for budding jazz musicians, especially ones without much resources, to take the stage or practice, so for one place to be the sole venue was a lot, and its loss would mean a bigger deficit. Even in nearby New York City, the jazz venues peopled by a network of established musicians is daunting.

Moore’s may be more welcoming, in that regard, and not just as a venue for jazz.

Ruth Moore does not like the spotlight (she preferably wanted it mentioned that Assemblywoman Angela McKnight and Michelle Massey of the Jackson Hill Main Street Management Corporation are names worth noting as offering Moore’s a lot of support), but Miss Ruth likes people a great deal and Moore’s Lounge has been the venue through which she’s been able to help her community.

Marcelle Jackson, who was with Miss Ruth during our phone interview Sunday, said Miss Ruth is a local legend for sure.

“I adore her,” Jackson said. “She has been in my life … I can’t tell you how long. She’s a second mother to me. She and my mother were the best of friends when my mother left, she said she was going to take it on.”

“I’m just grateful I was able to stay here, you know,” Miss Ruth said. “It’s a poor area. People think that because I’ve been here all these years that I should have something, but I don’t.

“That’s the thing, and people should know if you’re in an area where people have needs – not necessarily wants, they have needs. ‘Can you (give me) some milk?’ It’s always ‘Can you?, Can you?, Can You?’ and over the years that’s what I find myself doing.”

If some people didn’t have money for a post-funeral repast and they came to Miss Ruth, they were able to have it at Moore’s.

“I wasn’t able to save a whole lot ... with the cost of running the place and the cost of being closed some of the times because I was afraid to be here by myself.”

As she’s gotten older, if she’s alone and someone rings the bell, Miss Ruth doesn’t let them in if she doesn’t know them.

“Being a Black woman, and being an older Black woman like I am now, you can imagine I went through a lot down here, but people like yourself and my community, they were always behind me,” Miss Ruth said. “Like, for the seniors, we would do (a meal for) like 50, 60 seniors. I said, ‘Listen, I’m a poor woman, I can’t afford to do this by myself.’ And they’d say, ‘Miss Ruth what you need?’ One would bring string beans, the other would bring collared greens. One would bring potato salad. By the time we get everything together, we have the biggest, best party in the whole city.

“The community was so, so very good. I didn’t do this by myself. That’s why I don’t like to do interviews, because I didn’t do this alone. I did this through a nice bunch of people in my community – and out of the community, too. They would call me and say, ‘What can I do?’

“And it just made everything work out fine, because I had great, great, great support down here.

“That’s why I don’t want to leave,” Miss Ruth said. “I’ve said, the only way I want to leave here is – I want to just... I wanna just go to heaven. I don’t want to leave because I’ve been here so long, and the kids, the grandkids, the great grandkids. There’s about three generations of people that I know right here right now, and they came in here to bond. ... Now they’re bringing their grandchildren in, they’re bringing their great grandchildren in. It really, really, really makes me feel good.”

What doesn’t make Miss Ruth feel so great is the anxiety over the bills that keep coming in, along with the pandemic. Miss Ruth is aware she could sell the place, but you can’t take money with you, she said.

In a challenging area where Moore’s is the only one left of 11 taverns that existed around it when they started out, Moore’s has helped keep a few lights on.

“This one guy, he put a pillow in his stomach. And some things I could never forget,” Miss Ruth said. “They gave him a Santa Clause suit, and he put his fake beard on and all the little kids came and said to me, ‘Oh, Miss Ruth. We didn’t know they had Black Santa Claus.’

“I said, ‘Santa Claus comes in all colors. Black, Brown.’ But they were so shocked because they didn’t know.”

Again, the address for that GoFundMe is https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-moores-lounge-stay-in-business.

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