Harlem’s Divine Divas & Divos

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LaZette McCant

By Sylvia Lewis, Examiner.com

After migrating from Alabama to Harlem, LaZette McCants’ late father, Warren “Birdland” Suttles, co-founded the Ravens. As Harlem’s first bird-named vocal group, some readers may remember the others had names like the Orioles and the Larks. The Ravens opened for Dinah Washington and were big stars back in the day of radio, according to a Daily News feature.

The Negro Leagues elected her uncle, George “Mules” Suttles, to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Georgette Suttles, her mother, 87, still reigns as the queen diva on the Senior Usher Board at the Convent Avenue Baptist Church. So, it’s no wonder that the divine Ms. McCants started the Volunteer Divas & Divos Plus, the premiere volunteer group for Uptown arts and culture. Talent and community service are in her genes!
Operating for only two years with no budget except for donations from its own members, the Divas & Divos Plus provide a lifeline for countless theaters, performing artists and community organizations. With over 100 members, they provide “front of the house” management, ushers, gallery sitters, hospitality, volunteer training, audience development and media coordination.

“Most of us are seasoned show-biz folks, activists and professionals in many areas. We do what is necessary to get the job done. We don’t cook or clean but we can find resources who can do those tasks for a small fee if they need them,” said McCants.

An award-winning volunteer, McCants was honored by President Bush in 2004 with the President’s Volunteer Service Award for clocking in over 4000 hours in a two-year period.

“Our divas and divos know Harlem’s arts and culture for what it was and what it is.” LaZette added that she was also thrilled by the explosion of Harlem tourism that has given new life to this iconic neighborhood historically known for entertainment and culture.

The group receives daily requests for their services. Past activities include: Harlem Week, Harlem Fine Arts Festival, Sakura Cherry Blossom Festival, Riverside Theater, National Black Theater, Schomburg Library, A Streetcar Named Desire, King Lear, Anthony & Cleopatra, An Evening with Ruby Dee and many other events.

“The Volunteer Divas are gracious, effective and definitely needed here in Harlem. I breathe a little easier whenever they are involved with my events and productions,” said Voza Rivers, Harlem’s busiest theater producer/director and executive director of Heritage Theater Group.

“I support volunteerism in my community and welcome visitors to celebrate our vibrant culture. Some folks would rather spend $75 on a Broadway ticket than $25 on a Black theater production. I want our artists to know that they are loved and have not been abandoned.” Contact: volunteerdivas@gmail.com.

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