Tag Archives: Historical Marker

Remarking African American History in Philadelphia

Earlier this year, I wrote about the unmarking of African American history in Philadelphia. Historical markers associated with black achievement and seminal events are missing, damaged or desecrated. The conversation about the erasure of black presence from public spaces began at a Kwanzaa celebration. Since then, Avenging The Ancestors Coalition (ATAC) formed the Historical Marker Monitoring Committee of which I am chairperson.

The overarching issue is whose story is told and whose story is preserved in public memory. In 1990, Dr. Charles L. Blockson led the fight to get our stories memorialized on historical markers. We now have to fight to preserve them.

We must be vigilant to ensure public memorials are respected. When I saw the South Street Headhouse District (SSHD) had chained a trash can to the W.E.B. DuBois historical marker, community activist Joe Cox and I were prepared to use bolt cutters to remove it. But SSHD removed it before we got there.

W.E.B. DuBois Collage - Faye Anderson

On March 2nd, I noticed UPS had placed a drop box within inches of the London Coffee House marker which notes the place where African Americans’ ancestors were sold on the auction block. After a “trial by Twitter,” UPS saw the error of their ways and moved the drop box a respectable distance from the marker.

London Coffee House Collage - Faye Anderson

The historical marker program is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical Museum and Commission (PHMC). The agency is responsible for maintaining a marker once installed. The marker honoring Sister Rosetta Tharpe is being refurbished.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe Collage

PHMC lacks the resources to replace missing markers. So it’s imperative that we identify who removed the public memorial and hold them accountable. The Legendary Blue Horizon historical marker was removed between May 5, 2018 and November 17, 2018. The construction companies working on the north and south side of the historic landmark, Ernest Bock & Sons Inc. and Tester Construction Group LLC respectively, point the finger at each other. We know the marker didn’t walk away. Ray Charles could see equipment was used to remove the pole from the sidewalk.

Blue Horizon Collage2

While the construction companies play the blame game, ATAC is not playing. At the group’s March meeting, it was decided that members will call and write Councilman Darrell Clarke in whose district the Legendary Blue Horizon is located. If he continues to ignore his constituents, we will show up at the April 25th meeting of City Council. Perhaps then Clarke will see the problem of disappearing blackness and hold developers accountable.

#DisappearingBlackness2

Shout, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Shout!

The story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe is coming to the stage on Broadway. The guitar virtuoso played with jazz greats, including Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Lucky Millinder and Duke Ellington.

Sister-Rosetta-Tharpe-Duke-Ellington-and-Cab-Calloway

BroadwayWorld reports:

Shout, Sister, Shout! is the story of the trailblazing performer Sister Rosetta Tharpe who influenced scores of popular musicians, from Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Little Richard, Eric Clapton and Etta James. Rosetta Tharpe was gospel music’s first superstar. A guitar virtuoso with a clear, ringing voice, she took the rich musical traditions of Black Pentecostal churches and made music for the world to enjoy. Audiences adored her and said she played guitar “like a man” — even though men learned a thing or two from her.

Before we had the phrase “women in rock,” Rosetta rocked churches, tent-meetings, revivals, dance clubs, stadiums, and concert halls — from Carnegie Hall to the Grand Ole Opry. Her remarkable journey–from Cotton Plant, Arkansas to an acknowledged influence on Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and a generation of British rockers–shows how a black female gospel musician was an essential player in the development of rock-and-roll. She is a pioneer and considered by many to be “The Mother of Rock and Roll.”

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