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Archive for August, 2006|Monthly archive page

“Racism has gone uncheck in this company…”

In Black Folk who matter..., Uncategorized on August 30, 2006 at 7:55 pm

By Bobbi Booker
The Book Report

Civil rights groups across the nation have blasted the decision by CBS Television to support the producers of the Survivor reality show contest that will set contestants against each other according to race. The announcement of the segregated edition of Survivor comes on the eve of a $1 million racial discrimination trail of a former CBS Radio employee who was forced to resign from WIP-AM sports radio.

According to Duane Lucas, the plaintiff in the upcoming trail against WIP, the announcement about the new season of Survivor is an example of “the consistent arrogance of the company.”

“Racism has gone uncheck in this company for years and nobody challenges them,” said Lucas. “One of the things that happens in this business is that you can’t jump up and scream, ‘racism,’ because where are you going to get a job at next. So you have to be really professional and sure of what’s going on. Racism is what domestic violence was 40 years ago: you didn’t talk about it.”

Lucas started his career at WIP radio as an account executive in 1994 and in a year was promoted to Director of Sport Sales. He was responsible for the station’s base of advertisers and sponsors and for developing new business in support of the station’s programming for the Philadelphia Eagles, 76er’s and Flyers. According to court papers filed in the United States District court, Lucas was the target of a racially motivated campaign to discredit him and his fellow black colleagues, including talk show hosts Gary Cobb and Carlos Beck, both of whom filed discrimination charges against WIP’s parent company, CBS radio. In 2002, Lucas resigned after receiving a nearly 50% reduction in his salary.

WIP-AM management was unavailable for comments when called on Friday. Earlier in the week, CBS Networks officials issued a statement of support for producers’ decision to pit Blacks, whites, Asians and Hispanics against each other during the early rounds of the show.

“CBS fully recognizes the controversial nature of this format but has full confidence in the producers and their ability to produce the program in a responsible manner,” the network said in a statement. “Survivor is a program that is no stranger to controversy and has always answered its critics on the screen.”

Last season, Survivor registered a franchise-low average of 16.8 million viewers. In announcing this season contestants, show host Jeff Probst insisted the stunt was the next logical step in a series that made its name on exploring social politics.

“If this didn’t say Jeff Probst, I would think that this was something that was produced by David Duke,” said Lucas who charges that CBS’s decision to support the Survivor show proposal is indicative of the corporate culture of the network.

“How long have we been experimenting with this?” wondered Lucas. “Through hangings, through church bombings, through hate crimes, through cross burnings? How much more do we need to experiment with separation of the races?”

On Friday, a group of New York City officials blasted CBS’ announcement that it has split the contestants on Survivor: Cook Islands into tribes by race.

“This idea is so ill-conceived that it would be funny–but for the fact that racism does still sometimes rear its ugly head,” New York city councilman John Liu said at a press conference.” This show has the potential to set back our nation’s race relations by 50 years.”

“CBS has demonstrated great lapse in judgment. As a society, we need to hold corporations responsible for their actions,” New York City councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito said.

“I think that in Survivor they should have the strongest teams that they can,” said Lucas. “Why divide this by race? Why send us back another 200 years? This is just world-class ugly.”

The spread of negative racial stereotypes based on CBS’ decision has already begun on the nation’s airwaves. Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has already uttered racially insensitive comments on his national syndicated broadcast.

Hispanics, he said, “have shown a remarkable ability to cross borders” and “will do things other people won’t do.” Asians, according to Limbaugh, are “the best at espionage, keeping secrets.” Blacks, he said, “lack buoyancy” and are “more likely to drown,” while the white man’s burden will weigh down the last team with “guilt over the fact that they run things.”

Survivor: Cook Island is scheduled to air starting September 14, 2006

Lifestyle/Leisure/Literature

Frederick Douglass Lives…

In Black Folk who matter..., Uncategorized on August 30, 2006 at 7:51 pm

By Bobbi Booker

The Book Report

During the 1850s, the famed abolitionist, orator, editor, statesman, author, suffragist and publisher, Frederick Douglass usually spent about half of the year traveling extensively and giving lectures.

On July 5, 1852, Douglass gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall.
Antebellum audiences enjoyed patriotic speeches on Independence Day, but the mostly white audience found that instead of the expected platitudes to the founding of the U.S., Douglass delivered a scorching denunciation of the preservation of slavery.

It was biting oratory, in which the speaker told his audience, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” And he asked them, “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?”

That now-famous address will be recited again on this upcoming Independence Day by Douglass’ great-great grandson and namesake, Frederick Douglass IV.
Much like the man he calls “Granddaddy,” Douglass IV travels throughout America to continue the legacy of his famed ancestor by lecturing about him, depicting his speeches and reenacting key episodes of his ancestor’s life.

The most memorable element in the Rochester speech was Douglass’ use of the second person to illustrate the chasm between your freedoms as whites under the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and slavery. “He comes down as being barbarous, but he ends (the speech) on a note of optimism because he believes that ultimately all these things were going to be righted, maybe not within his lifetime, but he really felt that the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, the 14th Amendment and other things would lead to equality. To read these things it not only recalls the time in which they were living in which slavery was in America, but the scary part is so much of it is relevant to today.”

“The speech remains contemporary, and in my view, with all respect due to Frederick Douglass, understated,” says radio talk show host Reggie Bryant. “He employs rhetoric and appeals to the conscious and the ethical morality of persons to note what he says. I think he presented them with more credit than they were due. It is clear to me that the context today of (Independence Day) is a vicious and callous and fraudulent exercise when it comes to descendents of those Africans who where kidnapped and brought here against their will and continue too suffer ant the hands of bigots and racist who pretty much dominate the so called government here. There was no reason on that original date, and there is no reason today, for Blacks to celebrate anything. When this so-called declaration was penned, Africans were to face another 100-plus years of slavery.”

Douglass IV travels with his wife of 30 years and co-reenactor, B.J, who similarly portrays Douglass’ wife Anna Murray Douglass. The elder Douglass’ had five children with Douglass IV being the descendent of Frederick Douglass, Jr. The current Douglass’ are founders of The Frederick Douglass Organization, developed to promote education, financial literacy, economic development and bridging the digital divide—all issues that Douglass IV believes his grandfather would embrace.

Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland 1818, but in 1838, at age 20, he escaped to freedom in New York. Eloquent, smart and determined, Douglass gained fame as a speaker, began his own anti-slavery publications and in 1845 published his memoir “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.” In later years he became a personal friend of President Abraham Lincoln and helped persuade Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He died at age 76 in 1895.

Douglass possessed a commanding presence that was enhanced by his rich and powerful baritone voice. His command of the English language has put him in league with some of the greatest orators of all time. In other words, when Douglass spoke, people listened.

“He wanted to broaden his ability to communicate about the need to end slavery,” explained Douglass IV of his ancestor’s desire to start his own antislavery newspaper, the North Star, after living in exile in England. “He decided when he got back to American he was going to purchase a printing press. So in 1845, a Black man with a printing press was on the cutting edge of technology. That’s how he began broadening his reach. So, if he were here today, he would have a podcast, a website, and DVD’s as communication mechanisms. There are lot of things that need to be done in contemporary America, and I think he would be following his premise.”

Dressing as middle class free Blacks of the 1800’s, the Douglass’ work hard to correct misconceptions such as the belief that all Blacks were slaves and that few Blacks, especially women, were involved in the abolitionist movement. For instance, Douglass IV’s great-great grandmother, Anne, was a free woman who encouraged her husband to eventually buy his freedom.

“Part of our overall mission is to let people know that not everybody during the 1800’s was a slave,” says Douglass IV. “There were those who were born free and there were those who purchased their freedom and became professionals. We want to dispel that kind of mythology so when we go out we dress in finery. My wife dresses in the latest fashions of the 1800’s, which women would have done, and I wear a tuxedo and top hat.”

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey Douglass was a dashing man who was
very conscious of his overall representation to both Blacks and whites. For example, although photography was in its infancy during the height of Douglass fame, he was aware of the influence of photos and was cautious to never smile in any pictures of himself because he did not want his likeness abused.

“He was very conscious of the presentation of Black folks was, in that day it was generally buffooness, and so he did not smile because he did not want his image misused in anyway. He felt that if he did smile than someone could put captions or in some way make a joke out of it,” said Douglass IV, a professional photographer, as well.

“This was really at the beginning of the use of photography. He had a printing press, but he was also very conscious of the image, so he allowed his photograph to be taken and distributed so that Black people an image of a Black person that was positive in the home. He was right in on it and he saw the power of it and he used it effectively. ”

Today, Douglass’ role as the father of the Civil Rights Movement is sadly overlooked said Bryant. “I applaud and share with my audiences the content of Fredrick Douglass’ speech and wish only that he were alive today to revise and to perhaps make even more strident the content in his magnificent ability for oration.”

Likewise, Douglass IV recalled an incident “when a young man asked him what he could do to help change society. (Douglass) responded with three words: ‘Agitate, agitate, agitate.'”

Lifestyle/Leisure/Literature

…So “Beautifully Human”

In Black Folk who matter..., Uncategorized on August 30, 2006 at 7:48 pm

By Bobbi Booker

It was four years ago this summer when poet Jill Scott quietly released her debut collection, “Who is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds Vol.1” In the time that’s passed since the North Philadelphia posed that question to the world, Scott has proven to be a musical force to be reckoned with.

“Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol.2” is her third release and the follow-up to her smash debut, which sold over 2 million copies—and is still selling strong. Scott took time off to settle in with her beloved husband, Lyzell Williams, fix up her new home and play with her pet cat. Although a lot of press has been given to Scott’s two-year absence, she was still quietly getting busy in the studio and was featured on several cd’s, including The Roots’ “Phrenology,” saxophonist Jeff Bradshaw’s “Bone Deep” and Kindred the Family soul’s debut.

Scott also took the time necessary to nurture the seeds to what will be hailed as one of the best albums of 2004. Human focuses on the woman that Scott has become. The reflections that she offers in this collection will strike close to the hearts of listeners, as was already demonstrated on her recent 9-city “Buzz Tour.”

Scott has proven that she is not the average girl when it comes to her artistic talent. First of all, she described herself as a poet and that is fully demonstrated in Human’s 17-song offering. From the intro, which begins were Scott ended in 2000 with the closing notes of “He Loves Me (Lyzell In E Flat),” she welcomes the audience into her world. The first single, “Golden,” is a high-stepping affirmation of self-determination that already has women, young and old alike, singing along with a smile.

This collection is chockfull of gems, some of which will be deemed instant classics. “Family Reunion” will be rocked at family gatherings for the next couple of decades because of Scott’s dead-on observations of the different personalities that make everyone’s families unique. Family unity is a major part of Scott’s message throughout this collection and Scott reaches out to her universal Black family to embrace African American men young and old on “The Fact Is (I Need You)” and “Rasool.”

Although marriage is paramount throughout “Human” and there are several standouts that are unique in their reflection of Scott’s prior relationships. In “Bedda at Home,” Scott toys with the idea of a fine man that makes her “want to pull single dollars out my pocketbook,” but she declines because her man is so much more. Scott also makes an unusual move for a female artist on “Can’t Explain” when she admits she was wrong in treating her lover badly and apologizes for her transgressions.

Scott strikes gold with “talk to Me,” a tune about a woman trying to get her man to discuss their problems. The words are simple, but the adventure Scott’s band takes as the song goes from one end of the jazz spectrum to the other, finally exploding with a big band flurry of sound, is incredible.

Although Scott has a Grammy for her work as co-writer for The Root’s “You Got Me,” she was merely nominated for her debut collection. In February, watch for Scott’s

“Beautifully Human” to collect a bevy of awards for this groundbreaking artist.

Originally published 8.31.04

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“Queen Cleopatra had a pool table in her abode…”

In Black Folk who matter..., Uncategorized on August 30, 2006 at 7:44 pm

By Bobbi Booker

The Book Report
Edward ‘Chick’ Davis played pool in his native South Philadelphia
during an era when America’s most roguish sport earned legitimacy and
popularity via its successful stars, including Minnesota Fats and
Willie Mosconi—both of whom played against Chick during his formidable
years. Playing in pool halls across the country Davis frequently
encountered discrimination and had to fight for his right to play as
an equal. This experience motivated him to invest his winnings into
opening three of his own pool halls on South Street in Philadelphia.

Recently, the 98-year-old pool hall marvel joined family and friends
in witnessing the dedication of the “Tribute to Edward ‘Chick’ Davis”
mural next to the site of one of his pool hall sites at 1418 South
Street. Painted by John Lewis, the mural celebrates Davis’ legacy as a
pioneering business leader, entrepreneur, and community activist.
Davis started playing billiards at the Christian Street Y and went on
to become a national championship caliber player.

“This was a man who was multi-talented, but this was where he kind of
made a renowned mark because he played people like Minnesota Fats,
Willie Mosconi, who were legends who got a lot of recognition,” said
son Edward Davis, III. “Here’s a man who played Ralph Greenleaf for
the national championship just before Jackie Robinson broke into the
national league. So, he was a first.”

The dedication featured a special performance by the CAPA Dance
Company, under the direction of LaDeva M. Davis, Chair of the Dance
Department and Chick Davis’ daughter. Davis, one of the legends two
children, spearheaded the efforts to recognize her father’s
contributions to the sport of billiards and his hometown. Chick was
instrumental in keeping clean a sport that was usually played in smoky
bars and on late nights where a win was just as dangerous as a loss.

“Until people discovered that Queen Cleopatra had a pool table in her
abode, they thought that pool was a dirty sport,” said Davis. “And my
father did a lot to clean it up. He made sure that there were no
drugs, alcohol or anything illicit in his pool halls. Women were
welcome to come and partake of the sport. He gave lessons. He would
sit and impart his knowledge of all that he’d went through in his
lifetime.”

Davis explained that her father was a basketball player, but turned to
pool to support his growing family. In addition to his contribution to
the sport of billiards, Davis spent most of his lifetime with his
south Philly childhood sweetheart, LaDeva Davis, who died at age 93 in
2004 after 75 years of marriage. “The big deal is that there are
people here that love my Dad and who have known my Dad for years, or
who love my Dad because of what he stands for and have only just met
him in the last 2, 3, 5 years.”

Amos Florence “Process” Junior, who owns a South Street barbershop of
the same name, was among the 100 guests gathered for the dedication.
In addition to sharing a longtime friendship with Davis, Florence has been
similarly honored with a mural in West Philly. “We go back to the days
where his grandfather taught me how to be a barber,” said Florence.
“I learned to cut hair in the ’40s and I’ve owned a shop since then.”

The Mural Arts Program director Jane Golden excitedly announced that
the Davis wall painting was number 2,659 in a series indoor and
outdoor murals in Philadelphia, more than any other city in the world.
“Everyone, I have to say, was universally thrilled and enthused about
this project,” said Golden. “I know I’m biased, but standing here
today and looking at this beautiful image I want to say to you that
murals have a distinct kind of power. It’s their size; it’s their
scale; it’s the way they surprise us when we’re coming up the street.
But more important than that, it’s a way of holding on to our stories
(and) to our history. Murals are about our dreams and our aspirations;
our struggles and our heroes, (and about) the people who meant
something to us.”

The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program (MAP) started 25 years ago as part
of the Anti-Graffiti Network (PAGN), a citywide initiative to
eradicate destructive graffiti and address neighborhood blight. Today,
Philadelphia is nationally and internationally recognized as America’s
“City of Murals.”

“I feel very honored to be part of the tradition of bringing art to
all the citizens in this city,” said Golden. “Art is not a luxury: it
is a necessity. And the fact that so many people in this city can walk
by, drive by, run by mural of this scale and complexity is wonderful.”

With a sparkle in his eye, the senior Davis kissed the hands of ladies
he was introduced to, but said little as his friends moved him around
gingerly to keep him cool during the dedication.

“Thank you,” he said as he gazed at the mural. “I like it very much.”

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“Philadelphia is important – it’s my hometown…”

In Uncategorized on August 28, 2006 at 2:32 am

By Bobbi Booker

Ed Bradley is among the Philadelphia natives returning home to promote the regional arts and culture scene in an initiative to boost support of Philadelphia art and artists with a series of ads scheduled to begin airing next month.

The advertising campaign is the brainchild of philanthropist H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest and will feature Bradley along with fellow Philadelphians Peter Boyle, David Brenner, Blythe Danner, Kevin Eubanks, Jack Klugman, Al Martino, Cheri Oteri and Parker Stevenson.

“I’m very grateful to the Philadelphia celebrities who came forward to support Philadelphia arts in this effort,” said Lenfest. “Their contribution of time and talent will help bring more attention to the arts.”

The year-long television campaign supports eleven major arts organizations: American Theatre Arts for Youth, Broadway at the Academy, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Kimmel Center Presents, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Ballet, Peter Nero and the Philly Pops, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Philadanco.

“We all could not afford the kind of coverage we get,” said Joan Myers Brown, artistic director, Philadanco. “So having someone upfront it for us and make sure that it happens means a lot to Philadanco.”

The campaign, which began through a three-year commitment from Lenfest in 2002, has been extended through Spring 2008 and will air over $5 million in television airtime during the campaign’s tenure. The goal is to increase the attendance of a culturally diverse audience at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Academy of Music and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. In past years, the star-studded ads have featured vocalist Patti Labelle, dancer Judith Jamison and actor Kevin Bacon.

“The arts are important and Philadelphia is important – it’s my hometown,” says Bradley in one of the current commercials. “I’m always happy to support the arts in Philadelphia. This is a chance for me to say, ‘Hey, come out and watch what’s happening in Philly.’”

In another ad, actress Blythe Danner states that, “Growing up in Philadelphia and being surrounded by the arts was an extraordinary experience. Without the arts we are empty. The arts give us tremendous spirit and life force.”

Lenfest is a media entrepreneur who sold his media holdings to Comcast in 2000 for over $1 billion.

“We sold our company in 2000 and came into a lot of money and had to figure out what we were going to do with the money,” said Lenfest. “We decided to create a television and cable advertising campaign to promote not just the institutions, but to support people buying tickets to come to the event.”

Like each arts group featured, Philadanco has selected premier performances or events that will be highlighted in the ads during the 2006-2007 arts season.

“It’s really important that we get the kind of exposure that we wouldn’t ordinarily get, cause you know as an African-American organization we definitely couldn’t afford it,” said Myers Brown. “There’s a network much larger that we need to b e attracting to our performance, so it really works for us.”

“The media companies have all been great, the celebrities are great and it’s all coming together where they all work together to promote attendance to events in the Philadelphia region,” said Lenfest of the four-year-old campaign. “So it’s been a big success.”
The new series of television commercials were screened earlier this week at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and are scheduled to begin airing Sept. 5.

“…If we did that we would have Harlequin romances on the cover every week.”

In Uncategorized on August 20, 2006 at 1:24 am

By Bobbi Booker
The Book Report

“We don’t choose to review books based on the size of the book tour. If we did that we would have Harlequin romances on the cover every week.”

…NY Times’ reponse as to why it did not do a formal book review during Tavis Smiley’s historic 13 weeks as a Top Ten NYTimes best seller.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For more than a dozen weeks, Tavis Smiley’s “The Covenant for Black
America” has been firmly ensconced in the top five of the New York
Times’ list of nonfiction paperback books. The book has proven to be a
publishing phenomena since it is the first nonfiction book by an African
American publisher to reach and top the best-seller list. Yet, for all
its success, the New York Times has yet to do a formal review of the
text.

“The only mention of the book was in a sidebar,” said author and
Princeton professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. The “sidebar” Glaude referred
to is “Inside the list, ” written by Dwight Garner, senior of the New
York Times Book Review. The column, says Garner, “is an explanation
of books that are on the best seller list and how well they’re doing.”

Smiley spearheaded “The Covenant” project and edited the text that
essentially gathers six years’ worth of national symposiums in a
collection of essays that plot a course for African Americans. “The
Covenant” book is divided into 10 chapters outlining key issues and
primary concerns that affect Black Americans–from health to housing,
from crime to criminal justice, from education to economic parity. The text
features a collection of essays by contributors Dr. David Satcher,
former U.S. surgeon general; Wade Henderson, executive director of the
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; Angela Glover Blackwell,
founder of the research think tank PolicyLink; and Cornel West,
professor of Religion at Princeton University.

The popularity of the book, published by Third World Press, the
nation’s oldest independent African American book publisher, has been
spurred primarily by talk radio, church congregations and plain old
word-of-mouth. According to Smiley, the first stop of his national
tour drew over 5,000 people in Houston, TX. Since then upwards of
30,000 people have come out to support the book’s 10-point message.

“In the book review we don’t review phenomenas as much as we review
books,” said Garner explaining that “the process here is subjective
and we miss good books all the time.”

“Tavis Smiley is terrific at what he does,” said Garner. “He’s a very
smart man, but we don’t choose to review books based on the size of
the book tour. If we did that we would have Harlequin romances on the
cover every week.”

Gould charges that inadequate coverage of this book by the mainstream
media is another example of America poking its head in the sand in
regards to race relations. “It’s not just a phenomenon on the New York
Times best seller list,” charged Gould. “Mainstream America doesn’t
have a clue. I don’t know if mainstream white America has an idea that
a Black reading public is sitting around thinking and talking and
debating these issues and preparing themselves to engage in a much
more robust example of what it means to be a citizen.”

Smiley says this book explores the possibility of hope and strength
will help leaders and citizens keep Black America moving forward.

“Our impact has been widely felt,” said Smiley. “As best we can track
this, what we now see is that given the mainstream exposure the book
has received there are people outside of our community who are
embracing the text. (Others races) are embracing it because if you
took the word ‘Black’ out of this book, what you have is a
comprehensive, progressive agenda for making America better. That
should surprise any of us because that is what our history is and part
of our contribution to this country. Black folk have always been the
conscious of this country. The success of the civil rights movement
empowered all kinds of people. The strength that we had to love anyway
empowers and continues to empower all kinds of folk outside of our
community domestically and internationally.”

The African American community continues to experience devastating
social disparities, including the more than 8 million people who live
in poverty. “There are a lot of Black folk who believe that a piece of
Black America died on that balcony with Dr. King in Memphis 38 years
ago. There are many folk in our community since then who have been
wondering ‘Where is the game plan? The guidebook? Where’s the blue
print or the agenda for how we, in a post-King world, can make Black
America better.’ We don’t just live in a post-King world; we live in a
post- (hurricane) Katrina World. On the other side o this hurricane
there are many more people asking ‘how do we take control of our own
destiny?’ That’s where this text comes in. This is the first time that
we’ve had a blue print, a guide book if you will, for how we advance
our communities on any number of fronts. The book really lays out the
top 10 issues of importance to Black people and tries to provide a
framework for how we can advance our community.”

While the message contained within “The Covenant” is resounding
through the African American community, mainstream media may be forced
to eventually deal with it.

“I wanted to say to, that when books become this big we do sometimes take a second look at them and I think
this is the case where it’s possible where we’ll be doing that,” said
Garner in a return call clarifying his earlier statements. “I can’t
say for sure, but it does influence our decision sometimes where books
catch on with a larger public and I think it’s something we’ll think
hard about.”

“Tavis Smiley has a profound faith in the possibility of everyday,
ordinary Black folk and the Covenant with Black America demonstrates,
illustrates and exemplifies that faith in a way we’ve hardly ever seen
before,” said Glaude. “And what follows will only make our ancestors
smile.”

Originally appeared in the Philadelphia Tribune May 7, 2006

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Recalling Black Men who fought in the Civil War…

In Black Folk who matter..., Uncategorized on August 20, 2006 at 1:21 am
 
 
by Bobbi Booker
The Book Report
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, free Blacks and runaway slaves in the North rushed to sign-up with Union armies. Many were told it was a white man’s war and turned away. Two years passed before African-American men got their chance to fight.The background for the formation of Camp William Penn in the present day LaMott section of Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County, dates back to July 17, 1862, when Congress amended The Militia Act of 1792. The amendment granted President Washington the autonomy “to employ as many persons of African descent as he may deem necessary for the suppression of the rebellion.” It further stated, “for this purpose, he may organize and use them in such manner as he may judge best for the public welfare.”

Camp William Penn has the unique distinction of being the only military ground set up exclusively to train Black troops, drawing recruits from Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. The campsite was located near the present-day Cheltenham Mall and was the largest of 18 Civil War training facilities in the nation.

Comprised of over 10,000 men, 11 regiments of U.S. Colored Troops were trained on the site. The regiments – 3rd, 6th, 8th, 22nd, 24th, 25th, 32nd, 41st, 43rd, and 127th – were the first of African descent, under the authorization for a two-tier compensation system, to receive a $10 monthly service and clothing allotment. Recruits arrived at the campsite June 26, 1863. Many went on to fight in Virginia, South Carolina, Florida and elsewhere.

In recent years a missing page from history has revealed that Philadelphia, long known as the nation’s Cradle of Liberty, is also the starting point for the country’s oldest African-American holiday.

Two years prior to Juneteenth, Philadelphia was the first city to host the first African in America Parade in the United States. This parade consisted of several hundred African Americans marching without arms or uniforms in file with drums, carrying inspiring banners as they headed towards the first training site for the troops.

Camp William Penn’s mission was to train Black soldiers to save the Union, free the enslaved and reunite families. The army of Black men played a pivotal role in aiding the Union in its defeat of the Confederate Army. The unit tracked Cmdr. General Robert Lee and contributed to his surrender in Appomattox, Va.

Soldiers from the camp’s 22nd Infantry located and captured President Lincoln’s assassin and conspirators on the Eastern shores of Maryland. After passage of the Emancipation Proclamation, the soldiers went from state to state to free Blacks who, unaware of the bill, were still being held as slaves.

It was those troops that marched to the Alston Villa in Galveston, Texas, and surrounded the Alston Villa on Juneteenth – June 19, 1865. Gen. Gordon Granger took charge of the state of Texas and informed the nation’s last remaining slaves of their freedom, almost two and a half years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Celebrations of Juneteenth began the following year and continue to this day.

The camp was recognized for its vital importance to the Union’s war effort and distinct mission. Lincoln’s decision to encourage African-American enlistment during the Civil War marked a great departure from prior administrations. About 180,000 African Americans served in the Union Army and more than 15,000 joined the Union Navy. The recruits who trained at Camp William Penn served in the Army. The camp was situated on land previously owned by the well-known Quaker abolitionist Lucretia Mott family, who noted, “The barracks make a show from our back window.”

Many of Camp William Penn’s recruits were decorated for their bravery and valor. The camp closed Aug. 14, 1865.

“…I love my ‘ladies’”

In Uncategorized on August 20, 2006 at 1:14 am
 
 
By Bobbi Booker
The Book Report
James Stanley is not your ordinary gardener. Whether he’s cleaning up and beautifying vacant lots in West Philadelphia or planting flowers throughout the Mann Center’s 13-acre property, Stanley gives more than 100 percent to his passion. As a result, his gardens flourish along with the community around them.

Stanley owns S-Kids Auto Body in West Philadelphia, but more than anything he’s committed to his community. Having grown up on a farm in Macon, Ga., he says working in the soil makes him most comfortable.

“That has escalated into what it is now,” he explained. “I started with a little lot beside my shop, and in doing this little lot it sort of got to the point that every time I see a little space I wanted to beatify it.”

In 1991, Stanley moved to his new home in the Parkside community. Although he sought to maintain his business as an auto body professional, he encountered resistance from the neighborhood.

“When moving to Parkside I had made some promises of the things that I would do to win the people over, because they did not want a body shop in here,” he said. “So I had to fight for it.”

In the course of his battles he met and befriended Ella Francis, then the founding president of the Parkside Association. Stanley committed to a beautification plan for the neighborhood.

The plan literally blossomed into a series of formerly blighted lots that Stanley transformed into magnificent gardens. In addition to landscaping the Mann Center, Stanley has two other standout gardens.

The Ella Francis Garden at 5200 Parkside is semi-private, while another plot at 52 nd and Jefferson is open at all times.

Stanley started on the Jefferson Street garden first in 1993, but when a neighboring building collapsed and partially destroyed it he started working on the Parkside location.

Both locations have won first-place awards from the Horticultural Society, and Stanley is proud to note that one of the three gardens he created on Parkside Avenue is featured on a city tour list.

“I call him ‘The Father of Parkside,’” said the garden’s namesake, Ella Francis.

As a community activist Francis spent years helping the residents of Parkside renovate their neighborhood. She also served as a board member of Philadelphia Green, the nation’s largest urban greening program, supporting community gardens, urban parks and public landscapes.

The vacant lot that was converted into the Ella Francis Garden in the 1980s initially was a senior citizen vegetable garden and sitting area. When Stanley agreed to take over its care, Frances said she was delighted.

“Since then it has been out of sight, because his imagination and creativity have made it most outstanding,” said Francis. “It is now a place we can proudly say to people who come in the area to go by and take a look at it.

It was the garden’s outstanding beauty that caught the eye of a Parkside area businessman five years ago.

When Peter B. Lane, president and CEO of The Mann Center for the Performing Arts, met Stanley at a West Parkside Culture and Opportunity Center board meeting, he shared with him the needs at The Mann. Stanley responded immediately by walking the grounds of the Mann Center and making a landscape proposal. Lane was so impressed, he hired him immediately and has been singing his praises ever since.

“We are so lucky to have Mr. Stanley as part of our team at the Mann. He has made a tremendous impact on the center by adding so much beauty to our grounds,” said Lane. “His passion for horticulture has been shared with thousands of visitors, and his contribution to the West Philadelphia community is invaluable.”

Stanley formed another company – Urban Scapes Inc. in West Philadelphia – and hired a crew to assist him as the sole landscaper at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Fairmount Park for the last five years.

He and his crew maintain the center’s sprawling lawns; he designs and plants flower beds and places large flowerpots along the walkways and dreams about the lushness he can maintain on this vast property. It’s a year-round job for Stanley, too. In the winter he plows snow and even helps out doing handyman’s work.

It is apparent that gardening is his first love.

“I would buy something to plant, before I would buy food,” Stanley said. And as proof of his dedication, he has been known to stay at the Mann Center past midnight on many occasions to water his greenery.

“I love my plants. And water is the life of them!” he said.

Stanley’s passion for gardening is matched only by his commitment to the community. Over the last 15 years, he has taken it upon himself to beautify several vacant lots in his Parkside neighborhood. He also has mentored many youngsters, who have worked for him by keeping the neighborhood clean –picking up trash and planting in the empty lots – to earn a few extra dollars.

“A lot of the kids were not used to the beauty here,” said Stanley. “For me, giving something back to the neighborhood, bringing the kids in here to work with this beauty, gives them something else to do besides walking back and forth to the store.”

Stanley, 59, is no stranger to hard work.

In Georgia he and his family grew corn, peanuts, potatoes and other crops, and raised pigs, chickens and other animals.

In 1967, he followed his sweetheart to Philadelphia, where they were married. Although now divorced, he’s a dedicated father to six children.

At his body shop at 52 nd and Heston streets in West Philadelphia, Stanley specializes in custom paint jobs.

When he’s not juggling the work of two businesses, he travels to Georgia, where he helps care for his elderly mother.

“As I was thinking about this, I figured it was coming out of me in my late age,” mused Stanley. “But the love of gardening has always been there; the love of flowers and the beauty of flowers.”

Today, to step into the Ella Francis Garden is like a stepping into a wonderful picture book. There are colors and fragrant blossoms everywhere as yellow and white butterflies flutter about. Two ponds full of lily pads and frogs sits at the garden edge and are home to dozens of goldfish and koi – as well as ally cats which, if they can avoid the traps, like to fish there.

A peach tree bearing dozens of the fruits is also home to a gaggle of Junebugs suckling on its sweet nectar. The formerly uprooted weeping willow has been restored, offering cool shaded comfort to visitors.

“It’s a beautiful sanctuary and it’s transformed our community,” said longtime resident Yvette Smalls. “As you go by you get this sense of peace and feel in touch with nature. I’m impressed with it. I’m in awe every time I see it.

Stanley’s gardens are home not only to the usual annuals and perennials, but exotic plants as well, including 12-foot-high elephant’s ear plants that have been recognized as the city’s tallest.

“There’s a lot of hidden beauty that people don’t even know is here,” said Stanley.

The gardens give him comfort from the stress of his regular workdays.

“I need something to play around with and let off my frustrations,” said Stanley, who has nicknamed the flowers his “ladies

“I love my ‘ladies,’” says Stanley as his stands amid the flowers. “I try to be good to them and they’re good to me.”

Remembering Rufus Harley: The Chief Musician

In Black Folk who matter..., Uncategorized on August 13, 2006 at 9:19 pm
Musicians remember one-of-a-kind colleague
 
By BOBBI BOOKER
Tribune Staff Writer
The haunting drones of bagpipes were silenced on August 1st, 2006 when pioneering jazz artist Rufus Harley, 70, died of complications from prostate cancer. Regionally, residents recognized him for the countless funerals and parades he led as the world’s first jazz bagpiper. Globally, he is known for his skills as a world-class musician and tireless ambassador for his city and country.

Harley was on a lifelong spiritually quest that often manifested itself in his presentations of miniature Liberty Bell replicas to dignitaries and blasting his gospel of unity through the international language of music.

“I could hear the sound of the bagpipe through my soul,” said Harley to an earlier interviewer.

Born May 20, 1936 in Raleigh, NC, of African-American and Cherokee descent, Harley was a unique man and longtime Germantown resident.. Harley’s career as a promising young jazz saxophonist and flutist was transformed during the November 1963 funeral of President John F. Kennedy when he heard the solemn sounds of regimental bagpipers of the Black Watch, a Scottish infantry division of the British Army. The continuous sustained and haunting sounds of the instrument intrigued him and he went looking for bagpipes, and finally found a set in a New York pawnshop for $120.

His initial performances on the traditionally Scottish instrument brought a mixed reaction from jazz lovers who had watched him blossom under the tutelage of Dennis Sandole, who also taught several other Philadelphia jazz musicians.

“The bagpipe was sort of a novelty thing that brought him to the attention of the public, but he was a master musician on the other instruments also,” WRTI-FM’s Bob Perkins. “I really appreciated him as a musician,” said the longtime jazz radio host. “He played the saxophone and the flute fabulously.”

“Not only was he a great bagpiper, he was a great musician,” said Lovett Hines, Director of Education Program at the Clef Club. “Rufus could have gone anyplace and he elected to stay here in Philadelphia.

Harley fathered 10 children, including his protégé, trumpeter Messiah Harley 31. “He was a true soldier in terms of making people happy and traveling the world,” recalled Messiah. “He never cried or complained about his situation. He always did the gigs on time.”

The younger Harley recalled how his father prepared him to be a musician at age twelve, when he first started playing trumpet with his father. “The one thing that impressed me with Rufus was his relationship with Messiah, his son,” recalled Hines. During Harley’s last two weeks, father and son spoke every day.

From 1965 to 1970 Harley released several recordings as leader on the Atlantic label, also recording as a sideman with Herbie Mann, Sonny Stitt, and Sonny Rollins in the 1960s and 1970s. During the height of Harley’s career in the late 1960s and early 70s, he traveled the world performing and was a frequent guest on the poplar talk and games shows of the time, including “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” “The Mike Douglas Show and “What’s My Line.

30 years later, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson of The Roots saw Harley’s appearance on television and told MOJO magazine he was stunned. “I was watching the Arsenio Hall Show one night. He had Rufus up against a juggler, treating him like a freak. The next day we were recording and I mentioned it. My manager said, ‘Rufus is probably in the phone book.’ I called, and an hour later he was in the studio. Hearing the pipes played in person was damn near religious.” It is the evocative drone of Harley’s bagpipe that is recorded as the opening notes to the title track of The Roots 1994 hit album “Do You Want More?!!!??!”.

Harley’s innovation use and playing of the bagpipe has been heralded universally for both its technique and simultaneous merging if disparate cultures.

“Rufus was a mystic. He was our brother and our ancestor at the same time while he was here,” explains international saxophonist Foster Child. “To play an instrument like the bagpipes you have you had definitely had to come from a different time. I believe he was incarnated to bring bagpipes into modern day times. For instance, he extended the language of the bagpipe by trick fingering–creating different fingering–to come up with different notes that normally would not be played on the bagpipes.”

Harley had become visibly thinner in recent months, but still maintained a busy playing schedule. The jazz bagpiper played until last Monday afternoon, just mere hours before his death the next day from a cancer he had disclosed to no one–not even his son. Until the end, Harley was only concerned about the next gig, even instructing his son to pick him up from the hospital on time. “He never tuned down a gig or a show for anybody,” said Messiah.

“He was American icon,” said Kenneth Gamble, co-founder of Philadelphia International Records. “He’ll be missed all over the world, and especially in Philadelphia. When you think about him you can hear those bagpipes playing.”

Former gang member reaches teens through sports

In Uncategorized on August 13, 2006 at 8:59 pm
Oxford Street reunion ignites team spirit
Former gang member reaches teens through sports
By Bobbi Booker
Tribune Staff Writer

The street gangs that proliferated in North Central Philadelphia in the ’70s had a huge impact on residents and left a mammoth legacy. Many of these gangs were enormous and meticulously organized. Today, as political leaders and residents tackle the murder epidemic, one former gang member says the solution is easy: sports.

“We may be able to stop some of the violence that is going on in the city if we focus on a lot of physical things like baseball, basketball boxing and all the sports where there’s physical contact with our youth,” said Fred “Herk” Jenkins.

Jenkins and some of his fellow former gang members organize an annual reunion in what was formally enemy territory. Tomorrow, the highlight of their community picnic will be the baseball games featuring “Old Heads vs. The Young Bucks.” Although the longtime Oxford Street area resident has only recently learned the sport of baseball, he sees its overall benefit to the neighborhood youth he counsels at the Athletic Recreation Center.

“Baseball is a way to build neighborhood unity and decrease violence among the youth,” said Jenkins, 50. “I’ve come to find out it is one of the best sport you can have when dealing with kids personality-wise because they have to be patient; they got to hold their frustration in and they got to perform and deal with the ups and downs of the game without lashing out.”

As a young teen, Jenkins was a member of the Oxford Street gang, one of nearly a dozen area gangs surrounding the Athletic Recreation Center at 26th and Master streets. Eventually, the sports programs at the center appealed to Jenkins more than his gang clique.

“I started in the recreation center first as a gang member causing trouble, then as a student of amateur boxing,” recalled Jenkins.

Jenkins went on to coach a couple of world boxing champions including Olympian David Reed, Zahir Rahim, Charlie “Choo Choo” Brown and “Rockin’” Rodney Moore.

“I basically raised all these guys and a whole lot of other kids who come out of this recreation center,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins says many of the former gang members have mellowed over the years and have all committed to a sense of personal and community responsibility.

“When you read the newspaper you only read what’s negative that’s going on in that area. For one negative thing in our area, there’s a hundred good things that’s going on,” said Jenkins. “There’s a whole lot of champions in our community that nobody talks about. “