1.30.2015

Vanessa Lowery Brown, Chair of Pennsylvania's Legislative Black Caucus Hosts a 3-day MLK/Civil Rights Celebration



By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All: 

The past week has been a busy ones throughout the United States, as a result of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s  Birthday Celebrations held throughout the nation.  It's now been nearly fifty years since he was gunned down  - and the celebrations of his accomplishments are greater than ever. 



REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR CELEBRATION 2015 IN PHILADELPHIA
 While many cities hold concerts, programs and speeches in his honor, Philadelphia takes it awhole lot further, with their annual MLK Civil Rights Week End and an MLK Day  of Service.   This year there was also Protest March in Center City, in coordination with marches held throughout the country, to protest police brutality, and inequality in the court room.   {By the way, this year also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, Our Shining Black Prince.}

The Pennsylvania Legislative Caucus under the leadership of  Chair, Vanessa Lowery-Brown, hosted a kick off gala reception at the famous Fox and Hound Club in center city, on Friday, January 16, which was followed on Saturday, the 17th, by a free community event at the Pearl Theatre, near Temple University.  Local residents were regaled with locally produced short feature films about key programs and historic events in Philly's predominantly Black community.  

STATE REP. VANESSA LOWERY-BROWN - CHAIR OF THE PENNSYLVANIA LEGISLATIVE BLACK CAUCUS


With Vanessa Lowery-Brown serving as host, not only were the films depicting the unique historical value of Philadelphia's communities, but those who were involved with the particular incident or organization was on hand to give an bit of real life perspective, as well. 

One film about Philadelphia's iconic dancer and cultural guru, Arthur Hall - African Dance Master and founder of Ile Ife - which was located in the 2500 Block of Germantown Avenue.  Hall founded the center for the community in the early 60's, and transformed the community.  Youth went from hanging on the corner doing little to nothing, to learning about their culture and heritage through dance - Hall was a hands on teacher and taught choreography, costume design, entertainment, stage presence, poise, drumming, singing, but most of all, African Culture.   Many artists and actresses got their start there, including the late Dick Anthony Williams, who went on to star in several Hollywood movies.  Yours truly used to practically live there when I was in graduate school at Temple University, and frequently came back for visits and drumming sessions after I relocated to New York.  Hall was such a great part of Black life and culture in Philadelphia - many of the wonderful African inspired symbols still stand as a testament to his impact on the community. 
ARTHUR HALL - FOUNDER OF ILE IFE AND ARTHUR HALL DANCE ENSEMBLE
Karen Warrington, formerly known as Karen Steptoe, was a major featured dancer with the Arthur Hall Dance Company, was on hand to give some candid thoughts and information about what it was like to have danced with Arthur Hall: "Arthur actually came from Memphis, TN, and came to Philadelphia after he was in the service.  He had studied dance and started taking dance at Sydney King.  Around that time we all became very enthralled by African dance.  Before then we were all little pink ballerinas. So when the drummers showed up, and we started being introduced into the Katherine Dunham Technique - Dunham was an anthropologist and a dancer.  She had traveled throughout Cuba and Haiti and brought back African and African Caribbean dance movements.  Arthur started teaching the Dunham Technique, and later started a company.  We actually started the Arthur Hall Afro American Dance Company at Sydney Kings.  And we danced and bopped around doing performances of all African and African Caribbean Dance - and began performing all over the country - up and down the East Coast.  I performed in Senegal, Ghana, Jamaica."

She continued, thoughtfully, "I think Arthur Hall really helped Philadelphians identify with themselves, as having African heritage.  Up until that time most of us were just colored.  We started to embrace our African culture; to understand the culture.  Arthur was very rooted in the Yoruba culture of Nigeria - so many of us went back and forth to Nigeria."  
She spoke of how she was in Nigeria while in college, and, after having bragged on knowing African dance, was challenged by skeptical Nigerian female students at the University of Ibadan to show what she knew about African dance.  They had mocked her by saying "she's supposed to be an African dancer."  

KAREN WARRINGTON DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS FOR CONG. ROBERT A. BRADY
But, Warrington continues, "When I started dancing, they were stunned and wanted to know where and how did you learn our dances and you're from the United States?"  They couldn't believe that African Americans in the US could understand African culture.  As a result they put her on TV for two years because it was so strange to see an African American doing African dance.  She continued, "And that really speaks to what happened as the result of the separation of slavery - they know very little about us, and we know very little about them.  At that time what they saw mostly on TV in Nigeria was Amos n Andy, and all the other negative stuff (and all we saw here in the US were Tarzan movies).  So Arthur Hall really helped Philadelphia, because we were very much a part of the anti-war movement - and would perform at the folk festivals showing Africa in its splendor, not the images of savages running around in the forest that white people and presented over all the years.  Arthur Hall made an incredible contribution to the dance world, and brought in people that weren't necessarily trained in dancing.  A lot of people came who didn't know they could dance.  There's something about being on stage and being recognized and validated that all of our children need.  I think we changed the lives of a lot of young people." 

Warrington went on to say that under President Johnson's Model Cities Program (which was a part of his Great Society) the Cultural Arts Program made it possible for them to teach 500 children every year free of charge.  They learned jazz, art, dance, drama, and had the involvement of such artists as Barbara Bullock, Tyrone Brown and others.  The City of Philadelphia was supposed to take over the funding once the Federal resources were ended - that did not happen, and spelled the demise of the program.  Warrington urged the audience to come together to demand an Artist-In-Residence for Philadelphia schools which would make it possible for African cultural artists to be paid to teach the students their culture in the public schools - "We had them in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore - but not Philadelphia. There's something about drumming - I've never seen a drummer get into a fight - by the time they've taken out their creativity and energy on drumming, they're not interested in fighting."   There was a series of statuaries erected at Ile` Ife` in conjunction with an Asian Artist, Lillie Tan(?) that are still remaining and can be seen whenever you drive past the 2500 block of Germantown Avenue - a monument to their great transformative power.  Karen Warrington, who spoke eloquently, now serves as Director of Communications for congressman Robert A. Brady.

After viewing the film on Arthur Hall,  as it turned out, Representative Vanessa Lowery-Brown found herself reminiscing on the days when she was a young girl growing up and had also danced at Arthur Hall.  Having started with Sydney King, a famous dance school for young girls, she admitted that she had had to make a transition during her childhood because the school was too expensive for her family in those days.  Brown appeared to be totally shaken when she viewed scenes that took her back to her childhood.   She was emotionally moved and stated, "You know, you just don't know what you'll find when you start going back in time in Philadelphia.  Many of you don't know that I used to dance.  I knew the film was about Arthur Hall, but I didn't realize how many people I knew from those days, and that it would bring back so many memories.  To have gone through something and not realize the total impact until today.  I did not know that I was at 2500 Germantown dancing too because my parents could no longer afford to pay for my lessons at Sydney.  I was a good dancer, I was on the front line - which meant I was a very good dancer."  

As it turned out, the dance teacher for Sydney also taught at Arthur Hall, and had asked her parents to allow her to come there, where it was free, so that she could continue her dance training.  They arranged for her to take the 23 bus from her home in Mt.  Airy to Arthur Hall - a straight shot from door to door.  Her father, who had been a policeman, used to drive her to Sydney in the back of the patrol car.  Brown joked, "I remember that I always felt like a suspect sitting in the back of the police car."  

She enthusiastically reminisced over the difference between Sydney's stiff atmosphere and the creative, free flowing atmosphere of Ile`Ife` and having a sense of culture shock.  "I just want to thank you for going on with this journey with me," she told the audience, "it makes you know how important it is to maintain your cultural ties; and for sharing with me what God has given me to do this - I'm so grateful for you all being here with me.  And for me to now be gifted as the State Representative is priceless. To have Philadanco in my district; to have Sydney in my district - and so many other dance studios.  I just feel that God has given me another charge that we need to declare our area some kind of culture area - you have to work with me Karen with Congressman Brady; and we ought to get Chaka Fattah - and all the representatives of our area to bring dance and drumming - this is so important - that we have to fight to bring them back. Someone said that it's our fault that we didn't have these things in our curriculum in our schools, because we are the consumers; they work for us!  And they have a responsibility to give us what we need for our children.  But if we don't speak up, and if we don't step up, and we don't demand these things for our children, then they will go home empty from school.  They will never have the experiences that I had, that created me to be who I am today.  And I'm proud of who I am.  I'll take your suggestions."

One member of the audience recommended that she put it on the ballot so that way the curriculum can be changed. Lowery-Brown confirmed:   "The ballot is a powerful thing, I think we need to form a coalition - and if anybody wants to be a part of it, hit me up on Facebook - we'll start this art and dance in Philadelphia, bringing it back.  I think we need to make a declaration to figure out where in Philadelphia this mecca of culture is - we need to go back and make sure we have our historical markers - we need one at Sydney King; we need one at 711; and we need one down at the  2500 block of  Germantown Avenue."

The film that followed was of historical and current value, entitled BURY ME IN A FREE LAND - (the story of Eden Cemetery) - which centered around a modern day "African Burial Ground" of sorts.  It is the oldest privately owned cemetery in the United States.  There was a period of time in the history Philadelphia when whites did not want Blacks to be buried alongside whites.  In 1902 group of  five Black businessmen in the community pooled their resources and purchased fifty-three acres of land and founded Eden Cemetery, which still stands today as one of the largest Black owned burial grounds in the tri-state area.  As noted, there are historical figures buried there, and several bodies reinterred from previous burial grounds that had been dug up to make way for buildings.  Eden is in dire need of current help to continue its existence.  It has been vandalized by hostile racist whites, and needs to erect an attractive, protective fence to prevent further incursion onto its sacred grounds.  Bringing this to the consciousness of the community elicited a great deal of support, and Representative has pledged to work with groups to make this happen.  
EDEN CEMETERY


Richard Green, the representative from Friends of Eden Cemetery spoke of the profound historical significance surrounding its over 112 year existence - "It was created out of a need for Africans to be able to bury themselves - maintaining a continuity from the 18th century to now.  So when you go to Eden Cemetery, you're looking at people, where we say, each gravesite at Eden is a library.  Each person's life is a novel, story, or historical fact.  And what we wanted to do in "Precious Places" was talk about Civil Rights; but at that time in the 19th century, we're talking about equal rights.  Because in Pennsylvania and in Philadelphia, after 1836, you couldn't vote - even though we had the vote after 1787 we were allowed to vote.  So Eden Cemetery is a combination of  private cemeteries coming out of Philadelphia, that were placed in Collingdale - because at some point we were not allowed to bury our own in the regular cemeteries.  What we're trying to do is show that our historical preservation is so important - but if we don't demand it; if you don't recognize it - people like Marian Anderson is buried there.  Octavius Catto is buried there; James Forten is buried there.  Christopher Perry, founder of the Philadelphia Tribune is buried there.  We would not know those historical people who played so much a part of developing Black Philadelphia - and so the Friends (of Eden Cemetery) felt that by producing "Precious Places" it was a contribution of being able to educate you on how we can go about making preservation of the members and the memories of the cemetery."  Eden Cemetery is a "silent community of over 90,000 residents."  In 2008 a group of vandals came through and pushed over 200 headstones - so a protective fence is needed around the entire area.  There are also opportunities for teaching cultural historical facts to students, and well as for internships."

(BTW: Those interested in either the preservation of Eden Cemetery, or working to change the curriculum to include African Culture, should contact Vanessa Lowery-Brown's office for further details: 215.879.6615 or 717.783.3822)

The entire day was capped off with the 2015 Civil Rights Achievement Award Ceremony, which was held at the African American Museum (701 Arch St).  An annual event five recipients were selected based on their contribution to the Philadelphia Community.  Patti Jackson, of WDAS-FM served as hostess of the evenings festivities.  The standing room only program opened appropriately with the Black National Anthem - performed/led by Chris Nelson, and of course, joined in by the audience. 

Michael Coard, Esq., a criminal defense attorney with 20 years of state and federal trial experience, specializing in murder cases, received his law degree from Ohio State University, with an undergraduate degree in English Education and Political Science from Cheyney State University.  Coard, who is also president of ATAC - Avenge The Ancestors Coalition - actually was scheduled to receive three different awards at three different events on the same night, and was hard pressed to make them all.  His work in the community is nothing short of legendary - he is both activist and lawyer simultaneously, who finds the time to host a radio show "Radio Courtroom" on WURD twice a week (Sundays and Wednesdays), head a monthly meeting of ATAC, one of the largest coalitions of African American organizations that work together on issues of concern in the Philadelphia community; a board member of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Lawyers Guild; a member of the Philadelphia Association of the Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Occupy Philadelphia Legal Defense Team, and founding member of "F" (film) the Police.  Most recently he is the founding member of Heeding Cheyney's Call - a coalition of Cheyney University supporters who seek to get economic parity from a heretofore discriminatory administration in Harrisburg under Tom Corbett (which will now hopefully be alleviated under the newly elected governor, Tom Wolf).

MICHAEL COARD ESQ., OF ATAC - AVENGING THE ANCESTORS COALITION

Upon receiving his award, Coard made a very concise thank you speech, and was, of necessity, out of the building and on to the next award program.

"For me, it's well worth it to hear Patti Jackson introduce me.  Isn't that such a powerful voice. I really appreciate that.  I want to thank Rep. Vanessa Lowery-Brown.  Every time I've reached out to the Legislative Black Caucus - each member, when I reached out because of police brutality, back in 1998, we were trying to file a complaint against some cops - the Legislative Black Caucus came through.  When ATAC came into existence and tried to get a slave memorial, they came through. When we were fighting for Dr. Ed Robinson's Infusion Program into the school district curriculum for African Centered Studies, they were there.  When we were fighting the battle now to save Cheyney University, they were there.  As I'm saying this, I'm wondering why they're giving me the award, they should keep it for themselves. They've done such a great job! Thank you very much."  Coard is one of few contemporary heroes who walk his talk, and the world is beginning to recognize him for the greatness he is.  The wonderful thing about it, however, is that it does not pull him away from his mission - he always manages to maintain focus and stay on course. 

Charles L. Blockson, who recently turned 81, has amassed one of the largest collections of African historical artifacts in the US - most of which is located at Temple University.   The collection contains more than 500,000 books, documents, photographs, and is a research center for scholars around the world.  Dr. Blockson is also a co-founder of the African American Museum in Philadelphia, a founding member of the Pennsylvania Black History Committee, Past President of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, former Chairperson of the National Park Service Underground Railroad Advisory Committee, Project Director of the Philadelphia African American Pennsylvania State Market Project, Advisor to the Philadelphia Constitution Center, and listed in Who's Who in Black America - he also has an honorary degree from LINCOLN UNIVERSITY (my Alma Mater), Holy Family University and Villanova University.  (By the way, if you haven't visited the African American Museum, you should make it your business to do so, it's absolutely beautiful - bring your children, grandchildren, friends, family).

HISTORIAN AND NATIONAL TREASURE DR. CHARLES BLOCKSON






Dr. Blockson's accolades go on forever, but suffice it to say, he is the go to man when you want to know anything about Black history - having authored 12 books dealing with Black History, he is indeed a National Treasure.  

"I was 81 years old last month (December 2014).  I've been collecting for seventy years.  I am the founding member of this museum, and I have a lot of stories to tell - when we first started thirty-five years ago in this room.  They fought it.  They didn't want it to be here.  When I think in terms of 35 years, where has the time gone?  And it's important for us to keep this going.  It's important for us to make sure the children are a part of this great museum."

Blockson was also the key note speaker for the evening, and had a great deal to say about the legacy that was being squandered by lack of interest, support and involvement on the part of Philadelphians.  His voice, somewhat frail from a cold he was fighting, was nevertheless stern as he strove to drive home the point of honoring our heritage as Black people.  Dr. Blockson has forgotten more history than many of us have ever learned or remembered, and has a passion for teaching and imparting knowledge.  His keynote address was more like a mini-pop quiz - where he would query the audience, and the supply them with the answers to history he expected them to know. I am paraphrasing much of what he said in an effort to convey the depth of his knowledge and research and the sense of urgency he tried to convey to the audience, in reference to the importance of preserving Black History in Philadelphia. 


"It's an awesome task in trying to give a 350 year history in fifteen minutes.  It's important to know that Pennsylvania is the Keystone State for many reasons.  One of it is through Civil Rights.  First of all our ancestors came to these shores in 1639 with the Dutch, the Finnish and the Swedes.  And the Quakers who came here in 1681.  Back in 1982, I was in charge of building this museum from the interest of filling every floor with Pennsylvania Black history.  Our ancestors came into Philadelphia from many places, and they settled at Penn's Landing.  They came from across the Atlantic Ocean - and I don't understand to this day why we don't have commemoration at Penn's Landing.  Penn's Landing is very important.  And don't forget the Caribbean people.  They are a part of our history.  In 2004, our exhibition was called the Haitian Revolt. People here wanted to know what did Blockson want to honor the Haitians for?  Toussaint L'Overture, Dessalines and Christophe, fighting for the first freedom in the Western Hemisphere.  They offered to help African people get liberty.  Don't forget our Jamaican friends - how can you forget Garvey.  Who's familiar with Nannie - Nannie! She was the Harriet Tubman of Jamaica - Am I right!!??  So don't go saying 'Oh those Caribbeans; oh, those Jamaicans!" What did Marcus Garvey do?" {and for those of you reading this who don't know the answer - shame on you - he started the largest Back To Africa Movement ever witnessed in the United States, as well as Black business development, home ownership, collective cooperative marketing - Garvey was a genius who came to the US from Jamaica to meet Booker T. Washington because he wanted to work with him.  However Washington died before the meeting could take place.  Garvey, seeing African Americans in a massive state of disarray and disorganization, galvanized millions around his movement.}

THE AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM IN PHILADELPHIA AT 701 ARCH STREET


 "Make sure you watch The Book of Negroes when it comes out on BET!  What is BET?  The Book of Negroes will be shown on BET.  It is a major documentary - don't miss it.  White people always want to know what those "negroes, Black people, African Americans - what they want reparations for?  Do you know who asked for reparations first?  White people!!  George Washington.  3,000 slaves were brought to a place in New York City called Fraunces Tavern. Who knows about Fraunces Tavern?  They didn't honor Samuel Fraunces, who was a spy - a Black man - the greatest of his time; he was in Philly and New York.  More intrigue than in a James Bond movie; but nevertheless he was not honored for his work.  This African American man is lying in an unmarked grave at St. Peter's Church.  Who's going to play the part of Samuel Fraunces?  Cuba Gooding, Jr.  - who's he?  {Oddly enough, though, if you look at Wikipedia, they still don't acknowledge that Fraunces was a Black man - go figure}.  When you go to Fraunces Tavern in New York, they don't want Black people there.  But Fraunces' mother was Haitian, and his father was an English person.  Our ancestors, Octavius Catto - who was he?  He founded the what?  The Institute for Colored Youth.  { He also founded The Pythians - an all-Black baseball league in the 1800's when baseball became popular in Philadelphia} - you know that!  Our people didn't go to Independence Hall when they went to worship!  You know what they said?  No n-gg-rs are allowed here.   I'm not making this up!  Colored people couldn't even ride the street cars.   One African American woman by the name of Mary Ann Shadd - from Delaware originally, refused to get off the street car at the cross street going to Broad and Cheltenham.  What's in Cheltenham?  LaMott!  What is Camp LaMott?  - You got to know your history - that's where Frederick Douglass came; where Harriett Tubman came.  What's on Girard Avenue?  The site of the old Pyramid Club.  What's the Pyramid Club?  When you came down there.  The old Union League...."  

Dr. Blockson went on to state that he had received more than $80,000 for historical markers - some of which are erected all over Philadelphia, because there is so much history here.  "But now they're taking markers down - they have kept the markers in the warehouse for ten years!  The marker for the first Black woman legislator in Harrisburg is missing.  How is it that we don't honor our Black women?  The removal of the markers is civil rights.  We need to get them back, and we need more markers for other key historical Black figures.  And we need to have a marker for a man who is my hero, Paul Robeson.  They brought the marker with no code - I was so angry, because Paul Robeson was our hero.  Help me preserve these markers.  It's important!  Especially these markers of our women.  Don't get me started.  It's a shame! It's a shame!  We put a marker there.  Look at Cheyney; look at Lincoln University.  The Berean Institute! {Which had fallen on hard times for lack of Black support} How could we let that go???  We put a marker there and there's nothing there any more!  DON'T YOU VALUE OUR HISTORY??? OTHER PEOPLE WOULDN'T PUT UP WITH THIS!!!"  

He  mentioned other charismatic historical Black Philadelphians - Leon Higginbottom, Leon Sullivan, among others, then continued: "Rosa Parks came to my collection just before she died, in a wheelchair.  She said 'Mr. Blockson, I'm so proud of what you did.'  Tears filled my eyes.  She's proud of what I did?  Look at what this woman went through!  Later I inherited - I don't know where it came from - we all know Harriett Tubman - my ancestors escaped from ___ Delaware with Ms. Harriet Tubman into Canada.  My ancestors have been in Philly for some 157 years.  But what I'm saying to you about the history of Rosa Parks, the Underground RailRoad, and all the other things are very important to hold onto.  You know you have to know that the Liberty Bell - African people - when they came to celebrate it - they were chased away from the Independence Mall.  I'm saying it's documented.  They said no n-gg-rs are allowed here.  That's what they said.  What did Frederick Douglass when they asked him to speak, what did he do?  He refused, didn't he?  James Forten, Charlotte Forten - all of them, they would not go to Independence Mall.  Do you know what they celebrated?  The Emancipation and all of the other historical dates.  There's so much more I could talk to you about - but please HELP PRESERVE THESE MARKERS; PLEASE!! And to keep them for more than 10 years.  This is ridiculous.  And we need more markers.  And before I go, I want to say a word to the Black legislators we're a proud people.  I go to every county in the State of Pennsylvania to research our history."

Dr. Joi C. Spraggins is recognized as a legacy leadership expert in business, education, communications, workforce development and civic engagement.  Founder and president of Legacy Pathways, LLC - a management consulting and training firm, specializing in leadership development, communications, energy, education and health care systems, reform, social justice, public safety, transportation, public policy analysis and supply chain regulatory compliance - it almost takes your breath away.  But that's not all:  She also has a Doctoral Diplomate Degree form the American Society of Christian Therapists; a Master's from the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government; Bethesda Maryland Mediation and Conflict Resolution Certification Training, and has recently completed her Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Minor Judiciary Education Board Certification Training.
She is also a member of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency in Philadelphia.  

DR. JOI C. SPRAGGINS




She is the recipient of the NAACP Public Service Award for continued contribution to the Youth Summit's 2013 Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Struggle; and received the NAACP's Philadelphia Chapter Most Influential 2013 Women "Dare to Imagine" Award on March 24, 2013, the birthday of one of her most admired role models, Dr. Dorothy I. Height - educator, civil rights and women's rights activist, and member/past National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

According to Dr. Spraggins one of the greatest honors is to work with a man, a great civil rights leader, and founder of the National Drug Policies, the honorable judge Arthur Burnett.  "I live a God-driven life and every day I get up and ask the Lord how can I serve You.  So when I come before people, or when I come before friends and family, we know that we're doing God's work.  And sometimes that road is a difficult road; but I know one thing, we can always count on our state representatives.  I can pick up that phone and call for help, and they don't say what district you live in; they say, 'How can we help?' And that makes such a difference.  I was the civil rights leader that Julian Bond called for the Selma March in 2000.  We were the Mean Machine behind the national voters fund of the NAACP, and you talk about a life changing moment - we had three weeks to design two get-out-the-vote campaigns.  We had to execute 100 trainers across the country, and we were sent in to do an environmental scan in Selma.  When you sit at the counter and you hear a woman in her 90's look at you in your eyes and say 'Your generation has failed us; so many of us have died for you to have the right to vote, and you take it for granted.'  And we promised that we were going to work through, with the Grace of God, we were going to change history.  And we did.  And at 8:00 o'clock, the mayor walks down the street - and the whole town goes up and yells, and we didn't know what happened.  And that is the moment when the mayor said, 'I don't know who put this Mean Machine together, but I concede.'  And I know that Mean Machine was God.  So when you go to see the film (SELMA), I'm not in it, but what is important is that we transfer the knowledge.  And I am so honored that our national model, House Bill 191 is now a national demonstration model.  Is Samsung's Federal Government agency in the house?  I want you to know that Washington supports you; and we also called out our United Nations leaders, and they will be standing with you and us and Judge Burnett."

Native Philadelphian and awardee Christine Brown, serves as the Director of Beech Community Services, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve and sustain the quality of life for residents living in North Philadelphia.  After having organized her first turkey giveaway for residents during the 1993 Thanksgiving holidays, she has continued to develop and implement such community initiatives as Jazz on the Ave - one of the largest community festivals in Philadelphia; Avenue of Treats, the Prepare for Success Book Bag Giveaway; the Beech Holiday Food Drive; March for PeaceWalk, and was a member of the North Philadelphia Organizing Committee for the Million Woman March.  She is currently in the Nonprofit Management and Leadership Program at LaSalle University, and is the recipient of such awards as the Jannie L. Blackwell Community Advocate Award, and the Community Achievement Award from the 22nd Police District.  Ms. Brown's principle objectives are to help fight against prejudice, inequality and injustices of any kind.

Rev. Dr. Robert P. Shine, Pastor and Founder of the Berachah Baptist Church in Philadelphia's West Oak Lane neighborhood, is well respected as a church and community leader throughout the greater Philadelphia area.  Former President of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity; President of the Pennsylvania State Wide Coalition of Black Clergy; Chairman of the African American Association for Corporate Responsibility (AAACR); Chair and charter member of the World Communications Charter School; former Chair of the Board of Manna Bible Institute; member of the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission (PAC); member of the Philadelphia Association of Catholic Religious Investors (PACRI).  US Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) appointed Dr. Shine as Congressional Black Caucus Chaplain, and the National Association of Black State Legislators appointed him to head their Church and Clergy Division. 

Rev. Robert P. Shine with WDAS Patti Davis and Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown - Photo by Solomon Williams




Rev. Shine accepted the award, and acknowledged his son and his future daughter in law, "Praise the Lord, everybody.  I want to thank God for what He's doing for the life of Philadelphia.  For what he's doing for the life of our State Representatives."  He continued to say that the state representatives have targets, not on their backs but on the front.  They are targeted, but they can stand the tests." 

Representative W. Curtis Thomas, who was not able to attend the event due to a conflict of schedule, sent a community representative from his office to also present citations to Dr. Charles Blockson, Michael Coard, Rev. Dr. Robert Shine, Christine Brown, and Dr. Joi C. Spraggins.

Throughout the evening the audience was entertained by such local performers as Little Big Sisters (a trio of young girls aged 9 through 14); the Bossman (who gave a great James Brown retrospective); the Greater League School of Dance, and music back up by Fred Jolly and his band.  Entertainment and programming were coordinated by Solomon Williams.  Refreshments - which included a mix of Caribbean and African American cuisines, were served throughout the Museum, and provided by local Philadelphia vendors.  

The following Monday, Representative Lowery-Brown provided lunches, entertainment and a movie for the participants in the MLK Day of Service.  The event, held at the AudenReid Charter School, included entertainment by Philadelphia's own Chestnut Brothers, and the private showing of GET ON UP, a movie based on the life of the great James Brown.  Students had volunteered to help in various projects throughout the city, and had gathered there afterwards to enjoy the rest of a historically enriched week end and holiday.

The Civil Rights Award Weekend and Day of Service is in its 20th year.  

Stay Blessed & 
ECLECTICALLY BLACK 
Gloria Dulan-Wilson







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