Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Standard.co.uk: Chi-chi Nwanoku: 'We're what orchestras tomorrow will look like'

Chi-chi Nwanoku
Chineke!: The orchestra play at the Southbank Centre's Africa Utopia festival [July 21]            (Daniel Hambury/@stellapicsltd)

In Association With Katie Strick

There can be few people in Britain who haven’t heard the name Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

An estimated 18 million people were tuned in for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding and they saw the 19-year-old’s 10-minute cello performance of Ave Maria. More than 28,000 tweets per minute were sent during his recital alone.

The teenager made headlines around the world: reports called him a “rarity” and a “one-in-a-million talent”. But for the woman who gave him his first professional solo, Chi-chi Nwanoku, watching Kanneh-Mason take to the world stage was wholly unremarkable — because great black classical musicians have existed in Britain for decades. Everyone else just didn’t know them.

Nwanoku is a British double-bassist and the founder of Chineke!, Europe’s first majority black and minority ethnic (BAME) orchestra.

A former sprinter and about the size of her double bass, the 61-year-old launched the ensemble in 2015 and Kanneh-Mason was there right from the beginning: it was Chineke!’s professional orchestra that gave him his first BBC Prom solo and Nwanoku herself who arranged for him to use the rare 17th-century Amati cello he played on to scoop the BBC Young Musician title in 2016. Later, she introduced him to an anonymous donor who bought the famous instrument for him to use on a lifetime loan.

It was the same cello that mesmerised the world in St George’s Chapel in May. Now, at her home near Richmond, Nwanoku is unfazed. Was seeing her protégé in front of the world’s cameras an amazing moment?

“No, it wasn’t really,” she says. In fact, she says: “He’s better than that” — and he’s not the only black player producing great music. “What about all those other kids?”

Today, Chineke!’s professional orchestra has up to 500 musicians on its roster, ranging in age from 18 to 60, with a further 150 in its junior ensemble.

Nwanoku insists BME musical talent is “everywhere”: she cites 19-year-old violinist Didier Osindero,  who was recently awarded the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music undergraduate scholar award and has featured on BBC Radio 3, as well as several “incredible 13-year-olds who are seriously going to go places”. “Just because you don’t know these people, don’t assume that they don’t exist.”

Three years ago, Nwanoku didn’t know they existed herself. Growing up in an Irish-Nigerian family in Kent and Berkshire, white was her norm. “My mum was white, I always had white friends. I didn’t have black conversations with anyone.”

The first time she experienced racism was aged seven when she was punched and called a wog in the school playground but Nwanoku said she was “too busy” to let it bother her. Aged seven, she discovered the piano at a neighbour’s house. It was a “natural” love affair: her mother took an extra job to get her piano lessons and a week later, that neighbour, Mrs B, “wheeled the piano up the road and gave it to me”. Thirty years later, Mrs B watched from her wheelchair as Nwanoku got an MBE for services to music in the Queen’s 2001 birthday honours. (Nwanoku was awarded an OBE in 2017.)

The “pin-drop” moment came a whole decade later, after a conversation with then culture minister Ed Vaizey. “He wanted to know why I was the only person that he saw regularly on the international concert platform.” She was confused at first. “Then he spelt out what he meant: the only person of colour,” says Nwanoku.

That comment planted a seed, but it wasn’t until she was at a concert by Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra from the Democratic Republic of Congo the following year that the “blinding” epiphany came. “The person sitting next to me was talking about the flute player and how, before our flute player had sat there with them, they just didn’t know how to breathe. I said: ‘Come on, they’ve been breathing all their lives and they’re a self-taught orchestra. How can you take all the credit?’ I was shocked.”

After the concert Nwanoku was walking back to Waterloo station on her own. “I looked to my right and I looked to my left and I thought no, I have to do this. This is the 21st century: it should not be a novelty or a surprise to see one black face on a stage playing Beethoven to such a high standard. I was shocked that I hadn’t thought of it before. I realised that I was being prepared for this all my life.”

The next morning, Nwanoku was on the phone to heads of every classical music institution she knew. “They all said, ‘Come in tomorrow’,” but building an orchestra from scratch was no easy feat: she didn’t hold auditions so finding players was down to extensive research and speaking to each one for an hour on the phone. “The more I looked and searched, the more I found that the well of talent runs deep.”  

The Schomburg Center Invites Applications for its Scholars-in-Residence Program


Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a unit of The New York Public Library, invites applications for its Scholars-in-Residence Program for the 2018-2019 academic year. The program offers long-term and short-term research fellowships to scholars and writers pursuing projects in African diasporic studies in fields including history, politics, literature, and culture. Application opens on September 1, 2018. Deadline to apply is December 1, 2018.

NOBLE Women's Symposium Invitation (Tickets Available Onsite)

Tickets are available for purchase at onsite registration!

July 31 6:30-8:30 PM

with Featured Speaker
Judge Karen Mills-Francis

The Diplomat Resort & Spa
Hollywood, Florida

Monday, July 16, 2018

AaronAsk: Weekly mentoring for a creative life: You Are Here! (3:33)

Aaron P. Dworkin writes:

Greetings and welcome to this week's episode of AaronAsk, your weekly mentoring session to live a fulfilling creative life!  This week's episode is titled, You Are Here!  Enjoy, we wish you a creative day and see you for next week's session!

Comment by email:
Thanks so much Bill!!  Aaron  [Aaron P. Dworkin]

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Godwin Sadoh's "The Misfortune of a Wise Tortoise" in Squirrel Island, ME 4 PM July 18

Godwin Sadoh

Chase Castle

Martha Mayo

Chase Castle (Organ) and Martha Mayo (Narrator) will perform Godwin Sadoh's Misfortune of a Wise Tortoise (An African Folktale) for Organ and Narrator, at Squirrel Island Chapel, Squirrel Island, Maine, on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, 4:00 PM.

John Malveaux: Michael Morgan conducted National Take A Stand Orchestra July 14

Michael Morgan

John Malveaux of 

July 14, 2018 culminating concert of the National Take A Stand Festival (10 days) included Michael Morgan conducting the National Take a Stand Symphony Orchestra at Disney Concert Hall. Student musicians were selected nationwide from historically excluded and underserved populations to support social change through music. The El Sistema-inspired program is under the guidance of Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Maestro Gustavo Dudamel.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Promotional Offer Until July 20 for Scores of Afro-Cuban Composer Leo Brouwer

Leo Brouwer

Offer 2 + 1 FREE

Only until July 20 *, if you add any 3 scores to the shopping cart and add the promotional code summerbrouwer2+1
The price of one will automatically be deducted from the total!

Valid only in purchases made of any score between the days 14 and 20 of the month July 2018

Limit of 20 uses, whether it is used by the same client several times or multiple different clients

Songs for Baritone Voice and Piano (Text Countee Cullen) By Julius P. Williams

Julius Penson Williams

Songs for Baritone Voice and Piano (Text Countee Cullen) by Julius Penson Williams are now available from various sheet music providers, including Sheet Music Plus:

Baritone Voice and Piano Accompaniment
Composed by Julius P. Williams. Contemporary Classical. 14 pages. Published by Julius Penson Williams Music (S0.381475).
Item Number: S0.381475
Songs for Baritone Voice and Piano (Text Countee Cullen)
The Fruit of the Flower
The Wise
For A Lady
The Loss of love

The Dream Unfinished: Music of George Walker & Tania León July 27, 7 PM, NYC


Activist Orchestra against America's criminalization of immigrants

July 27, 7:00 PM
Saint Peter’s Church
619 Lexington Avenue

New York, NY - Activist orchestra The Dream Unfinished will present Sanctuary, a festival of music celebrating artists who identify as immigrants or first generation Americans. The festival will culminate in a season finale at Saint Peter’s Church, a member church of New York City’s New Sanctuary Coalition, and feature the music of George Walker, Vijay Iyer, Tania Leon, Kareem Roustom and Huang Ruo. Special guests include Jennifer Koh and Vijay Iyer, and speakers from NYC's immigrant rights community. The event will be hosted by WQXR’s Terrance McKnight.

The headline concert on July 27 is a co-production with new music ensemble Contemporaneous, and features violinist Jennifer Koh and composer Vijay Iyer in The Diamond, a violin/piano duo recently commissioned by Koh, composed by Iyer. The concert will feature guest speakers from NYC's immigrant rights community such as New Sanctuary Coalition’s Ravi Ragbir, Fahd Ahmed from DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), and members from The Haitian Roundtable. The musical program, conducted by David Bloom, will include New York premieres of works by Vijay Iyer, Kareem Roustom and George Walker, and performances of works by Tania León and Huang Ruo.

Sanctuary is presented by The Dream Unfinished: An Activist Orchestra, whose mission is to use classical music to engage audiences in dialogues surrounding social justice. Advance ticket sales start at $25 General Admission, and can be purchased at http://tdusanctuary.eventbrite.com.

For complete event listings and other additional information, please visit thedreamunfinished.org or contact Fernanda Douglas at fernanda@thedreamunfinished.org.

Friday, July 13, 2018

South African National Youth Orchestra Sat. 14 July 13:00, Sand du Plessis Theatre

We are so excited to have our debut at the Vrystaat Kunstefees at the Sand du Plessis Theatre this Saturday 14 July at 13:00.

The National Youth Orchestra will be conducted by Leon Bosch and we're playing Sibelius's Symphony No. 2, Copland's Rodeo Suite and a new commission by Melissa van der Spuy

Rachel Barton Pine Foundation: Online Directory of Living Black Classical Composers


MBC’s Living Composers Directory includes information about each composer including their name, geographic region, gender, birth year, contact information and website link. Designed to be an ever-expanding work in progress, the directory currently holds the names of 170 living Black composers from North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The public is invited to notify the project of any composer not currently on this list by emailing editor@musicbyblackcomposers.org. Megan E. Hill, Ph.D., Managing Editor for MBC, is an Adjunct Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Michigan.

“Composers of African descent have created masterful classical music for centuries, yet they continue to be underrepresented in concert programming and in classical music education.  This absence silences a rich vein of works from global consciousness and obscures the true face of classical music,” says RBP Foundation President Rachel Barton Pine. “Young musicians seldom have the opportunity to study and perform classical music by Black composers. It’s a struggle for artists and enthusiasts of color to participate in an art form in which they do not appear to belong, perpetuating a lack of diversity on stage and among audiences. This online directory is one of the ways the RBP Foundation is working to spread awareness of and access to music by Black composers,” she adds.

The RBP Foundation’s Music by Black Composers, in collaboration the Orchestral Music by Black Composers (OMBC) project founded by  scholar-harpist Dr. Ashley Jackson and conductor James Blachly, is working to complete an online database of all composers of African descent, living and deceased. The database will feature information about numerous individual works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, and orchestra, including instrumentation, length, descriptions, difficulty level, where to find the music, links to recordings, and programming suggestions.

In October 2018, MBC will take another monumental step toward showing the world #BlackisClassical, with LudwigMasters’ publication of MBC Violin Volume I, the first in a pedagogical series of books of music exclusively by Black classical composers from around the world. Each orchestral instrument will be the subject of multiple volumes, which will be graded by difficulty from beginner to advanced concerto-level playing and will include biographies for every composer, profiles of Black classical music role models, and feature articles about Black participation in classical music past and present. 

Subsequent publications will include works for school orchestra and chamber ensembles. In addition, MBC is also developing a coloring book of the 40 most prominent Black composers throughout history as well as a timeline poster featuring more than 300 Black composers.  

The idea for MBC started with a recording Rachel Barton Pine made for Cedille Records in 1997 titled Violin Concertos by Black Composers of the 18th and 19th Centuries. The album contains historic compositions by Afro-Caribbean and Afro-European composers from the Classical and Romantic eras that had been unjustifiably neglected. Soon after its release Pine found herself sitting on diversity panels and fielding questions from students, parents, teachers, and colleagues about where to find more works by Black composers. She quickly discovered that most repertoire by Black composers is out of print or only exists in manuscript. So, in 2001, her not-for-profit Rachel Barton Pine (RBP) Foundation committed to the Music by Black Composers (MBC) project.  Over the past two decades, MBC has uncovered 900+ works by more than 300 Black composers from North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and Asia, from the 18th to the 21st centuries.

Pine is an award-winning, chart-topping violinist, who performs with the world's leading orchestras and has recorded 37 acclaimed albums.  Her performances are heard on NPR and stations around the globe and she has appeared on The Today Show four times, CBS Sunday Morning, Bloomberg Television, CNN, PBS NewsHour and has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and media outlets around the world. In addition to the MBC project, her RBP Foundation assists young artists through its Instrument Loan Program, Grants for Education and Career, and Global HeartStrings which supports musicians in developing countries.

For more information, please visit RBPFoundation.org, MusicbyBlackComposers.org, and RachelBartonPine.com.

Deeply Rooted Alumni: Where Are They Now? Ray Mercer

Ray Mercer

Ray Mercer, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, is in his 16th year as a member of the Tony Award-winning cast of Disney’s The Lion King. He has simultaneously emerged as one of New York City’s most prolific choreographers. His dynamic, visually striking and thought-provoking choreography has won the Best Onstage Presentation award seven times at the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS annual Gypsy of the Year competition, more than any other choreographer. Recipient of The Joffrey Ballet’s Choreographers of Color Award and a Capezio Ace Awards finalist, he has created work on Ailey II, Giordano Dance Chicago, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, New Jersey Ballet, Pensacola Ballet and Philadanco, among others, and for Dancers Responding to AIDS, a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. He started his dance training at age 17 at the University of New Orleans. He has performed with Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, as a guest artist with the Boston Ballet and on the national tour of The Lion King. He has worked with performers Garth Fagan, George Faison, Aretha Franklin, Kevin Iega Jeff, Louis Johnson, Rod Stewart and more. Currently the resident choreographer for the Ailey/Fordham Bachelor of Fine Arts program, he also directed and choreographed for the Smithsonian Oman Project, and his work is archived in the Smithsonian Museum. Last year, he choreographed Deep Love: A Ghostly Rock Opera at the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

What first brought you to Deeply Rooted? 
I was first introduced to Jubilation/Deeply Rooted at an International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference. I immediately feel in love with Iega’s choreographic voice. Soon after, I moved to Chicago and danced with Deeply Rooted for two seasons, from 2000 to 2002.
How did learning from and performing with Deeply Rooted affect you as a dancer and choreographer?
I think the biggest impact Deeply Rooted had/has on me as a dancer and choreographer was its humanistic approach to dance. As a choreographer, I have always found it important that my work comes from the spirit. I have always been attracted to experiences that touch the human spirit. I remember Iega said one day in rehearsal, “You dance who you are.” That has always stuck with me, and it is important that my work reflects that.

You’ve worked with a number of important contemporary dance companies. Were there ways your time with Deeply Rooted prepared you for that work? 
I have been very fortunate and blessed to work with so many amazing dance companies around the world. I think Deeply Rooted has helped me with my choreographic voice. I learned during my time with Deeply Rooted that it is important as an artist to be authentic. This has helped with my approach to my choreographic work. I strived to approach my work from a genuine place. I think it makes me more tangible as an artist/choreographer. I have always felt that Deeply Rooted’s mission has been about authenticity and character and that it is spirit driven, and I think this is what makes the company as a whole accessible and beautiful to experience.
What has it been like to be part of The Lion King for such a long time? How has the production or your experience working on it evolved over that time?
The Lion King has truly been a huge blessing. To be part of one of the largest Broadway shows in history, and to work with people of color for 16 years and counting, has been beyond what I could ever imagine. It has taught me the value of work ethic and commitment. I think that my approach to the Broadway experience has changed throughout the years; I have learned to grow as an artist and individual in this company of beautiful people of color.
Anything else you’d like to share?
All these years as an artist and choreographer have taught me one very important thing: God can dream a much bigger dream for you than you could ever dream for yourself!! And that nothing good ever comes without hard work and dedication! 

Your chance to see the next generation is coming soon!
Deeply Rooted Dance Theater’s Summer Intensive
and Emerging Choreographers Showcase performances
take place Friday, July 20 and Saturday, July 21 at 7:30 p.m. at
the Reva and David Logan Center for the Performing Arts,
915 E. 60th Street, Chicago. Tickets are $25–50.
Tickets to the July 20 performance are available at
Tickets to the July 21 performance are available at
For information, visit deeplyrooteddancetheater.org.
Debuting in 1996, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater is rooted in traditions of modern, contemporary and African dance, as well as storytelling, in universal themes that spark a visceral experience and ignite an emotional response in diverse audiences worldwide. Collaborating with nationally renowned choreographers across the spectrum of modern, ballet and African dance, DRDT presents work that reflects eclectic voices in contemporary life.
Photo credits for images of Ray Mercer from top to bottom:
Dirty Sugar.
Jon Dee.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

University of California Riverside Psychologist Receives High Honor From NAACP

Prof. Carolyn B. Murray

University of California Riverside

Carolyn Murray is the recipient of the 2018 Dr. William Montague Cobb award for special achievements in public health at the local level

Carolyn B. Murray, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, has been awarded the 2018 Dr. William Montague Cobb award for special achievements in public health at the local level, presented annually by the National Health Committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP.

The award is given to an outstanding individual in a local community “in recognition of special achievement in areas of social justice, health justice advocacy, health education, health promotion, fundraising, and research.”

Murray earned the honor for her many years of research and activism addressing health disparities in the African American community. She will receive the award on July 16 at the Annual NAACP Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

Broadly, Murray’s research covers ethnicity, race, and health. She has published extensively on doctor-patient interactions, how culture is a factor in health, how racism and mental health are linked, the psychology of health disparities among African Americans, gender disparities in physician-patient communication among African American patients in primary care, and how mental health disparities in the African American population in California can be addressed and eliminated.

Says Murray: “Life expectancy has decreased two years in a row for Americans, a grave concern that is largely unreported. This award will serve as a reminder that my crusade against health disparities, particularly in the African American community, must continue. Our work is far from done.”

For more information, please visit: https://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/54488


OperaCréole Founders: WWNO Radio TriPod, and Bastille Day Event, New Orleans

Givonna Joseph forwards this release:

TriPod: New Orleans at 300


TriPod: New Orleans at 300 is WWNO’s FRESH radio history of New Orleans, released in weekly segments as our city approaches its Tricentennial in 2018. Each TriPod segment is its own micro-documentary, devoted to a single story or subject from New Orleans’ rich history. The series explores lost and neglected stories, delves deeper into the familiar, and questions what we think we know about the city’s history.

TriPod airs Thursdays during Morning Edition at 8:30 a.m. on 89.9 FM, repeats on Mondays during All Things Considered, and is available anytime on WWNO.org and as a podcast on iTunes

Thursday, July 12
This broadcast will be a two part series focused on Opera in New Orleans from pre-Civil War to Reconstruction.

Givonna Joseph, and Aria Mason cover the 19th Century contributions of African Americans to New Orleans-The First City of Opera, as musicians, composers and conductors. And we also discussed their fight for integrated theater seating, and their ultimate exclusion from opera and classical music at the dawn of Jim Crow.
Part I
Laine Kaplan-Levenson interviews OperaCréole founders Aria Mason, and Givonna Joseph, she also speaks with ​New Orleans Opera ​historian Jack Belsom and author ​John Baron.

Part II
Givonna and Aria's interview continues. Ms. Kaplan-Levenson also interviews Harold and Wesley Dede, great-great nephews of Edmond Dédé (1827-1901), 19th Century New Orleans free composer of color.

Parts I and II ​can be heard together online​
http://wwno.org/programs/tripod-new-orleans-300 and also on iTunes Podcast

Saturday is Bastille Day!
Come join Aria and me as we do our annual singing of the
French National Anthem!

The Council of French Societies
Conseil des Sociétés Françaises de La

with the
Hon. Mayor of New Orleans,
Hon. Consul Général of France
Hon. City Councilmember District C.

cordially invites you to participate in the

Célébration de la Fête Nationale Française
Bastille Day Wreath Laying Ceremony
Statue of Jeanne d’Arc
(St. Joan of Arc)
La Place de France, Decatur St., French Market
Music by OperaCréole

Light refreshments

Saturday July 14, 2018
10:00 AM
Free and open to public participation
Your support can make all the difference in our mission. Secure donations through PayPal can be made on our website!

Thank you all!
Givonna Joseph,

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The African-American story in Philadelphia's Historic District

In view of the Liberty Bell on Independence Mall, the open-air President's House (top) tells the story of the home where Presidents Washington and Adams lived during their terms and where nine enslaved people served the first president. Features such as the video re-enactments and the display of the enslaved names help people examine the role of freedom in a new nation. Founded in 1976, The African American Museum in Philadelphia (bottom) is the first institution built by a major U.S. city to preserve, interpret and exhibit the heritage and culture of African-Americans.

Credits: photos by G. Widman (top) and J. Fusco (bottom) for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

Philadelphia’s Historic District, the site of the original city and often called America’s most historic square mile, reveals early chapters in the nation’s history, including the challenges, injustices, accomplishments and contributions of Africans and African-Americans.

The district is home to the 200+-year-old founding church of the two-million-strong African Methodist Episcopal church, Mother Bethel A.M.E., and The African American Museum in Philadelphia, the country’s first museum dedicated solely to African-American history. Philadelphia’s Historic District is the place to discover African-American religious, cultural and social traditions, historical landmarks and exhibitions and more:

Museums & Historic Sites:
  • The African American Museum in Philadelphia, founded in 1976, is the first institution built by a major U.S. city to preserve, interpret and exhibit the heritage and culture of African-Americans. The museum takes a fresh and bold look at the stories of African-Americans and their role in the founding of the nation through the core exhibit Audacious Freedom. Other exhibitions and programs reveal the history, stories and cultures of those of African descent throughout the African diaspora. 701 Arch Street, (215) 574-0380, aampmuseum.org
  • Independence Seaport Museum’s permanent exhibition, Tides of Freedom: African Presence on the Delaware River uses the city’s eastern river—where the museum resides—to uncover the African experience in Philadelphia. First-person accounts and artifacts from the museum’s collection recount 300 years from enslavement, emancipation, Jim Crow through the Civil Rights movement. Penn’s Landing, 211 S. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 413-8655, phillyseaport.org
  • The Liberty Bell Center encourages visitors to uncover the connection between the bell and African-American history. Videos and interactive displays explain how the abolitionist movement adopted the object as a symbol of freedom based on the inscribed quote from Leviticus, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Beginning in the late 1800s, the Liberty Bell traveled around the country to expositions to help heal the divisions of the Civil War. It reminded Americans of earlier days when they worked together for independence. 5th & Market Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde
  • The Museum of the American Revolution explores the personal stories of African-Americans, including that of William Lee, the valet whom George Washington enslaved and lived alongside throughout the war. The museum lets visitors climb aboard a privateer ship like the one on which James Forten, a 14-year-old free African-American, volunteered, and view a signed 1773 volume of Poems on Various Subjects by Phillis Wheatley, America’s first published Black female poet. In addition, the museum offers historical tableaux that reimagine historical moments, such as a 1781 conversation between enslaved Virginians and a Black Loyalist soldier, that were never captured with an artist’s brush. 101 S. 3rd Street, (215) 253-6731, amrevmuseum.org
  • The National Constitution Center (NCC) uses hands-on activities to illustrate the contributions of notable African-Americans; delves into pivotal Supreme Court cases, such as Dred Scott v. Sanford and Brown v. Board of Education; and explores the amendments that established rights for all citizens. The NCC displays an extremely rare copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War alcove. A more modern highlight: the original, signed copy of Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech, which he delivered in 2008 at the National Constitution Center. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6700, constitutioncenter.org
  • The National Liberty Museum presents the enduring story of liberty, both in history and today. The Heroes From Around the World gallery spotlights notable people from all walks of life and time periods who protected and advanced freedom, including well-known figures such as Nelson Mandela and everyday heroes such as Gail Gibson, a New Orleans nurse whose bravery helped save lives during Hurricane Katrina. The Live Like A Hero gallery showcases teachers, students, police officers, firefighters and other ordinary citizens who use their voices and talents to advocate for positive change. 321 Chestnut Street, (215) 925-2800, libertymuseum.org
  • The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation marks the structural fragments of the residences of Presidents Washington and Adams. This is the site where the country’s first president enslaved nine Africans, including Oney “Ona” Judge, who escaped to freedom, despite Washington’s efforts to capture her. The open-air Independence National Historical Park site, on the same block as the Liberty Bell Center, invites visitors to learn about the events that transpired through illustrated glass panels and video re-enactments, and then partake in silent reflection. 6th & Market Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde
  • Washington Square, one of city planner William Penn's five original parks, was once known as Congo Square. A wayside in the city-block park describes activities of three centuries ago, when free and enslaved Africans gathered at the then potter's field during holidays and fairs to celebrate traditions of their homelands. 6th street between Walnut & Locust Streets, nsp.gov/inde

  • Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, founded by Bishop Richard Allen in 1794, sits on the oldest parcel of land continuously owned by African-Americans, and is the mother church of the nation’s first Black denomination. Today, Mother Bethel is a church, museum and archive. The congregation worships weekly. The museum houses the tomb of Bishop Richard Allen and artifacts dating to the 1600s, tracing the history of the AME Church. Reservations required for daily museum tour. 419 S. 6th Street, (215) 925-0616, motherbethel.org
  • St. George’s United Methodist Church welcomed Black worshippers and licensed Richard Allen and Absalom Jones as its first African-American Methodist lay preachers before other local African-American churches formed. In 1787, a dispute over segregated seating policies led to a walkout and the creation of African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas and Mother Bethel AME Church. St. George’s now works on amends for previous racial injustices. Portraits, items of worship, manuscripts and other artifacts are on display in the original building, open Tuesday through Friday. 235 N. 4th Street, (215) 925-7788, historicstgeorges.org

Historical Markers & Stories:

  • Historical Markers capture the stories of people, places and events that shaped the country throughout the Historic District—and the entire city and state. The blue signs act as mini-history lessons about notables. There are markers for the Free African Society (6th & Lombard Streets), an organization that fostered identity, leadership and unity among Black people; James Forten (336 Lombard Street), a wealthy sailmaker who employed multi-racial craftsmen and championed reform causes; The Pennsylvania Slave Trade (211 S. Columbus Boulevard, outside Independence Seaport Museum), site where African people, first enslaved by Dutch and Swedes, later purchased and enslaved by William Penn, other Quakers and merchants, landed in Philadelphia; London Coffee House (Front & Market Streets), a circa 1754 shop where carriages, food, horses—and enslaved African-Americans—were bought and sold over coffee; Joseph and Amy Cassey (4th Street between Chestnut & Market Streets), a prominent African-American couple that founded intellectual and benevolent societies for Black people; Pennsylvania Abolition Society (Front Street between Walnut & Chestnut Streets), the first American abolition society; Pennsylvania Hall (6th Street between Race & Arch Streets), a meeting place for abolitionists that was burned to the ground three days after it first opened; and Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (5th & Arch Streets), organized by Quaker abolitionist Lucretia Mott. Of special note is a marker located in the heart of a neighborhood once known as the Seventh Ward, home to Philadelphia’s largest and oldest African-American community. Here, scholar, activist and NAACP co-founder W. E. B. Du Bois lived while collecting data for his seminal 1899 study, The Philadelphia Negro (6th & Rodman Streets). pahistoricalmarkers.com
  • Once Upon A Nation’s Storytelling Benches at 13 locations around Philadelphia’s Historic District offer people of all ages a free perch and professionally told story. Engaging storytellers regale their audiences with tales of the well-known and not-so-well-known people who shaped America’s history. Among the real-life characters are Ona Judge, an enslaved woman who escaped from George Washington’s Philadelphia home to find freedom in New Hampshire; iconic reformer, author, statesman and abolitionist Frederick Douglass; James Forten, who heard the Declaration of Independence read aloud for the first time when he was nine and went on to become a leader in his African-American community; and Caroline LeCount, who, nearly 100 years before Rosa Parks, successfully won the right for all people to ride in Philadelphia’s street cars. Benches are open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Maps of the bench locations are available at the Independence Visitor Center. 6th & Market Streets, (215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org
Philadelphia’s Historic District campaign, from VISIT PHILADELPHIA®, showcases the city’s incomparable place in early American history and the still vibrant neighborhoods of Old City, Society Hill and the Delaware River Waterfront. The campaign celebrates America’s most historic square mile in the country’s first World Heritage City, as designated by the Organization of World Heritage Cities. Funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development and H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest, the initiative runs through September 2018.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, visitors can engage with costumed history makers, hear stories of the real people of independence and take part in colonial reenactments. And every day of the year, they can tour, shop, dine and drink in the area just like the founding fathers and mothers once did. For more information about all there is to see and do in Philadelphia’s Historic District, go to visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com.