Students Present Famed Opera ‘Carmen’ At Special MLK Day Event

A special Martin Luther King Jr. Day presentation of the George Bizet opera, “Voices of Carmen” that will include a discussion examining escalating conflicts and violence among young people is planned for Charm City.

The urban musical adaptation of the iconic opera, which is set in a high school to contemporary rhythm and beats, as well as what the director calls a creative vehicle for important conversations, is scheduled for Monday, January 21, 2019 at Motor House in Baltimore 2:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Members of the Carmen Youth Council, (left to right) Edima Essien, Jade Underwood and Christein Wills.

Courtesy Photos/PushtoStartInc.

Members of the Carmen Youth Council, (left to right) Edima Essien, Jade Underwood and Christein Wills.

“Basically, one of the things about doing a new musical production is that it’s designed to be a vehicle for community conversations,” said writer, director and choreographer CJay Philip, who first produced an adaptation of “Carmen” in 2007 in Zurich, Switzerland with her brother and co-choreographer Kelvin Hardy.

Philip says the feedback she received during earlier auditions from her students made her realize the benefits of establishing a production to recognize the slain civil rights leader’s holiday.

“I was shocked how fantastic and quick [the students] were wit the material,” she said.

“The young people wanted to do this for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day specifically because of what we are talking about … escalating conflicts with teens and how do we de-escalate them and what are the tools to deal with fear and frustration,” Philip said. “Specifically, we talked about this under the umbrella of nonviolence, so that’s why we’re doing the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event.”

A French Opéra comique, “Carmen” is also based on the novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée that was first published in 1845. According to historians, the opera premiered in Paris in 1875 and the opening run was denounced by the majority of critics.

Set in southern Spain, it tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by Carmen. José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen’s love to Escamillo, a matador. Jose ultimately kills Carmen in a fit of jealousy.

Historians say Bizet died of a heart attack at 36 in 1875, never knowing how popular Carmen would become.

The more recent escalation in school violence and relational aggression among teens led Philip to believe the time was right to bring “Carmen” to the stage and into communities as a vehicle for dialogue around sensitive topics.

“I was tired of town hall meetings and community conversations after an incident,” Philip said. “Teenagers are being beat up, bullied and even killed over a break up. We have to find a way to get out in front of this problem.”

“Voices of Carmen” is my attempt to create an avenue for youth voices to be heard and for communities to listen. Young people face a lot of pressures, stress, fear and are shamed every day. How can we help them deal with it and know they are not alone?”

Phillip has updated the work and rewritten much of the script. “Voices of Carmen,” has a youth council of students who advise Philip on school climate, music styles, themes and relevance of the work.

Contemporary arrangements of the music by Bizet along with eight originals songs written and arrangement by CJay in collaboration with her husband and music producer Winston Philip range from R&B to Pop and Hip-Hop.

Citywide auditions are scheduled from March 2 to March 4 for youth ages 14-21 and the show premieres July 31, 2019 at the Baltimore School for the Arts (BSA). The show will also be presented on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage on August 3, 2019.

“Voices of Carmen” music is available free on Sound Cloud for students to learn and prepare for the citywide auditions in March. Once selected for a role, students will record an original cast album before the start of “Camp Carmen” on July 8, 2019 at the BSA.

Dina Maeva recording songs for “Voices of Carmen” for the original cast album

Dina Maeva recording songs for “Voices of Carmen” for the original cast album

For tickets for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day performance, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/voices-of-carmen-mlk-day-performance-tickets-53158461389

Former Congressman Ron Dellums Dies at 82

Ron Dellums, the firebrand former Oakland, California mayor and founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, who vigorously fought on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised, died on Monday, July 30.

Dellums, who helped shaped politics in the Bay Area for decades, reportedly died after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 82.

Tributes celebrating Dellums political and civil rights activism poured in from colleagues and friends.

“I have known and admired Ron Dellums since I was a child,” former U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice said in a statement. “He, in part, inspired my interest in public service.”

California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris also expressed her condolences.

“I’m deeply saddened by the loss of former congressman and mayor of Oakland, Ron Dellums. His years of service to both the Bay Area and California will continue to serve as a beacon for change and progress,” Harris tweeted.

Minnesota’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison said Dellums counted as a courageous freedom fighter. He remembered Dellums for his “inspiring example, courage, humor and relentless faith in our ability to make a better world.”

Born on November 24, 1935 in Oakland, Calif., Dellums served in the United States Marine Corps from 1954 to 1956 after he was denied the college scholarship he had sought, according to his biography at Blackpast.org.

After service in the Marines, Dellums, with the help of the G.I Bill and an outside job, attended San Francisco State College where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1960.

He went on to earn a master’s degree in social welfare from the University of California at Berkeley in 1962.

After teaching at San Francisco State University and at Berkeley, Dellums became a politician. He was elected to the Berkeley City Council, where he quickly became known as the spokesperson for African American community affairs and for his radical political beliefs.

After only three years on the Berkeley City Council, Dellums decided to run for Congress.

With crucial campaign assistance from Coretta Scott King, the widow of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as from Berkeley’s powerful anti-Vietnam War organizations, 35-year-old Dellums was elected to Congress, where he quickly emerged as one of the most radical and outspoken lawmakers in Washington.

Within weeks of his election, Dellums called for congressional investigations into alleged war crimes in Vietnam and co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus.

Two years later he began a long campaign to end the apartheid policies of South Africa and in 1986 introduced the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which called for sanctions against the nation’s government.

President Ronald Reagan vetoed the bill, however his veto was overridden, marking the first time a presidential veto of a foreign policy measure was overridden by Congress in the 20th Century.

In 2006, he was elected as the mayor of Oakland, succeeding former California Governor Jerry Brown. He left office in 2010.

“We mourn the loss of one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus,” the CBC said in a statement. “His work for his community and his work for the Caucus will be missed.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton called Dellums a “true progressive and courageous man.”

“We spoke often,” Sharpton said. “He was a brilliant man.”

In a statement celebrating Dellums’ legacy, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) called him “a great warrior and statesman.”

“The contributions that Congressman Dellums made to our East Bay community, the nation, and the world are too innumerable to count,” Lee said in the statement. “I feel blessed to have called Congressman Dellums my dear friend, predecessor, and mentor. I will miss him tremendously, and I will hold dear to my heart the many lessons I learned from this great public servant.”

The statement continued: “My condolences are with the Dellums family, friends, and loved ones. His legacy and spirit will be forever with us.”

NAACP Board Chairman Leon W. Russell said that, Dellums created space for our voices to be heard.

“It is said that the current generation stands on the shoulders of giants; Ron was a giant who blazed a path to empowerment that we still walk on today,” Russell said.

Funeral plans haven’t been announced.

Dellums is survived by his wife, Cynthia Dellums and his five children.

Stacy is a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. You can also find Stacy’s work in The Washington Informer, Baltimore Times, Philadelphia Tribune, Pocono Record, and the New York Post. Stacy is the co-author of “Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway, Stevie Wonder’s Mother.” Follow Stacy on Twitter @stacybrownmedia.

This article was originally published at BlackPressUSA.com.

Baltimore Activist Connects Present With Civil Rights Movement In New Book

Like many Baltimore born residents, Kevin Shird has a story to tell.

Raised on the west side of the city in poverty, Shird dealt drugs at the age of 16 and later spent nearly a dozen years in prison. Ironically, prison is where Shird says he first developed his writing skills.

“There, I started helping other inmates who either didn’t know how to read or didn’t know how to write, and later I became an instructor in a prison GED program helping guys get their GED before they were released,” he said.

Today, Shird is a three-time published author, writer and social activist and he has many talking about his latest book, “The Colored Waiting Room: Empowering the Original and the New Civil Rights Movements; Conversations Between an MLK Jr. Confidant and a Modern-Day Activist.”

As the editors at Apollo Publishers note, the 240-page hardcover work features extraordinary conversations between a confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. and Shird who is known as a modern-day, activist.

It leads to the game-changing realizations that a second-wave civil rights movement is unfolding and the lessons of the past to effect lasting change must be now be embraced.

“It’s a book that talks about civil rights then and social justice now, how do we connect the dots between yesterday and today,” Shird said. “Back then there was the KKK; today there are the white

nationalists. Back then it was the murder of Emmett Till, Megger Evers and Jimmy Lee Jackson. Today, we have the unjust killing of Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray.

“Back then, there was the bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama and today— the Charleston church massacre in South Carolina. The similarities are eerie.”

The book also tells the story of Nelson Malden, who once served as Dr. King’s personal barber.

“I was inspired to write the book after meeting [Malden] when he was visiting Baltimore in 2016,” Shird said. “He gave me his telephone number and I called him a few days later and we began talking about the time he spent with Dr. King in Montgomery. He also began to talk about the Jim Crow laws and how they negatively affected African Americans during those years.”

A short time later, Shird visited Montgomery where he and Malden toured historical sites like King’s former home, the corner where Rosa Parks was arrested on the bus and other significant places.

“While I was there I became even more inspired to travel down the long road to write this book, which took about 10 months. I realized at that time that this would be a very important book at a very important time in America,” Shird said.

Malden counted as the first black man to ever run for political office in the city of Montgomery, Alabama. Before 1966, no black man had ever run for political office. Shird says that was a very important time in Montgomery, the epicenter of the American civil rights movement.

“Nelson put his life on the line during a very important time in American history,” Shird said.

Born in Pensacola, Florida, and an Alabama State College graduate, Malden cut King’s hair for more than a decade and he opened the Malden Brother barbershop with family members in 1954.

“Because of segregation, the black barber was a very important place where blacks congregated,” Shird said, adding that Malden also worked distributing the Southern Carrier newspaper, which was one of just a handful of newspapers in the south during the Jim Crow era geared towards the concerns of black people.

Shird, who is currently finalizing a deal to become lead screenwriter on an as-yet-titled Hollywood film says he believes his latest book can help young ones connect the dots between today and history.

“I’m hoping that this book will help motivate African-Americans to [become active] and stay engaged by either voting, protesting and organizing. I really feel like this is a great time to be black in America and an opportunity to make a historical difference,” he said. “It’s a great time to rise up and become a leader in the community. A great time to embrace the young people around us and help them acquire their dreams. It’s a great time for the black culture. We just have to believe in ourselves and our ability.”

Shird’s book, “The Colored Waiting Room: Empowering the Original and the New Civil Rights Movements; Conversations Between an MLK Jr. Confidant and a Modern-Day Activist” is available for sale at https://www.amazon.com/Colored-Waiting-Room-Empowering-Conversations/dp/1948062011.

Keeping the Legacy Alive with Kenneth Morris: Banneker-Douglass Museum partners with St. John’s College

— Banneker-Douglass Museum recently joined with the Anne Arundel County Trust for Preservation; Four Rivers: The Heritage of Annapolis, London Town, and South County; Lost Town Project; Anne Arundel County Office of Planning and Zoning; and St. John’s College to host Keeping the Legacy Alive, a lecture presented by Kenneth Morris. Kenneth Morris, a descendant of noted civil rights leaders Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, discussed how Frederick Douglass’ legacy has inspired his life and contributed to his work as a social activist. The event comes in celebration of the Year of Frederick Douglass, which commemorates the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of the renowned abolitionist and Maryland native.

“The Banneker-Douglass Museum remains committed to keeping the legacy and spirit of Frederick Douglass and other noted civil rights leaders vibrant in our communities through the promotion and preservation of Maryland’s rich African American History and Culture,” said Chanel Compton, Director of the Banneker-Douglass Museum and Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture. “We appreciate the continued work of individuals like Kenneth Morris to inspire new generations of socially-conscious Marylanders who are dedicated to making an impact in the world around them.”

Kenneth Morris currently serves as the co-founder and President of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. He is the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington. Through the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, Kenneth Morris has worked to educate youth on all forms of forced servitude – including human trafficking – and to inspire action. In celebration of the Year of Frederick Douglass, the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives announced the One Million Abolitionist project, a partnership with various organizations – including Banneker Douglass Museum – to distribute one million copies of a special Bicentennial edition of Frederick Douglass’s first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, to young people across the United States.

In early February, Governor Larry Hogan issued a proclamation declaring 2018 as the “Year of Frederick Douglass.” In celebration, the Banneker-Douglass Museum has partnered with various organizations to host educational seminars, celebrations, and events across the state. To see a full list of events visit: http://bdmuseum.maryland.gov/events/.

Historian Remembers Blacks as ‘Original Horse Whisperers’ on Eve of Preakness Stakes

Post time for the 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes is 6:20 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, 2018 at Pimlico, where approximately 120,000 people will be in attendance and millions more watching on television around the globe.

The historic race commonly referred to as “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans,” has a unique place in American horse racing history and Pimlico, it’s home along Park Heights Avenue in Baltimore got its name from a horse who won the stakes more than a century ago. However, often buried in that history is the significant role of African-Americans, particularly jockeys.

“Horse racing is the first American sport and Maryland has a pretty unique role in being one of the first states with tracks and having a competition,” said historian Stuart Hudgins.

Before the first running of the Preakness in 1873, African-Americans dominated the sport, with black jockeys winning the Kentucky Derby, according to Hudgins. Most of the top jockeys were black, he said.

Hudgins recalled that slaves in the south grew up on farms, working in stables, and plantation owners wouldn’t hesitate to put their slaves on their horses’ backs in informal racing in the south.

When racing became an organized sport in the early 19th century, black boys and men were in the vanguard in the saddle, dominating racing until the turn of the century.

However, the landmark 1896 Supreme Court decision in the Plessy v. Ferguson matter changed everything.

That decision upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation after a black train passenger named Homer Plessy refused to sit in a car for African-Americans. The Supreme Court rejected Plessy’s argument that his constitutional rights were violated – a decision that would later be used to strengthen racist Jim Crow laws and separate public accommodations based on race.

“When that happened, there was an extreme fall off in the thousands of contests that African-Americans were able to compete for and eventually they were out of horse racing altogether,” Hudgins said. “We were the original trainers, the grooms, the jockeys. We’ve had such a rich tradition and we had black people who cared for those horses, talked to them— African-Americans were the original horse whisperers,” he said.

Isaac Murphy was the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby three times, and he was the first black jockey to be inducted in the Thoroughbred racing Hall of Fame in 1955. Oliver Lewis, the winning jockey in the first Kentucky Derby, in 1875, was African-American, one of 13 black jockeys in a 15-horse race that year.

Willie Simms, a 1977 Racing Hall of Fame inductee, won back-to-back Belmont Stakes in 1893 and 1894 and twice won the Kentucky Derby. In 1898, Simms, an African-American reigned at Pimlico, winning the Preakness riding his horse named “Sly Fox.”

Black jockeys won 15 of the first 28 Kentucky Derbies, Hudgins said, referring to a Forbes Magazine article that detailed these accomplishments. But at any racetrack in this country now, you’d have a hard time finding an African-American in the saddle, the article noted.

In the early days of racing in this country, African-American faces were prominent.

On May 10, 1889, George “Spider” Anderson became the first African-American to win the Preakness, which at the time consisted of just two horses at a purse of about $2,000.

Now, 10 horses compete in the Preakness with more than $1.5 million at stake. Hudgins says African-Americans are no longer central to the Preakness or horse racing in general. He recalled what the late African-American tennis great, Arthur Ashe, once said.

“It’s the saddest case,” Ashe said in a 1988 interview when he compared blacks in horse racing in the late 19th century to their modern-day domination in the National Basketball Association.

“Over the years, we as African-Americans got rooted out,” Hudgins said. “When I looked at the tradition of racing, you see we had locally in the Baltimore area townspeople who were heroes and who were acknowledged to be ex

Historian to Discuss Baltimore County African-Americans role in Civil War

— Stacy M. Brown

Very few documented histories of African American life and communities are available in Baltimore County. However, historian and author Louis S. Diggs, the president of the Friends of Historical Cherry Hill AUMP, Inc. and the president of the board of the Diggs-Johnson Museum in Granite continues his mission to tell these stories.

On Saturday, January 27, 2018, the museum, located at 2426 Offutt Road, will host Diggs’ presentation of his 10th book, “African-Americans from Baltimore County Who Served in The Civil War: Maryland’s Six USCT Regiments of Slaves.”

Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Alexander T. August— An African American Surgeon assigned to the 7th USCT Regiment. While on a train that stopped in Baltimore, MD, he was singled out while wearing his uniform and was attacked by white men.

Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Alexander T. August— An African American Surgeon assigned to the 7th USCT Regiment. While on a train that stopped in Baltimore, MD, he was singled out while wearing his uniform and was attacked by white men.

The presentation of the 492-page book will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The program is free but donations are encouraged.

Diggs, who has authored 14 books, says those he wrote previously to his 10th book only served to scratch the surface of the history of those who participated in the Civil War.

“This book on the history of African Americans from Baltimore County who served in the Civil War takes the documented history of African American life in this county to a higher level,” Diggs said.

The book has about 475 pages that specifically detail the sacrifices and history of African-Americans from Baltimore County as free men and slaves, who from 1863 through the end of the war, either volunteered to serve by enlisting as substitutes for both white men and other free blacks, or who were drafted.

Others simply ran away from slavery hoping to gain their freedom by joining the six United States Colored Troop Regiments (USCT) formed in Maryland beginning in 1863.

“The majority of information was gleaned from the official military records of each soldier named in the book utilizing the websites, Fold3.com and Ancestry.com, and also the ‘History and Roster of Maryland Volunteers [and other research material],” Diggs said.

As the Civil War enhanced, there was a great need for the Union to recruit men to enlist, therefore in 1863, the Union established a “Bureau of Colored Troops” to facilitate the recruitment of African-Americans, Diggs said.

“It ended up with approximately 175 regiments of U.S. Colored Troops composed of more than 178,000 free and enslaved African-Americans,” he said. “Unfortunately, they started off earning less than their white counterparts [as] white soldiers were paid $13 a month and Black soldiers were paid $10 a month minus $3 for clothing.”

During the January 27 program, Diggs will include a power point presentation to help the audience further grasp the history of African Americans from Baltimore County who played a significant role in the Civil War.

Headstone of George Harris, a former slave from the Winters Lane, an African American community in Catonsville, MD, who served in the Civil War.

Headstone of George Harris, a former slave from the Winters Lane, an African American community in Catonsville, MD, who served in the Civil War.

To truly remember Dr. King, political action and infinite hope must outweigh anti-democratic forces

— Often lost in our celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. is his unwavering testimony of hope and his political action in the face of despair and nihilism, forces that have the potential to thwart otherwise transformative movements.

We often remember Dr. King’s hope as a more passive “dream” instead of the definitive declaration of “Normalcy, Never Again” which was the intended title of his revered 1963 speech.

Nonetheless, no time is riper than 2018 to commemorate Dr. King’s true legacy by exercising political action and demonstrating unwavering hope in the face of circumstances that naturally call for the blues.

No doubt, anti-democratic forces have penetrated American politics and those forces have the potential to breed widespread hopelessness and political apathy. For example, gerrymandering— the partisan act of creating voting districts in favor of one’s own political party— has led to situations like that in Virginia, where 55 percent of voters pulled the levers for Democrats to only lose the House of Delegates by the drawing of straws. These Virginians, and other marginalized voters, could lose hope and sit out future elections conceding that their votes and voices matter little.

Anti-democratic proposals— including a bid by Jeff Sessions to require Census respondents to answer self-incriminating questions about their immigration status— have the potential to discourage participation in a process that determines the size of each state’s congressional delegation and each state’s receipt of federal funds for essential programs like quality public education. Such forces do more to depress civic participation, and they create a disconnected class of Americans, rather than encourage lawfulness.

Many pre-civil rights era measures that suppressed minority voters, like poll taxes and literacy tests, have despicable descendants that plague the modern-day electoral system. Discriminatory voter identification laws, voter roll purges, limitations on early voting procedures, and other impediments to voter registration and ballot casting continue to suppress Americans to this day.

Despite the times, if the legacy of Dr. King means anything, today’s challenges are a call for increased involvement in our democratic process. A number of democratic victories reaffirm Dr. King’s call to “accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

A recent federal court decision that found North Carolina’s partisan gerrymandered districts, which unjustifiably favored Republicans 10 to 3, unconstitutional provides persuasive arguments as to why the Supreme Court should conclude the same in two pending cases. If the Supreme Court adopts North Carolina’s reasoning, the result may be a more leveled political playing field during 2018 midterm congressional elections, and a more accountable Washington, as a result.

Democratic Senator Doug Jones’ statewide victory in Alabama is also an example of why our infinite hope should always trump finite disappointment, especially in the electoral process. If only a few voters lost hope and decided to sit out the Alabama senatorial race, the result could have been status quo in the Senate during a time where resistance to anti-democratic forces in Washington is needed more than ever.

We must heed the words of the great man we honor today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who warned us that “history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

As Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus’ Political Action Committee, I am inspired by Dr. King’s infinite hope now more than ever before.

This year, concerned citizens can make Dr. King’s philosophy real in the voting booth. Lawyers can do the same in the courts, as well as advocates throughout the halls of Congress and state legislatures. If we all maintain hope and action, the outcome will be a more democratic America where our institutions reflect our true values, not the perverted aspirations of the powerful few.

Congressman Gregory W. Meeks represents the 5th Congressional District of New York and is the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus’ Political Action Committee.

Historic Diggs-Johnson Museum to Host Special Presentation

— The Diggs-Johnson Museum will host a power point presentation on the 40 historic African-American communities of Baltimore County on Saturday, April 29, 2017.

The 10 a.m. event at the recently transformed Cherry Hill African Union Protestant Church in Granite, will include a presentation by Blair A. Diggs, a board member and son of local historian and museum namesake Louis S. Diggs.

The event is sure to draw on, Our Struggles, the eighth book by Louis Diggs which documents much of the history of the 40 communities that include Overlea, Chase, Bengies, Back River Neck Road in Essex, Goodwood/Hyde Park in Essex, Hopewell Avenue in Essex, Norris Lane in Dundalk, and Edgemere.

“Overlea is a small African-American community located at the northeast edge of Baltimore City along Belair Road just inside the Baltimore Beltway,” Louis Diggs said. “Overlea began its growth in 1904 when the United Railway streetcar line was extended from Baltimore City along Belair Road to Overlea. The African-American community in Overlea began not many years after the community was developed.”

For example, Cherry Heights, developed in 1909, started with 156 lots, and by 1915, only six dwellings stood. The streets that made up the community in Overlea included Hazel Avenue, Linden Avenue, Beach Avenue, Cherry Street, Apple Street, First Street, Second Street and Third Street.

The only African-American church in the community is Emmanuel Baptist Church on Linden Avenue, which was established in 1928.

Known by many because of the large outdoor movie theater that stood for years, Bengies is located a short distance from the Martin Airport and has been the home of African-Americans since the slavery era.

The presentation will include the other communities as well, Diggs said.

A 20-year retired Korean War veteran who retired after an additional 19-year career in civil service, Diggs said he was convinced by his four sons to become a role model at Catonsville High School, which he did in 1990 by becoming a substitute teacher. He eventually taught a class in genealogy.

“In this class, I found that the African-American students from the Winters Lane area were unable to find any information as to when their community began, and very little information of the growth of it,” he said. “When the class ended, these students asked me if I could help them find some of the history of the Winters Lane community. I accepted their call for help.”

Diggs’ research began in earnest and with the assistance of Lenwood Johnson, a planner with Baltimore County, he published the history of the African-American communities in the county.

After nearly 25 years, Diggs has researched and published 11 books covering much of the history of all 40 of the African-American enclaves.

“On April 29, I will assist my son, Blair, a board member, who will share this rich history with a PowerPoint presentation and brief talk on the history of all of the 40 communities with a question and answer period during the activities at the Diggs-Johnson Museum,” he said.

Anyone planning to attend should apply for a parking pass and avoid parking on the adjacent Offutt Road. To request a parking pass, email louisdiggs2@verizon.net. There is limited parking at the museum.

Hosanna School celebrates 150th anniversary

— It was nearly 40 years ago when Christine Tolbert was approached by the president of the Harford County Historical Society for information regarding the history of the Hosanna School, a historic institution for African-Americans in Darlington, Md.

“I met with the Society to discuss the little I knew and after that meeting I began to question my maternal grandmother and other relatives and learned that it was the first public school built for the black community in 1867,” said Tolbert, a board member of the Hosanna School.

A simple sign marks the location of Hosanna School Museum in Darlington. Hosanna is now a living schoolhouse museum, which attracts visitors from all over the country.

Courtesy Photo/Hosanna School MuseumA

A simple sign marks the location of Hosanna School Museum in Darlington. Hosanna is now a living schoolhouse museum, which attracts visitors from all over the country.

Hosanna School Museum is a two-story structure that was built in 1867 by the Freedmen's Bureau.

Courtesy Photo/Hosanna School MuseumA

Hosanna School Museum is a two-story structure that was built in 1867 by the Freedmen’s Bureau.

After interviewing some of the neighborhood elders about the school, Tolbert said she was encouraged to explore the possibility of restoring the building, which was in great distress after being destroyed by Hurricane Hazel.

By 1983, with the help of Maryland Delegate Barbara Kreamer, the restoration received its first bond bill of $50,000.

For Tolbert, who attended what is now known as the Hosanna School Museum as a child from first through fifth grade and would later serve as its executive director, the joy of restoring the historic building will forever be remembered as officials prepare to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Hosanna on Friday, April 7, 2017.

“What I find compelling is the opportunity for younger people to experience a living history. They’re able to hear the stories, see, and touch and feel what schools in rural America looked like; to learn about the times when black people were denied an education equal to their white counterparts,” Tolbert said.

The first Freedmen’s Bureau school in Harford County, Hosanna will celebrate its anniversary with a banquet and a keynote address by Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of UMBC.

Hosanna is a living schoolhouse museum, which attracts visitors from all over the country. Housed inside the two-story building with two rooms on each floor, the museum hosts various events including living history presentations in the schoolroom.

Also, known as the Berkley School, Hosanna was built in 1867 on land owned by James Paca, the son of Cupid Paca, a free African-American who bought 50 acres of land from Berkley to Darlington.

It was used as a school, community, meeting place and church and remained active as a schoolhouse for African-American children until 1945.

Significant restoration of the building began in 1983, and the second floor was added in 2005, returning it to its original two-story structure.

“African-Americans from or associated with Harford County were involved in significant events that had national impact. But these stories are not well known,” said Iris Leigh Barnes, the school’s current executive director.

“One of my personal missions is to seek out these stories and ensure that they are included in the national narrative,” Barnes said, noting the Supreme Court Case of Prigg v. Pennsylvania, the Christiana Resistance, and the desegregation of restaurants and public accommodations along Route 40 in Maryland.

“What is important to me is that the public learns about the history of the school, and by extension life in Harford County in the context of emancipation, reconstruction and Jim Crow and how regardless of the social and political obstacles faced by the students that attended the school-the families that supported them-and the church that sustained them-they persevered,” added Board Member Sharoll Love.

“Too little is taught in our schools about history in general and African-American History, in particular,” Love said.

The anniversary event will take place at the APG Federal Credit Union Arena at Harford Community College, 7 p.m.

In addition, the banquet will feature a sit-down dinner, live entertainment and a book signing by Hrabowski.

“We are honored to have Dr. Hrabowski as the keynote speaker. His speaking is significant because in the same way the first teachers of Hosanna School were committed to providing education and changing lives in untold ways for African-Americans— committed sometimes to the point of putting their lives on the line— Dr. Hrabowski is equally committed to providing educational opportunities for today’s black youth, particularly males through STEM programs,” Barnes said.

Banquet tickets are $60 and are available online at: www.hosannaschoolmuseum.org. Proceeds are earmarked for the continued preservation of Hosanna School Museum and to support interpretative and educational programming.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center Opens

— The public is invited to the grand opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center March 11 and 12, 2017. The National Park Service and the Maryland Park Service have teamed up to provide special family-friendly Grand Opening events and activities at the site and a first look at the new visitor center. It is located at: 4068 Golden Hill Road, Church Creek, Maryland. All events are free.

The Visitor Center is the premier feature of the national and state park and includes state-of-the-art, green elements such as bio-retention ponds, rain barrels, and vegetative roofs. It houses an exhibit hall, museum store, information desk, research library, and restrooms.

The exhibit features information about Harriet Tubman’s role as a conductor on the Underground Railroad and her work as a freedom fighter, humanitarian, leader and liberator.

Events for the grand opening will include programs with Harriet Tubman Re-enactor Millicent Sparks; Harriet Haikus & Creative Writing Workshops with National Park Service Centennial Poet Laureate Dr. Sonia Sanchez; Historian Tony Cohen of the Menare Foundation leading simulated Underground Railroad journeys around the legacy garden that reveal escape secrets used by Tubman and other freedom seekers.

Park Rangers will provide talks on topics such as why Araminta Ross changed her name to Harriet Tubman, what skills made her a successful Underground Railroad conductor and the importance of community to enslaved people.

Children’s activities will be offered from noon to 4 p.m. both days including “Games Enslaved Children Played,” about the significance and history of games that enslaved children played and create their own piece of art to remember the park’s inaugural weekend. Junior Ranger activities are also available. Participants get a souvenir hat while supplies last.

On Sunday, Tubman biographer, Dr. Kate Clifford Larson, the visitor center’s historical consultant, will present a talk and book signing for Bound for the Promised Land: Portrait of an American Hero. In addition, architect Chris Elcock, of GWWO, Inc., Architects, will present a talk about the hidden symbolism in the Visitor Center building and surrounding landscape.

“The story of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad is one that captivates people of all ages and backgrounds,” said Josie Fernandez, acting superintendent, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park.

“Harriet Tubman is a true Maryland treasure and who remains relevant to this very day,” said Maryland Park Service Manager Dana Paterra. “Her path to freedom was wrought with peril but she persevered and overcame many struggles to become an American icon.”

For visitors coming to the site through Cambridge, Maryland, free parking and a shuttle system is available at 410 Academy Street. From Route 50 take Maryland Avenue to Academy Street and follow signs for “Shuttle Parking.” The shuttle operates from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 11 only. The City of Cambridge is running these free shuttles to the Visitor Center.