The National Museum of African American Music will open in Nashville Tennessee in 2019.
The museum is currently offering a series of lectures prior to opening the doors to their permanent home. A schedule can be found on their website nmaam.org
There were probably over a couple hundred people that came out to witness the definition of a significant moment in Atlanta history. The date, August 22nd 2018. Location, John Lewis Freedom Parkway and the corner of Ponce De Leon Ave NE. The occasion? Well, just a short time ago John Lewis Freedom Parkway was known as simply Freedom Parkway. But, in early December 2017 a resolution sponsored by Council member Andre Dickens, that called for a street name change from Freedom Parkway to John Lewis Freedom Parkway, was approved by Atlanta City Council. Following the approval, months of preparation went into changing the street name with a public, conspicuous display of admiration in Lewis’ honor. Also of note are changes in the process of being made to the existing John Lewis Plaza.
To start, imagine this —in comes one of the most notable Freedom Riders, John Lewis, on a MARTA bus designated for him, his family members, and other close supporters. With streets partially blocked, ushered in by a crew of public safety officers, the bus turns the corner… in it is Lewis and his selected bus passengers with their eyes locked on the crowd. From the MARTA bus windows they are getting their first glimpse of the amount of people that amassed to witness “the unveiling”.
Fast forward to Lewis exiting the bus. He was met by many who must have felt it was important to document that very moment in time. Whether it was a mobile phone or another digital recording device, more than not someone was working to capture an affecting image. Lewis worked his way from one end of the park to the other, surrounded by a crowd that could be described as a swarm (Note: I am curious to know if Representative Lewis felt any other way besides “in his element” while making his way alongside the crowd to the other end of the park). Just before reaching the main stage, accompanied by Councilmember Andre Dickens and Mayor Keisha Bottoms, Lewis was welcomed by the Clark Atlanta University (CAU) Band. The band performed a series of routines just as they did while the crowd awaited Lewis’ 1 pm arrival. Once the crowd settled, Dickens introduced the John Lewis Freedom Parkway task force members, other dignitaries, Mayor Keisha Bottoms, and finally John Lewis. Dickens shared that there was a connection between John Lewis and Freedom Parkway due to Lewis’ career long commitment to civil rights. Dickens shared that Freedom Parkway and Ponce De Leon Ave were the selected cross streets not just because of the original street name but also because the section remains the only highway in Atlanta that is solely a green space, void of business infrastructure.
Additionally, new features added to the already existing John Lewis Plaza, were unveiled. With the support of KaBoom, a children’s health awareness organization, the city was able to make upgrades to the park area. These changes were inspired by Lewis’ career in Civil Rights and public service, as well as his graphic novels, the Mark trilogy. Monica Prothro, Art Program Manager with the City of Atlanta shared that the Freedom Play Space is nearing completion. Additional interpretive signage and a bus honoring the Freedom Riders will be installed before year’s end.
John Lewis Freedom Parkway and additions to John Lewis Plaza are just two public spaces in Atlanta, named in honor of Representative John Lewis. During his speech, Lewis shared that he is personally championing a day when the human race can achieve solidarity. It is likely Lewis’ career long track record of working to fulfill such an ideal that has resulted in the City of Atlanta commitment to honoring his name and legacy. If you are interested in visiting a public space in Atlanta to connect with American, African American, and Civil Rights history know that John Lewis Plaza located at the corner of the newly renamed John Lewis Freedom Parkway and Ponce De Leon Northeast, is a good place to do so.
Follow Instagram: @TheMergingLanesProject
Photos by Zoe Beery
Full Story Via Outline.com
Pictured is Cheyney McKnight, an Atlanta native and founder of interpretation company, “Not Your Momma’s History”. Raised in a home that encouraged her to learn everything from Civil Rights to the Great Migration, McKnight would eventually go on to attain a political science degree from Simmons College.
Immediately after, she spent 3-years of independent study, traveling to archives and historical sites in NY, VA and Pennsylvania. Then she started participating in Living History Re-enactments, which can be defined as a portrayal of everyday activities such as cooking, cleaning, and medical care from a particular historical period. Her first re-enactment was during the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. She portrayed a 22 year-old freewoman of color
McKnight is committed to influencing diversity in Living History interpretations. She recognizes the voice it can lend to contemporary movements such as Black Lives Matter.
Today, there is a small representation of Black Living Historians and she is committed to changing that. She is confident that in 10 years she will not be the only one doing this forecasting, “there will be 20 black women living historians just in New York” alone.
Follow Instagram: @TheMergingLanesProject for daily updates
In November of 2017, I interviewed Mr. Richard Stewart, owner and operator of Petersburg Virginia’s Pocahontas Island Black History Museum. During that time, he asked had I heard of neighboring cultural site, “Nat Turner Land”. I hadn’t. A couple of days after that interview, while spending time with one of my mentors in D.C., he shared that he and a large group of people had just gotten back from visiting “Nat Turner Land”. I knew it was a must for me to place the site on my “Places to Document” list.
In January of this year, as I was traveling from Atlanta for a 3-month stay in D.C., I stopped for an overnight rest in Virginia. The next morning, I looked up “Nat Turner Land” and made an impromptu phone call, to see if I could stop in for a visit and a brief recorded Q&A. To my surprise the site’s founder, Baba H. Khalif Khalifah, said yes and we coordinated a good time for me to stop by. I went expecting to document the history of the landscape. That did not happen. Instead, left having documented something equally as valuable.
H. Khalif Khalifa (Master Printer)
My interview with H. Khalif Khalifa founder of United Brothers Communications Systems (UBCS) introduced me to the inner workings of book publishing and distribution. This resulted in over an hour of documented recordings, which can be viewed in the link above. The interview is raw and unedited. Still, it is a strong resource. Viewers will one, learn just how book publishing and distribution works and cases how it does not work. Secondly, there is an opportunity for enterprising individuals to learn about the ecosystem created by a collective of entrepreneurs, working the streets of New York, the books they sold and what became of their lives after that period in time.
H. Khalif Khalifa had a vision to create a consolidated publishing/distribution house, seeking to establish partnerships with black people “with means”. At first, no one signed on to support him. In time, a gentleman by the name of “Luther” of New York, reached out and offered to act as UBCS’s distributor. Luther had no interest in identifying literary works for print, writing or printing. He simply wanted to create channels of distribution. Khalifa on the other hand was interested in such work and had been doing so even before his dealings with Luther. So, once the two started working together that is what Khalifa continued to do.
According to Khalifa, Luther “developed a means to get them [self-published books] distributed…what he did was set up vending tables on the street, throughout New York City.” Mr. Khalifa said his career has proven that if you can get Black Literature to the marketplace, Black people and others bought it. This added value to the Black community because white bookstore owners would often times purchase a single order of Black literature, sell it, and not restock. This became a disadvantage to the Black community because they were unable to get their hands on previously written materials such as Carter G. Woodson’s “The Mis-Education of the Negro” in addition to the more recent titles being written at that time.
Luther’s business model can be described as having vendors come to him daily, to get a selection of books on consignment. These vendors were not required to pay any upfront costs. Vendors would return the next day, satisfy related costs from the day prior, then get another order of books to sell. He did the same for black bookstores, “he told bookstores if they would give the books shelf space, he would supply the books.” No down payment or upfront costs needed. Khalifa expressed his reservations about this to Luther. Stating it that “was a bad business move.” Khalifa shared that he had seen where Black bookstores would sell books, profit, then restock by going to a competitor. [Sidenote: I wish I would have asked why they would have went to a competitor. Was it pricing? Also, did they at least satisfy any outstanding payments with Luther before doing so?] Yet, Luther’s vision actually worked for a long period of time.
It wasn’t until Luther left New York to spearhead an operation in Chicago, leaving the New York business in the care of his brother, that the NY distribution operation began to fail. Khalifa shared that Luther did not take his advice when he suggested that Luther purchase a brownstone in New York to establish his own brick and mortar. Instead, Luther’s brother took the operation to another side of town, resulting in $14,000 a month in overhead costs, eventually leading to the collapse of the New York distribution business. Luther was able to continue operating in Chicago.
H. Khalif Khalifa, Re-Establishes Family and Business in Virginia
The Nat Turner Library which is located in Dreweryville, VA has served as a repository of information for the liberation of Black people. Khalifa says he doesn’t know anyone who sells more books about Nat Turner than him. He has written three, himself. He also sells books written about Nat Turner by other people. After reading William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond which was a response to Syron’s The Confession of Nat Turner, Khalifa affirmed two things. One, he would someday meet John Henrik Clark who had edited William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, he also committed his life as a Master Printer, to the sole production of Black literature. He achieved both.
“Nat Turner Land” will celebrate its anniversary on April 28th, 2018. Festivities are planned. I encourage you to visit. For whatever reason, Mr. Khalifa did not share much about the historical significance of his property with me the day I met with him. Nor, did he go into detail about the tours and festivities that take place there Year after Year. Honestly, I don’t think I even realized the value and depth of our conversation until spending time alone with the recorded materials. Nat Turner Library and the story of Baba H. Khalif Khalifah drips black, Red, and green. Each droplet prepared to quench the thirst of the minds and hearts of those looking to learn more about Black Liberation.
My goal is to revisit “Nat Turner Land” whose actually name is Khalifah Kujichagulia Village to gather details about its history and public programming, within the year.