The next episode of the Abolition Hall drama will play out before the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors on July 19.
A recap: Abolition Hall is one of three historic landmarks on the George Corson homestead in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. A developer, K. Hovnanian Homes, proposes to build 67 townhomes on the surrounding fields where runaway slaves hid.
Underground Railroad Scholar Charles L. Blockson recently wrote:
The proposed development plan for the historic Corson homestead at Butler and Germantown Pikes in the heart of the Plymouth Meeting National Historic Register District is cause for profound concern. As drawn, this plan fails to recognize the unmatched and nuanced history of this once busy station on the Underground Railroad.
The development proposal — under review by the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors — depicts 67 townhouses. They will be erected upon land that had been continuously cultivated since the mid-1700s, land that helped sustain the Corson family (and the generation before them) during the half-century of anti-slavery activism that made this homestead a hub of Underground Railroad activities.
Furthermore, the development comes within 50 feet of Abolition Hall (emphasis added), which George Corson constructed in 1856 to welcome seekers and speakers, including Frederick Douglass, Lucretia Mott, and William Lloyd Garrison.
To be clear, Friends of Abolition Hall and their allies do not oppose development on the site. Instead, we want the developer to present a plan, which respects that which came before.
The Board of Supervisors will not make a decision on Thursday. Fact is, the drama will be far from over even when a zoning decision is made. So in the coming months, I will use search engine tools to tell the story of Abolition Hall to prospective buyers at the Villages at Whitemarsh.
In the meantime, Avenging The Ancestors Coalition is providing free roundtrip rides to the July 19 meeting. Meet ATAC at 6:00pm at Zion Baptist Church, Broad and Venango.
Black women have had enough of President Trump’s racist attacks on Congresswoman Maxine Waters and veiled threat.
They’re also dismayed that Democratic leaders failed to publicly defend Waters. On July 3, black women leaders and allies from across the country sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (full disclosure: I am a signatory to this letter):
Further, we write to share our profound indignation and deep disappointment over your recent failure to protect Congresswoman Waters from unwarranted attacks from the Trump Administration and others in the GOP. That failure was further compounded by your decision to unfairly deride her as being “uncivil” and “un-American.” In doing so, we believe this mischaracterizes her call to action for peaceful democratic assembly and the exercise of her constitutional rights to free speech in support of defenseless immigrant children and their families.
As one of the longest serving African American women, and the longest tenured woman of color, in Congress, Representative Waters has dedicated nearly 30 years of her life to federal public service. Prior to that, she was a member of the California State Assembly for 14 years, and has made it her life’s work to stand as a fearless advocate for women and unwavering champion for children, people of color and the poor.
Black women told the congressional leadership that if they don’t respect us, don’t expect us:
Much hangs in the balance this fall, with all 435 House seats and 33 Senate seats up for grabs. Disparaging or failing to support Congresswoman Waters is an affront to her and Black women across the country and telegraphs a message that the Democratic Party can ill afford: that it does not respect Black women’s leadership and political power and discounts the impact of Black women and millennial voters.
The letter is available here.
Meanwhile, Judicial Watch, a conservative watch attack dog group, has filed an ethics complaint. President Tom Fitton said Waters should be “disavowed.”
Republican Congressman Andy Biggs (Arizona) has introduced a resolution to “censure and condemn” Waters. The House could consider the measure this week.
If you are outraged by this blatant attempt to silence a black woman whose back does not bend, call (202) 224-3121 and tell your representative: I stand with Maxine.
On July 5, 1852, before the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, New York, Frederick Douglass asked, “What to a slave is the Fourth of July?”
In the birthplace of the American democracy, descendants of enslaved Africans will hold the 16th annual Black Independence Day rally at The President’s House.
For more information about Avenging The Ancestors Coalition (ATAC), go here.
Jazz musicians were about intersectionality before the term was coined. During 2018 Jazz Appreciation Month, I moderated a conversation on art, jazz and activism, curated by Black Quantum Futurism and Icebox Project Space.
Black Music Month was first observed on June 7, 1979 at the White House.
As B.B. King observed, African Americans first got the blues when “they brought [us] over on a ship.”
Enslaved Africans used the message in the music to plan their escape.
Music helped runaways navigate the pathway to freedom.
On their quest for freedom, some of our enslaved ancestors found sanctuary in Abolition Hall and the surrounding fields. A developer’s plan to develop the fields struck a discordant note with Sydelle Zove, convener of Friends of Abolition Hall, and Avenging The Ancestors Coalition. ATAC Founder Michael Coard recently wrote:
Abolition Hall was built in 1856 by George Corson, a Quaker abolitionist. It, its adjacent family home, and purportedly its adjacent fields were where Black men, women, and children took shelter in courageous attempts to flee slavery. Zove says the developer proposes to “subdivide and reconfigure” this historic homestead to construct 67 townhouses on the open fields directly next to the hall. Once divided, notes Zove, the developer plans to sell the hall, the stone barn, and the Thomas Hovenden House – all listed on the aforementioned National Register. She continues by pointing out that it’s not just the hall that’s in jeopardy but also the “fields where cornstalks hid fugitives”—fields she describes as an “integral part of the site.”
The developer’s proposal would box in the national historic landmark. So Friends of Abolition Hall and ATAC are asking concerned citizens to raise their voices and tell Whitemarsh Township: Abolition Hall deserves better. The Board of Supervisors will meet on Thursday, June 14, 2018, at 7pm, 616 Germantown Avenue in Lafayette Hill. If you need a ride, holler.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter decreed that June would be Black Music Month. Each president since then has signed a proclamation recognizing the contributions of African American musicians and music. In 2009, President Barack Obama rebranded the annual celebration as “African-American Music Appreciation Month”
The legacy of African-American composers, singers, songwriters, and musicians is an indelible piece of our Nation's culture. Generations of African Americans have carried forward the musical traditions of their forebears, blending old styles with innovative rhythms and sounds. They have enriched American music and captured the diversity of our Nation. During African-American Music Appreciation Month, we honor this rich heritage.
There’s no better place to get the celebration started than at the mecca of African American culture, the world famous Apollo Theater.