Black Scranton Project’s Pop-Up Exhibition
If you were not at our opening reception inside the Marketplace at Steamtown on First Friday to kick of Black History Month, then you missed out on a monumental evening!
Friday night was disrespectfully cold. The room was packed with folks who were there to get the first look at our Black History Month Exhibition, “Remembering and Understanding the Heritage of Black Scrantonians,” in spite of the subzero windchill. The the gallery was overflowing with people from all over Northeastern PA–many local Scranton residents, community leaders, reporters from news and media outlets, artists, students, educators and curious mall patrons filled the space was proof that Local Black History matters.
The night was guided by a loose itinerary of presentations and entertainment. Starting with a gallery talk by our curator and Black Scranton Project’s founder Glynis Johns.
In her talk, Glynis gave a summary of the objects on display. She described her intentions behind each of the panels, while articulating why she felt it’s important to remember the lost narratives of significant figures of our black community. True hidden history. She often describes her research as a labor of love. “This is an exhibit four years in the making, birthed from my graduate thesis.” She explained to the captive audience that much of what is on display happened between 1870 and 1940. During this era, a volunteer fire department operated by twenty African American men, the city’s most successful black business was thriving, and our first black mail carrier in the city of Scranton started delivering mail in 1894.
The gallery talk was followed up with a dance performance by Scranton School District students, King and Prosper. The two are brothers who are members of a dance group D4G – Dance For God, a popular dance ministry in Burundi.
The theme and conversations in the gallery were clear: Black culture, black community, and black contributions have been ignored for more than a century here in Scranton. The audience was shocked by stories of housing discrimination and blackface minstrel shows popular during the vaudeville era. However were uplifted by stories like that of Lincoln Tillman, the city’s first black firefighter served a 52 year career and saved countless lives.
BLACK BUSINESS DIRECTORY of Northeastern PA is featured in the gallery, in the shape of a payphone and phonebook that lists a growing collection of black business across NEPA. A highlight in the gallery, serving as interactive installation that caught the attention of every attendee.
Sister’s in the photograph are wearing Black Scranton Project “All Black” t-shirts. Our limited edition Black History Month merchandise are still available. All proceeds are used to fund Black Scranton Project Events and support our archive.
TRAVIS PRINCE our featured artist, is a self taught portrait artist from South Carolina, currently residing in Scranton, Pa. His focus on education, social issues, and relationships within the black community is at forefront of Travis’s work. On display are three oil paintings- a self-portrait series of Prince.
In the shadows of every portrait are the lyrics of original poetry written by Prince. Each one encapsulating a specific decade in the artist’s life. Travis takes many of his themes and subjects from authentic observations of everyday people—often center the contemporary black identity.
CLARENCE SPADY, our special guest, has become more distinguishable now than ever before. A dear friend of the the Black Scranton Project, and Scranton Native, Clarence closed out the event with an acoustic set. He plays with a depth and sensitivity that can’t be taught, effortlessly combining blues, jazz, funk, latin and rock into his own unique style. His moving guitar play, rough street-edged vocals, songwriting and live improvisations are demonstrated with every performance.
THANK YOU to everyone who came out to experience and celebrate local black history inside of our exhibit. The gallery was filled with so much positivity and support it was truly unlike any event Scranton has seen before.
SHOUTOUT to our sponsors, donors, and partners for believing the Black Scranton Project’s mission and endeavors.
BIG SHOUTOUT to our photographer Justene Bartkowski for always capturing the moment for us.