Black History from Afar

UMOJA Staff

Although not in Madison during the winter, villager Chuck Billings has been planning a Black History Program for the past 5 years in the Southshore Falls Community of Apollo Beach Community. Over time Chuck has treated his mostly White neighbors to valuable information about Black History. Last year, his son Martin who teaches African American History in the Sacramento, California area, presented via Zoom and attendees learned of the all Black town of Allensworth, CA. In 1908, Allensworth became the first town in California to be founded, financed, and governed by African Americans.

This year, Chuck recruited other Black members of the community (and surrounding area) along with a few of his White neighbors to share information about prominent Blacks. The attendees heard about Booker T. Washington, Daisy Bates, William Lloyd Garrison and others. Before Chuck began sponsoring the African American History program, the community that regularly sponsors New Years, Valentines, St Patrick, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas celebrations had no recognition of African Americans—no commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr., Juneteenth, or Black History Month. 

Chuck’s insistence on having a Black History Month presentation has brought an important awareness to residents in a state whose Governor has all but banned the teaching of African American History and culture in the state’s schools. By exposing the older adults (the community is restricted to those who are 55 years old and older) to this vital information we can hope that the grandparents will share some of this information to their school-aged grandchildren. Thanks for sharing our rich heritage, Bro. Chuck.

Entrepreneur Roslyn Ellerbee Makes History as First African American Female on CLDA Board of Directors

Black PR Wire

Roslyn Ellerbee, a dynamic entrepreneur based in Atlanta, Georgia, has achieved a groundbreaking feat as the first African American female elected to the Board of Directors of the Customized Logistics and Delivery Association (CLDA). Known for her successful ventures, including Express Errands & Courier, Dream Team Digital Marketing, and Manifesting Greatness with Roslyn V. – 360 Business Coaching, Ms. Ellerbee brings a wealth of experience and innovation to her new role.

Ms. Ellerbee’s journey is a testament to her dedication to excellence and her passion for inspiring others. “I am humbled by this opportunity to serve on the CLDA Board. It’s not just about breaking barriers; it’s about creating a legacy of empowerment and success for those who follow,” she shared.

A respected business coach and long time entrepreneur, Ms. Ellerbee has consistently championed the entrepreneurial spirit. As a board member, she aims to contribute to the CLDA’s mission of advancing the logistics industry through diversity and forward-thinking initiatives.

Ms. Joyce Abbott, namesake for Abbott Elementary for Visit Philadelphia’s Little Freedom Library Black History Month campaign.

Visit Philadelphia Honors Black History Month By Elevating the Voices of Black Authors

Black PR Wire

PHILADELPHIA – To commemorate Black History Month, Visit Philadelphia launched Little Free(dom) Library, an initiative encouraging visitors and residents to explore Black history and narratives. Little Free(dom) Library is the third installment of Visit Philadelphia’s In Pursuit of A More Perfect Union series, a fresh take on how Philadelphia commemorates heritage months.

According to Penn America, more than 30 states have banned certain books by Black authors – both fiction and non-fiction – or otherwise deemed them inappropriate. The Little Free(dom) Library initiative demonstrates Philadelphia’s commitment, as the birthplace of the nation, to making these stories accessible and available to both visitors and residents.

“Philadelphia strives to be a welcoming destination where every person can feel a sense of belonging,” said Angela Val, president and CEO, Visit Philadelphia. “We take pride in celebrating Philadelphia as the cradle of liberty, while also recognizing the complexity of its history. We want travelers and residents to know that in Philadelphia, Black history is American history, and Black stories are worth telling and sharing.”

The Little Free(dom) Library initiative includes:

  • 15- and –30-second TV and radio spots, shot at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, featuring Ms. Joyce Abbott, Quinta Brunson’s sixth-grade teacher and namesake for Brunson’s Emmy Award-winning show Abbott Elementary 
  • 13 Little Free(dom) Library sites giving away 1,500 banned books by Black authors at visitor and neighborhood hubs across the city  
  • A four-part social media video series with notable Philadelphians like Marc Lamont Hill, Dr. Christina Afia Harris and Solomon Jones reading passages from banned books
  • A dedicated page on visitphilly.com that will include visitor information for each Little Free(dom) Library location, a list of available books and Black-owned businesses to patronize before or after picking up a free book

“Visit Philadelphia implements a year-round marketing strategy that celebrates and highlights Philadelphia’s majority diverse population and actively invites diverse travelers to experience the destination,” said Neil Frauenglass, chief marketing officer at Visit Philadelphia. “Our Little Free(dom) Library initiative provides yet another opportunity for us to connect visitors to the values of our city and, especially in the lead up to the 250th anniversary of the country, continue exploring what it means to be American.”

Visit Philadelphia worked with integrated marketing agency Allen & Gerritsen to develop the TV and radio spots featuring Joyce Abbott that will run throughout February in more than 25 markets across the U.S. The $105,000 buy includes unskippable commercials on video and/or audio streaming platforms like Paramount, YouTube and iHeart. Digital and print ads will run regionally in The Philadelphia Tribune and radio spots will also run on WXPN and WURD.  

“I’m excited to be part of Visit Philadelphia’s Little Free(dom) Library initiative,” Abbott said. “With over 30 years of experience as an educator in the Philadelphia public school system, ensuring students have access to Black history and stories holds great significance for me. I hope that individuals will find inspiration in the books they discover and deepen their understanding of the contributions of Black people in this country.”

Little Free(dom) Library Banned Book Activation

In partnership with national nonprofit Little Free Library, Visit Philadelphia’s Little Free(dom) Library activation features 13 small library structures that will house banned books by Black authors.

Bold, vibrant artwork and uplifting expressions adorn each Little Free(dom) Library designed by local, self-taught artist Alloyius Mcilwaine. The Little Free(dom) Library sites work like the Little Free Libraries that have sprung up in communities across the country and function on an optional take-one-leave-one system.

“We are excited to partner with Visit Philadelphia on this new initiative,” said Greig Metzger, executive director, Little Free Library. “Part of our mission is to expand book access for all, and this activation does just that.”

The Little Free(dom) Library trail includes the following locations:

  1. Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch Street
  2. Columbia North YMCA, 1400 N. Broad Street
  3. Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, 2027 Fairmount Avenue
  4. Faheem’s Hands of Precision, 2100 S. 20th Street
  5. Frankford Community Development Corporation, 4667 Paul Street
  6. Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th Street
  7. Historic Germantown, 5501 Germantown Avenue
  8. Johnson House Historic Site, 6306 Germantown Avenue
  9. Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, 419 S. 6th Street
  10. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
  11. The Independence Visitor Center, 599 Market Street 
  12. The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 S. Broad Street
  13. South Street Street Off Center, 407 South Street

Visit Philadelphia collaborated with local community leaders, organizations and small business owners to select the initial books available in the libraries. Visitors and residents can find a mix of banned or challenged, fiction and non-fiction books for adults, teens and children. Some of the titles include The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones, All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M Johnson and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.

All books were purchased from Black-owned bookstores in the region including Black and Nobel, Hakim’s Bookstore & Gift Shop, Harriett’s Bookshop, Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books and The Black Reserve Bookstore. The Free Library of Philadelphia created a resource page where people can find book descriptions and information about book banning in the United States.

Visit Philadelphia’s In Pursuit of A More Perfect Union series showcases Philadelphia as the premier welcoming and inclusive destination in the U.S. Previous installments include Drag Queen Story Time at Independence Hall and Hispanic Voices. As the official destination marketing organization for the city, Visit Philadelphia works to honor the nation’s history, while also acknowledging that the Founding Fathers’ vision of America does not reflect how many of our values have evolved over time.

This series serves as an educational platform, aimed at bringing Americans closer to realizing a more perfect union. To learn more, please visit visitphilly.com/freedomlibrary.