CHESTERTOWN — The annual block party in downtown Chestertown moved indoors this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but Legacy Day continued its mission of celebrating African American heritage here through history and music.
This is the seventh year for Legacy Day. Each event has recognized the accomplishments of African Americans in Kent County. Previous honorees have included Black churches, teachers and business owners. This year aimed to celebrate Black athletes from Kent County. With Legacy Day going virtual, they will be celebrated at next year’s event.
Held Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 15 and 16, this year’s Legacy Day featured a genealogy workshop, a discussion on racial dynamics at Washington College and in Kent County and a pair of musical events, as well as an exhibit of Black artists’ work at Chestertown RiverArts. All of the events were held virtually, including the gallery exhibition.
Calling this year’s virtual Legacy Day “amazing,” Airlee Johnson, co-chair of the Legacy Day committee, was quick to praise Gordon Wallace and fellow committee co-chair Nivek Johnson for their “phenomenal job” pivoting the festival to an online format.
“Everything went off without any problems whatsoever,” Airlee Johnson said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “So for it to be virtual, the technology was definitely there between Nivek and Gordon. They took care of everything.”
With the online events still up for people to watch, the number of viewers for each has continued to climb. As reported by Airlee Johnson Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 18, the Washington College discussion was up to 2,300 views, followed by Sunday’s gospel concert with 1,700, D.J. Real’s Saturday night dance party with 1,200 and 960 for the genealogy workshop.
Airlee Johnson said the Community Conversation discussing the Black experience at Washington College was inspiring.
“Most people don’t know what African American students have to go through on predominately white campuses,” said Airlee Johnson, adding that she herself did not know what the experience was like because she attended a historically Black college.
She said listening to Carolyn Erwin recount her experiences at Washington College where she attended in the 1960s was “heart-wrenching to hear.” Airlee Johnson said Erwin is a “strong person,” who made the college work for her by pointing out to faculty they needed to actively recruit and accept Black students to the college.
Legacy Day officially opened with a video on Youtube featuring Airlee Johnson and Nivek Johnson in Sumner Hall. Legacy Day historian Bill Leary appears in the video to offer a preview of next year’s celebration of Black athletes. Also appearing are Ralph Deaton, who played baseball for the Church Hill Hawks, and Marone Brown, a standout athlete who attended Kent County High School and is now a therapist in Baltimore.
“Sports had a huge impact on my life. They taught me discipline. They taught me resilience. They taught me even though you’re not the best player you can be the hardest worker. It’s transcended in my professional life and my personal life,” said Brown, who holds a doctorate.
The closing event came Sunday evening, Aug. 16 with a gospel concert livestreamed from Sumner Hall. It was the debut concert for the Perfect Vision Family and Friends Choir led by Isaiah Embert.
“Gospel music has its roots starting in the chants and drumming of the African tribes of our own motherland. As we diffused and drifted our culture, those chants then turned into the slave and Negro spirituals that our ancestors would sing as they would pick the tobacco, sugar cane and cotton as they helped build the economic culture and stability of the country that we now call home,” said Nivek Johnson at the start of the stream. “From there the gospel music era was born.”
The Rev. Robert N. Brown Jr. introduced the group that he said was the culmination of Embert’s efforts to find the best young singers in Kent County’s churches and beyond.
“Today we are witnessing firsthand a young spiritually and musically gifted Christian man’s vision come to fruition before our very eyes as we view these young African American musicians and vocalists give credibility to the word of God as they bring to life Psalm 33:3 which states: ‘Sing unto him a new song, play skillfully with a loud noise,’” Brown said.
In the Legacy Day Youtube Video, Airlee Johnson and Nivek Johnson thanked the Sumner Hall board and staff for their oversight of Legacy Day and event sponsors for their continued support.
“It was just really, really good,” Airlee Johnson said of Legacy Day in Tuesday’s interview. “We weren’t able to carry on as we usually do, to celebrate as usual, but we still had a wonderful celebration of African American history and culture.”
Links to the videos can be found via the Sumner Hall Facebook page found at www.facebook.com/Charles SumnerPost.
Credit: Source link