The Laurel Cemetery is a significant burial location for African Americans and yet, it sits unrecognized beneath a strip mall on Belair Road in Northeast Baltimore. Frederick Douglas spoke there during the funeral of a friend, 270 black Civil War soldiers are buried there, and it’s the final resting place for some of the movers and shakers in the African American community who called Baltimore home in the early 19th century. One would never know the sacredness of this cemetery at face value today because it’s easily walked over and used as a short cut to get to and from the strip mall that sits above it.
Thankfully, there’s good news to report on the cemetery that stood the test of time from 1852 – 1957. A symposium to commemorate the historic cemetery will take place on June 15, 2019 at Coppin State University from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM in the Talon Center, located at 2500 W. North Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21216. Click HERE for all the details.
My conversation with local Artist and Baltimore native, Terrell Brown, dives into this sad state of affairs of a once prominent resting place for Baltimore’s black elites.
Charm City is a historic place and keeper of endless stories of American culture. Baltimore, one of America’s long standing and vital seaports, is worthy of exploration beyond the headlines of political strives, the widening gap between the haves and have not, and endless reports of government and police corruption. There’s a lot happening in Baltimore that rarely make headline news. From the artists who call the area home to the movers and shakers who take pride in reshaping the city to reflect its buried American roots and true charm. The history of The Clifton Park Mansion provides a glimpse into what this great city holds and perhaps, what many overlook.
Gwen Kokes with Real Food Farms – Civic Works takes us on a tour of the historic mansion undergoing a face lift she now offices in:
Listening to Ethel Ennis sing songs like Have You Forgotten? and My Foolish Heart brings back nostalgia and memories of days long gone. These days one would be hard pressed to find musicians without twerking background dancers or some other gimmick. However, they do exist. And, Ennis’s life is a wonderful example of an accomplished artist who was able to share her talent with the world without the pressures of fame and “making it” in Hollywood. And, Ennis didn’t just “make it” … she made it proudly and successfully in her native home of Baltimore. Granted, the city isn’t called “Charm City” or “The Greatest City in America” for nothing. B’More is a mecca for Jazz musicians and singers like Ennis, still. Ennis passed away on February 17, 2019. She was 86.
It’s well worth it to take a stroll through YouTube and listen to her beautiful voice serenade you. Start with Have you forgotten?
Biography fromWayback Machine:
Baltimore native Ethel Ennis is a national treasure. Critics have hailed her as “the most accomplished singer performing today.” That stature was earned by her magnificent voice, her brilliant compositions, her joyful performances and her collaboration with the finest musicians. Ethel Ennis first won national recognition for her recording “Lullaby for Losers” in 1955. In 1958, she was selected by Benny Goodman as the female vocalist for his all-star band. Later, she was chosen as a featured singer on the Arthur Godfrey Show. After performing at the 1964 Newport Jazz Festival with Billy Taylor, Cozy Cole, and Slam Stewart, she appeared with Duke Ellington and his Orchestra on television’s “Bell Telephone Hour.” She followed those amazing achievements by wowing them at the Monterey Jazz Festival in duets with Joe Williams. She returned to her hometown to perform in concerts with the Count Basie Band and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. During that same period, she shared the bill with Cab Calloway at Harlem’s Apollo Theater and played supper clubs and concert halls all over the country.
In the seventies, she founded the practice of singing the National Anthem a capella at Richard Nixon’s 1973 presidential inauguration. She performed at the White House for Jimmy Carter as well. During the period, she became Baltimore’s cultural ambassador, singing Chinese folk songs in Baltimore’s sister city of Xiamen, China as well as performing in Rotterdam, Germany. In the 1980’s, Ethel opened her own music club, Ethel’s Place with her husband, writer Earl Arnett. They presented the world’s greatest jazz musicians and broadcast live concerts to national audiences. They sold the club in 1988, each returning full-time to their artistic pursuits. Frank Sinatra once described her as, “my kind of singer.” A Downbeat reviewer once said of Ethel, “her voice runs deep, exuding the personality of a sage who has lived many lives.” She is the great sage of jazz and if you can find any one of her two dozen records and singles, you will have added a national treasure to your collection.
Adiante Franzoon is a Saamaka tribesman from Suriname. He’s the last remaining woodcarver who’s carving the way his ancestors—escaped African slaves—did hundreds of years ago in the dense tropical forest of the South American country. Adiante Franzoon is practicing authenticity in an ever increasing inauthentic world.
To learn more about Franzoon or to purchase one of his pieces click HERE.