Travelers heading to Philadelphia this spring or summer will have a chance to immerse themselves in the region’s rich African-American history and culture thanks to an assortment of special events and exhibitions taking place in the city and beyond. During the course of both seasons, they can check out The African American Museum in Philadelphia’s brand-new permanent exhibition to learn about the experiences of African-Americans living in 18th-century Philadelphia; groove to the sounds of The Roots, Public Enemy and other all-star groups at the second annual Roots Picnic; and examine their thoughts about skin color at RACE: Are We So Different? on view at The Franklin Institute Science Museum. Here’s what’s in store for summer 2009:
- America I AM: The African American Imprint – Making its world debut at the National Constitution Center, America I AM celebrates the contributions of Africans and African-Americans over nearly 500 years through artifacts, narration, music, art and video. From the “Doors of No Return” that led captive Africans on a journey to the Americas to the bench where Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” this four-year traveling show, conceived by radio and television personality Tavis Smiley, shows how Africans in America have impacted history. Visitors also have a chance to become part of the nation’s largest oral history project. Through May 3. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6700, constitutioncenter.org
- RACE: Are We So Different? – Using video images and audio material, this exhibition at The Franklin draws from biological, cultural, historical and contemporary points of views to challenge patrons to rethink their notions about race and racism in the United States. May 23-September 7. 222 N. 20th Street, (215) 448-1200, fi.edu
- Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia, 1776-1876 – At this new permanent exhibition at The African American Museum in Philadelphia, visitors listen to life-sized 3D characters speak fervently about their lives, beliefs and aspirations in 18th-century Philadelphia; explore an interactive timeline documenting more than 100 years of entrepreneurship, environment, education, religion and family traditions in the African-American community; and discover whose descendants still call the region home.
Opens June Nineteenth (June 19). 701 Arch Street, (215) 574-0380, aampmuseum.orgArt & Music Festivals:
- 25th Annual Celebration of Black Writing Festival – Through workshops, children’s and hip-hop youth pavilions, a performance stage and book fair, this festival celebrates the homegrown works of the African-American community, which includes books, plays, films, poetry and performances that emerged from a culture whose ancestors were forbidden to become literate. May 21-23. Temple University, Cecil B. Moore Avenue, (215) 232-4485, artsanctuary.org
- Lincoln 200: The Bicentennial Birthday Festival – Two centuries after his birth, Abraham Lincoln is more popular than ever. This summer, Philadelphia honors the 16th president and his connection to the city with special events, festivals and exhibitions. Little-known details of Lincoln’s life are revealed in the Rosenbach Museum & Library’s Finding Lincoln exhibition, featuring artifacts, original manuscripts and other items related to the Great Emancipator. May 27-August 30. 2008 Delancey Place, (215) 732-1600, rosenbach.org. During Fourth of July weekend, the birthday festival, themed “Lincoln Then and Now,” gears up on Independence Mall with art displays, exhibitions, performances, living history programs, storytelling and children’s activities. July 3-5. Between Arch & Chestnut Streets and 5th & 6th Streets, lincoln200philly.org
- Hidden City – During this five-weekend—and mostly free—festival, local and international artists animate the city’s hidden gems through dance, music and other means of storytelling that shed light on sites’ rich history. Participants discover the lost stories of places like the Philadelphia Opera House, The Royal Theater, Founder’s Hall at Girard College and Shiloh Baptist Church. Weekends, May 30-June 28. hiddencityphila.org
- The Roots Picnic – The pioneering—not to mention Grammy® Award-winning—hip-hop band brings together artists from various genres to Penn’s Landing for a day of music and fun. In its second year, the picnic includes all-star performances by Philadelphia’s own Santigold, Writtenhouse, Back to Basics, TV on the Radio, The Black Keys, Public Enemy and others. June 6. Great Plaza, Columbus Boulevard at Chestnut Street,
(215) 928-8801, delawareriverwaterfrontcorp.com
- Odunde African-American Festival Weekend – For 34 years, thousands in Philadelphia have celebrated the arrival of a new year in the Yoruba tradition of Nigeria, West Africa. The event begins with a procession to the Schuylkill River, where prayers, flowers and fruit are offered to the goddess Oshun. Festivities continue at one of the city’s largest street fairs featuring vendors offering their wares from around the globe, live music and dance performances and palate-pleasing foods inspired by African and African-American cultures. June 14. 23rd & South Streets, (215) 732-8510, odundeinc.org
- West Oak Lane Jazz & Arts Festival – This popular three-day festival features all types of jazz, including fusion and traditional rhythms, alongside visual artists, craft vendors and more. This year’s lineup features Billy Paul, Jeffrey Osbourne, WAR, Average White Band and two mystery performances by world-famous artists. June 19-21. 7100-7400 Ogontz Avenue, (877) WOL-JAZZ, westoaklanefestival.comTours:
- Quest for Freedom – Thanks to the Quest for Freedom project, visitors can gain a better understanding of the Underground Railroad with a self-guided tour of the Philadelphia region’s key sites. In addition, special programs and rotating exhibitions throughout the year highlight early African-American history. The 2009 Live & Learn Weekend series, curated by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, features scholarly discussions and exciting explorations of historical sites related to the Underground Railroad and the Civil War. This season includes living history programs, discounted admission to The African American Museum in Philadelphia’s Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia, 1776-1876 exhibition, guided tours, a genealogy workshop, free books and more. gophila.com/questforfreedomRestaurants:
- Relish – New to Mt. Airy, Relish serves up fine traditional and modern Southern cuisine (think parmesan-crusted fried green tomatoes, seafood jambalaya and smothered turkey wings) and showcases the best in live jazz every Thursday through Sunday. The lively jazz brunch on Sunday provides an entertaining—and delicious—end to the weekend. 7152 Ogontz Avenue, (215) 276-0170, relishphiladelphia.com
- Soul – The latest restaurant addition to Chestnut Hill is not a soul food restaurant, but one that serves “food for the soul.” The sophisticated and charming atmosphere caters to modern Creole American cuisine with a seasonal menu featuring dishes like gumbo, jambalaya and shrimp creole. 8136 Germantown Avenue, (215) 248-0800, soulbyob.com
The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases business and promotes the region’s vitality.
For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visit gophila.com or uwishunu.com, where you can build itineraries; search event calendars; see photos and videos; view interactive maps; sign up for newsletters; listen to Hear Philly, an online radio station about what to see and do in the region; book hotel reservations and more. Or, call the Independence Visitor Center, located in Historic Philadelphia, at (800) 537-7676.