port of harlem magazine

December 27 - January 11, 2012


A Historical Quest

p merrillThe articles that I have submitted to Port of Harlem have been usually snapshots of some little-known aspect of African American history. For this issue, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to readers to know how I develop these snapshots.

It all starts with the Nanny Jack archives - a large and disparate collection that I have amassed over the years. The archives contain all sorts of artifacts from the African American past - photos, letters, diplomas and other ephemera that tell stories about the lives of many people, most of whom have been long since forgotten. It is my mission to make sure we remember them.

I usually start by focusing on artifacts that I have not yet researched. For instance, over a decade ago I acquired a collection of about 75 letters, 56 photos and other items pertaining to a single family and dating back to the World War I era. Since I acquired this collection, it has languished in my archives. Time now to start getting to know this family, I thought.

From the letters I learned that the family hailed from Nathalie, Virginia, a small town in Halifax County about 115 miles southwest of Richmond. My curiosity was piqued by an ancestor the letter identified - Sydnor Jennings.

Full Story

ivan brown realty

Business and Consumer Product News and Reviews

  • The Washington, D.C. Association of Realtors has elected Darrin Davis, broker at the Anacostia River Reality, to its Board of Directors. Davis is slated to serve a 2-year term.
  • Gallery Africa opened a new, larger store at the Woodmore Towne Centre at Glenarden, 2830 Campus Way North #616. It’s near the new Wegmans Food Store.
  • Koto Hot Pepper Sauce produces three pepper sauce products worth trying. The Pineapple Habanero is our favorite.

Gambian Will Lead Prosecution in The Hague

fatou bensoudaThe International Criminal Court named Fatou Bensouda, a lawyer from The Gambia, as the new chief prosecutor. Bensouda is the new public face and chief strategist of the tribunal responsible for investigating the world’s grave atrocities.


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Election 2012

Bush and Baby vs. Obama and Baby

bush holding crying baby
obama holding smiling baby

“In a selfish attempt to fill their campaign coffers, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is shamelessly distorting state initiatives to end widespread voter fraud by comparing them to Jim Crow laws in a recent fundraising letter. Not only is this extreme rhetoric offensive and unwarranted, it also underscores the lengths to which the DNC will go to scare their supporters into donating to the party.

- Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus

The NAACP, in collaboration with Brave New Foundation, released a documentary short chronicling the modern-day attack on voting rights and the fight to defend the right to vote. The film exposes the significantly negative impact that voter photo ID laws will have on our ability to cast a ballot. View the film, We Will Stand.


Department of Justice Blocks South Carolina’s Discriminatory Voter ID Law

On the eve of Christmas eve, The U.S. Department of Justice blocked South Carolina’s voter identification law from going into effect, helping ensure thousands of eligible voters will be able to exercise their right to vote. The law would have required voters to show a government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Thousands of voters mostly the elderly, students, minorities and low-income voters would have been disenfranchised as a result of the law. The Department of Justice found the law discriminatory.

danny queen

Voter Suppression - Poem By Danny Queen

To stop Barack Obama
And turn back the clock
The far-right have created
A congressional grid-lock.

Full Poem

Back Memphis, Giving Visible Testament

By Ida Jones 

ida jonesUntil recently, the term “urban center” (vis-a-viz a city) usually implies poverty and immorality covered in black, brown and tan colored skins. African Americans, immigrants and the working class poor bear the brunt of this narrowly defined population of America. Since the 1960s and more recently the last 10 years, most cities have transformed into modern housing with richer and whiter residents.

black memphis landmarksLongtime city residents query if renewal really means removal. Florence, Alabama native Miriam DeCosta-Willis’ new book Black Memphis Landmarks (Grant House, $20.00) explores the rich pre-renewal condition of Memphis, Tennessee, known worldwide as the birthplace of the blues and civil rights history work.

The neo-native of Memphis fell in love with her future husband, attorney Archie Walter Willis, Jr., and the city’s greater history. Her love extended to the historic personalities that contributed to Memphis such as journalist Ida B. Wells, clergyman Charles H. Mason, musician W.C. Handy and community worker Alcine Arnett.

This passion evolved from privately collecting the names, photographs and institutional histories of African Americans for several years into this significant work. DeCosta-Willis writes “that the work was difficult and time-consuming, because so much [Memphis] history has been lost or thrown away.”

As a result, this book is a visible testament to the silenced history lived by Black Memphians through their photographs, recollections and archival documents.

The book is divided into nine chapters covering an array of cultural life from sports/entertainment to churches, media outlets, neighborhoods, hospitals and historic sites. Accompanied by a time line, bibliography, photographs and index, she allows the reader a virtual tour of Black Memphis.

Black Memphis Landmarks is more than a traveler’s guide, the book provides a formula for other gentrifying communities to invest in the future by collecting stories, creating archival collections and remembering the “who”  in the community that used to be.


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port of harlem events

The Gambia

michael m dean

Port Of Harlem is making final preparations for its annual trip to Metro Banjul, The Gambia via Dakar, Senegal. Here, Michael M. Dean, the son of Oklahoma native Chris Dean, chases a crocodile at the Kachikally Crocodile pool near his home in Bakau, The Gambia

Doc Ben Turns 95

The New Amsterdam News reports that the 95-year-old Doctor Yosef ben-Jochannan is doing well, but is temporarily being taken care for at the:

Bay Park Center for Nursing and Rehab
801 CO-OP City Blvd.
Bronx, NY 01475


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Things to Do

Colors of Life
The Exposure Group
Women’s National Democratic Club
1526 New Hampshire Ave, NW
Washington, D.C.
through Feb 29, 2012, free

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