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Statement of Faye Anderson before Philadelphia Historical Commission

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I offered public comment in support of the listing of the First African Baptist Church on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. The Philadelphia Historical Commission voted 6 to 1 abstention, to add this historic edifice to the local listing.

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Statement of Faye Anderson before Philadelphia Historical Commission

  1. 1. Good morning. My name is Faye Anderson. I am the founder and director of All That Philly Jazz, a public history project that is telling the story of Philadelphia's rich jazz heritage. We are mapping jazz-related historic resources, including the Academy of Music, Royal Theater, Mercantile Hall (better known as the Legendary Blue Horizon), Pyramid Club, Church of the Advocate, Tindley Temple United Methodist Church and the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church. The Historic Designation Committee's unanimous vote to recommend listing of the First African Baptist Church on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places speaks volumes about the oldest African American Baptist church in Pennsylvania. The ancestors are rolling over in their graves at the spectacle of the current pastor pushing for the demolition of an edifice that was built with their blood, sweat and tears. At last week's hearing on the Department of Licenses and Inspections' complaint, Rev. Terrence Griffith and his lawyer practically begged for an order for partial demolition. In response to their claim that “extensive repairs” have already been made, Municipal Court Judge James M. DeLeon asked, “What kind of repairs are we talking about?” He said any repairs would have started with the roof and walls. Let's assume for the sake of argument Rev. Griffith gets what he wants: demolition by neglect. What would be left if L&I issued a permit to demolish the 16th Street parapet? What would be left is the main sanctuary where Booker T. Washington gave a keynote speech in 1909 in celebration of First African Baptist Church's centennial. A fact noted by Congressman Bob Brady on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014. What would be left if Rev. Griffith gets his way? The main sanctuary where Thurgood Marshall, the first African American U.S. Supreme Court justice, got married in 1929. What would be left? The main sanctuary where Sunday Service was held last Sunday and where Sunday Service will be held in two days. The sanctuary has been continuously occupied ever since Rev. Griffith sicced L&I on himself.
  2. 2. In the main sanctuary in 1914, members celebrated their role in establishing the Christian Street YMCA, the first black YMCA to have its own building. The historical marker notes that the YMCA “provided recreational and educational opportunities for members of the Black community.” One of the YMCA members is with us today, Dr. Oscar Hankinson, a former trustee of the First African Baptist Church of Philadelphia. With or without the east parapet, the First African Baptist Church of Philadelphia is a place where history happened. The church retains its historical significance to the development, heritage and cultural characteristics of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the nation. I urge you to list the First African Baptist Church on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. Faye M. Anderson Director All That Philly Jazz (215) 995-5028 http://phillyjazz.us andersonatlarge@gmail.com @andersonatlarge | @PhillyJazzApp

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