WEST BBG’S VIRGINIA’S FIRST LADY OF THE BLUES CROSSES THE RIVER INTO OHIO
WV’s First Lady of the Blues Doris Fields, aka Lady D, will close out the Ohio Universities Campus & Communities Engagement’s Juneteenth Celebration Saturday 18th at 7:00 PM with THE LADY & THE EMPRESS. Fields’ unique Enactment of the Bessie Smith Story will end the day-long celebration in Athens Counties’ Southeast Ohio History Center located in the Southeastern Ohio River Valley town along a corridor of the Underground Railroad.
WVSU Prof. Emeritus Tee Fordahmed will jumpstart the day at 10:00am with a Walking Tour of the Cities’ Heritage Square. The Square highlights the remains of Athens “ Black Wall Street” including the Elliot House in which Booker T. Washington married; the once famous 99 room Berry Hotel built by Edward & Martha Berry, and the Mount Zion Baptist Church.
The Berry was the first hotel in the Southwest Territory to include a Bible in every room, sewing kits, and to have an elevator. President Franklin Roosevelt visited the Berry and so did General Custer’s wife Libby. Eliza Davison, Custer’s cook was from Athens. The Berry has been replaced by a marker or a “Plaque,” as Dr. Tee calls them. The last standing structure along the tour route is the 116-year-old Mount Zion Baptist Church which the Preservation Society has rushed in to save from the wrecking ball by placing it on the National Register, securing grants and fundraising for its rehabilitation. Lady D’s Enactment of the Bessie Smith Story is part of the Preservation Societies efforts to add to the budget needed to save the churches most valued assets: it’s Romanesque stained-glass windows which is estimated at $500,000.
Dr. Tee is the Communication/Media Director of the Mount Zion Board. She states that many historical structures that were built by enslaved, Indigenous and freeborn Blacks continue to be under assault. First it was due to outright envy & hate as was the case of Tulsa, also known as “Little Africa.” Later, it was due to systematic theft of Black History under the guise of Model Cities, Re-Development (i.e., the erasure of Charleston’s Shrewsbury Street), then Urban Renewal and the most recent : GENTRIFICATION !
Those in the Ohio River Valley and across the river in West BBG are invited to celebrate the moment! Contact: T. Fordahmed [email protected] (740-274-9494)
P.O. Box 548, 32 Carpenter Street, Athens, OH 45701