PORTSMOUTH —The Portsmouth Unity Project is once again hosting a celebration of Emancipation Day-the Anniversary of President Lincoln’s announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation which free slaves in the rebellious states and opened US armed forces to African American enlistment. The celebration is scheduled for 5:00 p.m on Wednesday, September 22, 2021, and will be held at Tracy Park. It will include a walking theatrical tour that highlights the lives of Portsmouth residents who have contributed to the cause of liberty and equality.
Just like other diverse rural communities in Appalachia, Portsmouth residents have struggled with systemic and other forms of racism and sexism for decades. With the goal of healing these wounds and bridging these old divisions, the Portsmouth Unity Project aims to create transformative artistic and educational experiences that inspire and highlight all faces and races in the Portsmouth area. “our goal is to make a positive impact throughout our community as we live life together, here.”
Portsmouth helped abolish slavery and its diverse community of men and women have long united to advance the cause of equality in Portsmouth and the larger United States. The Unity Project, which formed in the summer of 2020, hopes to reclaim and celebrate this history and, thereby, inspire community members of today to ‘Stand Together, here’.
In the Fall of 2020, the Portsmouth Unity Project, in a partnership with Main Street Portsmouth, installed a series of Unity-themed historical banners on streetlamps on Chillicothe and Second Streets. The banners highlighted Portsmouth ‘Dreamers and Builders’ who played important roles in the struggle for freedom and equality.
Original Project organizer and Portsmouth resident, Geral Cadogan said, “Portsmouth is widely known for its historic Flood Wall murals and we hope the Unity Project will build upon that well-earned reputation. With our series of the historical lamppost banners and the five murals we’ve completed over the past year, we continue our efforts to create unity-themed public art installations and community programming.”
Since September 2020, the Unity Project has completed five murals in the city and participants at this year’s celebration will have an opportunity the help paint the project’s latest mural, which will be donated for display at the SOMC Cancer Center. The Unity Project’s murals include the ‘Band Together’ mural, celebrating the life of Portsmouth native and jazz legend, Stuff Smith, and other unity-themed murals on the exterior walls of Earth Candy Farmacy, Ascend Counseling and Recovery Services, and the McKinley Memorial Pool.
This year’s Emancipation program at Tracy Park will include historical reflections on the city’s role in the abolition of slavery and the defeat of the Confederacy, an award recognition ceremony honoring community members Delano Thomas and Maxine Malone for their outstanding service in Portsmouth to the cause of unity.
Following the ceremony, participants can stay and listen to a community gospel choir program under the direction of the Rev. Ralph Clay, featuring Gerald Clay, or participants may take the walking theatrical tour of local historical reenactors. Organizers estimate the tour will take about 45 minutes to accomplish, a 1.25-mile journey through Portsmouth’s amazing civil and equal rights history.
The celebration in Tracy Park, along with the music program is free and open to the public. The walking theatrical tour tickets are $5.00 each and can be purchased in advance at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/emancipation-day-2021-tickets-168746650775. Tickets will also be available for purchase at Tracy Park during the program. As an educational event, Students will be admitted for free.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the walking tour groups will be limited to 10 people, participants of which will be required to wear masks to protect themselves and the actors.
Please contact Jeremy Burnside at (740)353-2363 for additional information or email him at [email protected]
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740)353-3101 ext. 1928
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