ABOVE PHOTO: Legacies director Stephen Satell and Sandra Turner Barnes admire painting by Damon Blaine’s of the late “Bootsie” Barnes.
By Leah Fletcher
It might surprise one how many community leaders don’t spend time thinking about their legacy — that is, what they will leave behind for the organization and the people they serve. Webster’s dictionary defines legacy as “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.” It is in this context that the Philadelphia Legacies Program frames its work.
It is also with that definition in mind that Philadelphia Legacies program founder and director Stephen C. Satell established the organization that honors Philadelphians who have made major contributions to the city and have positively impacted the communities they serve.
“We know a legacy is not bound by age or time served,” Satell explained. “It’s those small acts of kindness done well, and without expectation of reward or recognition, that find a special place in people’s hearts and that are the most important. That’s a legacy.”
Philadelphia Legacies was founded five years ago by Satell as an outgrowth of the Bridging Worlds Program he directed. Since its founding, the organization has honored iconic and unsung Philadelphians with beautiful commissioned portraits painted by outstanding local artists. Awards also are presented to unsung community heroes.
This year’s portrait winners were Cal Massey, prolific artist, sculpture and comic book artist and Robert “Bootsie” Barnes, a world renowned saxophonist. The 2020 Philadelphia Portrait Award featured original portraits painted by visual artist Terrell Johnson (painted Massey) and Damon Bain (painted Barnes). The portraits will be hung in various institutions to continue serving the awardees’ legacies.
Philadelphia Legacies recently hosted its 5th Annual Portrait and Community Awards Program. In keeping with the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions imposed by the City of Philadelphia, the event was held outdoors at the Aksum Restaurant, located at 4630 Baltimore Avenue, in West Philadelphia. While the seating was limited to 60, the tables at the outdoor café setting were appropriately socially distanced and attendees wore masks. The ambience of the sidewalk café was amplified by the music of the legendary Dan Reed Band, that allowed “Bootsie’s” grandson, who also is his namesake, to sit in for the set. The vocals of Michelle Beckham, accompanied the band and enchanted the audience with favorite jazz standards.
It was also noted that jazz icon Barnes, who died from the COVID-19 virus, did not have a public home-going celebration. His family, friends and attendees were excited to honor him. His wife, Sandra Turner Barnes shared a poem she had written in his honor entitled “The Bop in Blue.”
Mercer Redcross, co-founder of one of America’s oldest African American art galleries, October Gallery, received the Philadelphia Legacies’ Lifetime Achievement Award. Redcross founded October Gallery with his wife Evelyn 35 years ago. They travelled across the globe collecting art and brought thousands of African American artists directly to the community with their annual October Gallery Art expo. American painters, artists, sculptures, quilters, poets, musicians and authors, radio and print media celebrities participated in the expo. Legendary musician Isaac Hayes was once a guest host.
This year’s presentations also included Community Awards for Sherri Darden, Scoop USA publisher, Rashida Jabbar, community activist and humanitarian, and social entrepreneurs Drs. Mujahid and Tahiya Nyahuma. The “Young Person To Watch Award” was presented to businessman and political activist Bernard A. Williams.
Philadelphia Legacies honorees typically make their marks through academia, media, sports, or philanthropic and entrepreneurial endeavors. Last year’s Legacy Award winners were Wilt Chamberlain, Fran Dunphy, Derrick Pitts, Stephen Cox and Sam Delaney.
Post the COVID-19 pandemic, Satell noted that Philadelphia Legacies Week will continue to operate its historic tours that highlight the lives, work and legacies of its awardees and raise money for nonprofits in Philadelphia that are instrumental in combating poverty.
Additionally, Philadelphia Legacies still continues to hold its quarterly networking meetings. Satell described the gatherings as an opportunity to develop a “solution-driven brain trust” that encourages its supporters to share resources or to pursue mutually beneficial partnerships.
“Tonight we honored some outstanding citizens of Philadelphia for their remarkable contributions to society,” Satell said. “It is my hope that we remain a vehicle that allows culture to impact Philadelphia in positive ways, and in the future we will continue to bring diverse people together to raise money for organizations that help reduce poverty and solve Philadelphia’s problems.”
As the evening came to a close, the sidewalk café setting was framed by the setting sun. Satell rested comfortably knowing the event had exceeded his expectations and that Philadelphia Legacies, as he originally envisioned, will continue to be an important annual celebration for years to come.