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1 May 2011

Spring Flings

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May 1, 2011 Category: Travel Posted by:

By Renée S. Gordon


Throughout the years whenever I am asked which destination I like best my answer has remained the same, Philadelphia. As Dorothy discovers after her adventures in Oz, there really is no place like home. Philadelphia has much to offer and it is ideally situated for day trips to the nearby states of Delaware, New York, Maryland and New Jersey.


Now is the time to begin planning for spring and summer excursions and I thought I would list a few things that just might be beneath your radar. All of these activities are family friendly and I have chosen them because they are unique in their own way. Prices and schedules may change so I strongly suggest you go to the listed websites for additional information.


Amtrak will commemorate the “Great Migration of African Americans” on Saturday, May 7, 2011, National Train Day, with scheduled events from 11AM until 4PM at 30th Street Station. Gladys Knight is the National spokesperson for this year’s celebration and she will perform in Washington, DC on May 7th at the premiere event.


Though African Americans began leaving the South at the close of the Civil War the period of the Great Migration is generally considered the period from 1910-1930. The movement from rural South to urban North was spurred by crop failure, WWI labor shortages, a nearly complete cessation of European immigration because of the war and overt racism, injustice and violence. The black press printed job openings from northern factories, black railroad workers distributed advertisements along their routes and labor agents recruited in southern communities. During the 10 year period between 1910-20 Philadelphia’s African American population grew 58 percent and by 1940 the African American population in the North had grown by 1.75-million.


The highlight of National Train Day will be the unveiling of a 100-sq. ft. exhibit that interprets the migration’s history and the role played by the railroad through photographs and artifacts. Dr. Allen Ballard, University of Albany History/African American Studies professor will be the keynote speaker and members of the United States Colored Troops (USCT)/Civil War period reenactors will be present to add an air of period authenticity. Additional activities include entertainment, interactive exhibits, model train displays and tours of equipment and private railroad cars. National Train Day is a celebration of May 10, 1869, the day the “golden spike” was driven into the final railroad tie, joining the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads, creating a 1,776-mile transcontinental railroad. All activities are free. Information is available at


On April 30, 2011 the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s West Wing Gallery opened the nation’s inaugural exhibit of “Battleground: War Rugs from Afghanistan.” Traditional Afghan rugs have always been considered among the most beautiful and durable with colorful tribal motifs, historic designs and flowers and human and animal figures. In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and, after their withdrawal 10 years later the country was engaged in a civil war for the ensuing 12 years. In response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks the US and Great Britain invaded Afghanistan in October of 2001.


Beginning in the early 80s the patterns used in Afghan carpets underwent a change. Classic designs were replaced on “war rugs” by images of conflict that were as common as domestic animals once were. The rugs reflected the new reality of tanks, helicopters and missiles placed within the context of the Persian style. These rugs visually represent the point at which culture, art and history meet. More than 60 rugs are showcased in the exhibit, several crafted by weavers among the 4 million refugees in camps.


This presentation is timed to coincide with the reopening of “Iraq’s Ancient Past: Rediscovering Ur’s Royal Cemetery,” featuring Mesopotamian artifacts dating from 4,500-years ago. 3260 South St.


The Sesquicentennial of the Civil War will be commemorated for the next four years and the renewed awareness of this defining event allows venues across the county to both retell familiar stories and introduce Americans to lesser known people and occurrences. The Hagley Museum and Library, 200 Hagley Road, Wilmington, DE, has mounted, “An Oath of Allegiance to the Republic: The du Ponts and the Civil War,” to relate just such fascinating stories.


The Hagley, situated on 235-acres on the Brandywine River, is the location of gunpowder works established by E. I. du Pont in 1802. Tours of the complex include restorations of the workers’ community mills, gardens and the 1803 Georgian-style mansion, Eleutherian Mills. From this site the mills supplied black gunpowder to civilians and the government, as well as technological innovations, until the present day.


The current exhibit focuses on the du Pont’s contribution to the Civil War. At the onset of the conflict the company voided all contracts with seceding states and later took a loss on all Confederate inventory that had not been previously paid for. Du Pont would become the Union’s largest producer of munitions averaging a million pounds annually.


Samuel Francis du Pont rose to the rank of Rear Admiral in the war and his story and that of enslaved Robert Smalls is recounted in the exhibit. Smalls, the son of an enslaved mother and white father, served as a deckhand and pilot of the Confederate ship Planter. Twenty-three year old Robert brought aboard his wife, children and twelve slaves in the wee hours of May 13, 1862 while the crew was not aboard. He sailed through the Confederate lines and raising a white flag he surrendered the steamer, its cargo of arms, naval codes and strategic military information to Samuel du Pont. Smalls would become captain of the Planter, the first black captain of a U.S. ship and five-term U.S. Congressman.


Featured artifacts in the collection include two 35-star flags, memorabilia, portraits, personal items and Samuel du Pont’s gold and silver ceremonial sword. The story of the du Ponts during the war years is augmented with tales of the role of women, individuals and the community.


New York is a wonderful destination no matter what the season but it really sparkles in the spring. There are always new things to do and see, much of it is within walking distance and you need venture no further than mid-town Manhattan.


In the 16th-century Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage,” more than 300 years later Andy Warhol declared, “In the future everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes.” Using cutting edge technology, New York’s newest attraction, The Ride, has skillfully created an interactive tour/theatrical work that makes you a star on a mobile stage.


Visitors climb aboard a custom designed vehicle, the tallest allowed by federal law, that is 13-ft. high, 45-ft. long and 8-ft. wide for this 75 minute state-of-the-art tour of the city. The interior is outfitted with three tiers of stadium seating, 3,000 LED lights, 40 video screens, surround sound and floor-shaker technology capable of replicating the NY subway and a busy night in one of the city’s trendy clubs. Enormous windows allow riders to see and be seen and interact with New Yorkers and the comedian, dancers and actors positioned along the tour route for your edification and entertainment.


The route introduces you to the city’s iconic sites through the guides’ interpretation and with additional facts and stats on you individual video screen. The performances are wonderful and include a break-dancing UPS man, a rapping pedestrian and a stunning ballet around the fountain in Columbus Circle.


This is a totally unique experience and one that affords you a look into the heart and soul of New York City. The Ride ends with the passengers singing “New York, New York” as you cruise along Broadway. Pedestrians on the street join in and sing and dance spontaneously as only New Yorkers ever would. Trust me, you will love being taken for a ride! The box office is at 1535 Broadway in the Marriott Marquis Hotel. The schedule and information is available at


If you like your theatrical experiences a little more intimate there are two new plays “By the Way Meet Vera Stark,” and “Baby it’s You,” that will fill the bill. Currently discount tickets are available at You must join the club but membership is free.


“By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” was written by Lynn Nottage and takes its theme from the lives and careers of early African American actresses like Lena Horne, Nina Mae McKinney, Fredi Washington, Ethel Waters and Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win an Academy Award. Sanaa Latham has the title role and her performance and that of the supporting cast is stellar. Second Stage Theater, 305 W. 43rd


“Baby it’s You” just opened at the Broadhurst Theater, 235 W. 44th St. It is a musical exploration of the career of Jewish housewife, Florence Greenburg, who discovers the Shirelles and goes on to found a record company and leave an indelible mark on music history. The plot provides a loose framework for a story of interracial love and the music of such luminaries as Chuck Jackson, Gene Chandler, Dionne Warwick and Leslie Gore. The singing and dancing are phenomenal and you will definitely be entertained.


I wish you smooth and exhilarating travels!

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