SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A local exhibit is bringing community culture to the public forefront.
It’s called Black Scranton Project which is a Black History Month display that opened to the public on Thursday for a second straight year. As Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller shows us, the exhibit helps explain what the black community in The Electric City was and what it can be.
“Downtown Scranton was the hub of black life for a very long time,” said Glynis Johns.
Roughly two centuries, in fact, as she pointed out. The 26-year-old Scrantonian is the founder of Black Scranton Project. She’s taken elements from her first exhibit held last year at The Marketplace at Steamtown and expanded on it this year at nearby AFA Gallery.
Ms. Johns said, “I think it’s really cool that when you’re here looking at these historical pieces you’re like literally standing in a space where it happened.”
From Scranton’s black community came major accomplishment.
Ms. Johns said, “That’s where that building was.” She pointed to a photo of the hub of a modest, 20th century hauling business that became a booming success under the guidance of an African-American widow.
Black Scranton Project also builds on its first year exhibit to James “Chimsey” Williams. The prolific, Scranton-born, 20th century powerlifter proved as mighty with the pen as he was with weights.
Ms. Johns said, “He actually inspired me to do this historical research on the community because he actually had started that project. He wrote a book called “Northern Fried Chicken”.”
The book penned by Mr. Williams details the struggles of Scranton’s black community through his eyes. Along with the artifacts comes artwork.
“I think I put about 150 hours into this painting here,” said artist and Black Scranton Project Creative Director Travis Prince.
He contributed several paintings to the overall historical display.
“I just want to add to it and add more culture and more significant impact on our community,” said Mr. Prince.
Ms. Johns has been able to make her exhibit work at the pop-up locations each of these two years. But she won’t be happy until she finds a permanent home. She said it’s a realistic goal that can happen by the end of this year.
“It’s going to continue to grow,” said Ms. Johns.
Black Scranton Project received non-profit status last June which Ms. Johns said will make fundraising easier. Black Scranton Project is open to the public Thursdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. at AFA Gallery, 514 Lackawanna Avenue, in downtown Scranton.
A more detailed report on Black Scranton Project will be part of an Eyewitness News special called Hidden History: Celebrating Black History Month. You can see it on WBRE, Saturday, February 22nd at 7 p.m. and Sunday the 23rd at 11:30 p.m.
WYOU will broadcast Hidden History on Sunday, February 23rd at noon and Thursday the 27th at 7:30 p.m.