Wordless Wednesday–Zara Gale (Buggs) Taylor

Zara Gale Buggs Taylor
March 28, 1946-Nov 19, 2005
[My 1st Cousin, 1x Removed & Grand-Daughter of
Zara Frances Cully Brown, from the sitcom, “The Jefferson’s.”
                         

Copyright
The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011

New York PS-186 -An Abandoned School in Harlem

Michele Wallace & Yvette Porter Moore walking up to PS-186

On my list of places to go during my research trip to Harlem, was to visit the old abandoned school that my mother attended in 1933-1938.  PS-186 which is located at 523 West 145th Street and Amsterdam Avenue had been opened in 1903 and shut down in 1975.

Prior research of PS-186 led me to a blog written by Michele Wallace, the daughter of Faith Jones Ringgold, a world renowned quilter, and artist.  Michele had posted a class picture of her mother from PS-186, and when I saw it, I thought it resembled my mother’s graduating 6th grade class picture.  At that point I contacted Michele to get permission to mention her blog and the picture that she posted as I immediately felt a connection to her and her mother. Through further investigation, I discovered that Michele’s grandmother Willi Posey was a fashion designer in Harlem just like my grandmother, so I immediately needed and wanted to know more about this intriguing family whose paths crossed my family’s life.  (Blog below)

Faith Ringgold at PS-186-Graduating Class of 1942

http://mjsoulpictures.blogspot.com/search/label/Faith%20Ringgold%20

So in June of 2010, my daughter Vanessa and I, flew to New York for the first time.  I wanted to walk in the footsteps of my late mother, Betty Mae Peters Porter, and to discover the life she had lived before coming to Los Angeles and then eventually settling in San Diego, CA.  My mother did not talk much about her Beloved, Sugar Hill, New York, at least not to me, but there were times that I overheard her speaking about Sugar Hill to her friends, and my father.  My end purpose for researching my mother is to put together the pieces of my mother’s memoir that she had intended to write, as she left tape recordings and some journals of which I have inherited.

Photos by Vanessa Moore

Front of PS-186
Wonderful detail and architecture of PS-186

Michele and I enjoyed the day looking at the old PS-186 and wondered what would become of such a wonderful structure that had become an eye-sore of the community, but yet and still there appears to be some hope to revitalize the building and making it grand as it was in its’ earlier days.

On the Backside of PS-186
Michele Wallace & Yvette Porter Moore in thought about PS-186
Bulletin Board can be seen through missing window
PS-186 view of broken out window
Walking on 145th Street past PS 186

It is my hope that the local historians of Harlem take on the task of writing the history of the people that attended PS-186, as it is my understanding, that many great individuals were educated at this school such as Harry Belafonte, Faith Jones Ringgold, Arthur Mitchell, and many others.  This information might shine some light upon the abandoned school and push the powers to finally do something about this building instead of waiting until they can demolish it and put high rise apartments in its place.

Copyright
The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011

Summer Trip to Harlem (June 8-18, 2010): The Town Hall

It was always my intention to blog the updates of my family research trips as I was searching and discovering the missing pieces of my family history.  However, as life happens and I got so busy doing other things, I allowed my focus to be side-tracked away from my goals of sharing, so “blogging” had been put on hold.

Alas….I still get another chance to share with you what I have done, and I am so excited to do so…..

A prior post from April 2010, I talked about the historical significance of “THE TOWN HALL.”  During my first visit to Harlem, NY, I had the opportunity to visit The Town Hall, while my daughter documented our trip through photography.

The Town Hall   Photo by Vanessa Moore

“The Town Hall has played a central role in the cultural history of New York City since January 1921, when architects McKim, Mead & White completed the building for a suffragist organization called The League for Political Education.  Built to serve as and educational forum for the discussion of important civic issues.  The People’s Hall revealed its extraordinary acoustics on Feb 12, 1921, during a recital by Spanish violinist Joan Manen.  (taken from Town Hall 88th Anniversary program)

The Town Hall has deep history for its musical performances by many greats such as Marian Anderson who made her New York Town Hall Debut on December 20, 1935, after being denied a chance to perform at other venues because of her race.  Others that have performed on the stage were, Billy Joel, Wynton Marsalis, Bill Cosby, Lionel Hampton, Max Roach, Ellen DeGeneres, and many many more.”

The Town Hall also is known for its school programs which allows elementary school children to perform on stage to debut a recital for the people of New York.

This is what brought me to the Town Hall, as my mother Betty Mae Peters performed on this very stage as an elementary school student in her first recital in 1932.

I had the opportunity to tour the interior of the Town Hall, which at the time was closed.  When I entered the building a gentleman by the name of George, who was the elevator operator, greeted me.  I shared with him that my mother as a little girl in the 30’s performed at the Town Hall and I wanted more information on the establishment.  He had me follow him into the elevator, which was the original and required an operator.  He took me to the top floor into the administrative office and told me the President was there and he would have the necessary answers.

When I walked in, the first office I came to was the President’s, and his door was wide open.  He was a big man, and was the whitest man I had ever seen…and he was not an albino.  He looked up from his desk without smiling and in a very irritated voice asked what I wanted.  I told him that he looked very busy, and I was sorry for disturbing him, but I had traveled all the way from San Diego, California and wanted to know more about The Town Hall and to take some pictures for my documentation.  He told me he was too busy, but when I told him it was very important to me and why I needed the information, he allowed his assistant to tour me around.

The young lady explained to me that this was very unusual for him to allow her to show me around as he usually does not do that.  She let me know I should take whatever pictures I could get as this is a rare occurrence.  When we completed the tour, she had me go back to her office so she could give me a historical write-up of The Town Hall.

When my visit was over, the Elevator Operator gave me a wealth of information of the Town Hall and told me if I came back another day, he would have more for me.  I did not get the opportunity to go back as my time in NY was short.

George shared with me that his father had worked at The Town Hall when he immigrated to the U.S.  He came from a line of well known performers from Russia.  His father worked at the Town Hall in the 40’s and 50’s and wanted his son to come and work there, but George didn’t until ten years ago.

George, Elevator Operator

The two hours spent at The Town Hall was amazing and it was time well-spent.  Next time I go back, I intend on attending a performance as they still hold shows today.

Copyright
The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011
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THE TOWN HALL (The League For Political Education)

(Program from 1933)

As I was searching through my mother’s scrapbook and keepsakes, I came across an old program that was in my mother’s possession.  This was the 1st program of which she was in at the Town Hall.  My mother was always a part of a singing group or Choir when she was growing up.  She was from a long-line of Singers and musicians in her family.
(According to Wikpedia) The Town Hall opened January 12, 1921, and was for the purpose of bringing forthe information of Political Education.  The Town Hall was built by The League for Political Education, whose fight for passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution led them to commission the building of a meeting space where people of every rank and station could be educated on the important issues of the day. The space, which became The Town Hall, was designed by the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, to reflect the democratic principles of the League. To this end, box seats were not included in the theater’s design, and every effort was made to ensure that there were no seats with an obstructed view. This design principle gave birth to The Town Hall’s long-standing mantra: “Not a bad seat in the house.”
Since The Town Hall (also known as simply Town Hall) opened its doors on January 12, 1921, it has not only become a meeting place for educational programs, gatherings of activists, and host for controversial speakers (such as the American advocate of birth control Margaret Sanger, who was arrested and carried off The Town Hall stage on November 13, 1921, for attempting to speak to a mixed-sex audience about contraception), but as one of New York City’s premiere performance spaces for music, dance, and other performing arts. While the lecture series and courses on political and non-political subjects sponsored by the League continued to be held there, The Town Hall quickly established a reputation as an arts center during the first fifteen years of its existence.
The Town Hall has also had a long association with the promotion of poetry in the United States, which predates Edna St. Vincent Millay’s public poetry reading debut at the Hall in 1928. The Hall has retained a close association with poets and poetry that continues to this day.
There is not a wealth of information on the Town Hall on the internet, so this will be one of the places I will go to on my trip to New York.  I called to see if there were archives of the Town Hall and I was refered to the Lincoln Center of Performing arts.  I was informed that the archives are located at the New York Public Library in the Theatre Division on 65th and Broadway, on the 2nd Floor directly across from the Metropolitan Opera.  When I heard of the location, I was so there in spirit as I have heard so much about Marian Anderson and her singing debut at the Metropolitan Opera on January 7, 1955.  She was the first African American to sing on that stage…Oh how I feel the chills and goose bumps!!!
(How The Town Hall Looks Today)

Copyright
The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011

Historical Research Trip To Sugar Hill, Harlem, New York

 Life on Sugar Hill
I am writing my mother’s memoirs of “Sugar Hill” New York between 1926 and 1950. It is a story written from a daughter’s perspective.
Betty Peters-1929 Photo by D’Laigle

Currently I am researching the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Manhattan, and will raise-the-bar of my research by visiting New York this June 2010.  My daughter Vanessa will go with me, as she is my official photographer and will document our footprints.  We will be staying in a local Bed & Breakfast which is located two blocks from the actual Apartments my mother lived. This will allow me to walk the streets my mother walked and breathe in the culture of Harlem that my mother knew so well.

Betty Mae Peters, 16 yrs old

When I was a little girl, my mother recorded her life stories of New York and the background of her family history on tape.  She would tell me that she was writing a book, but never got around to finishing her project. This is why I feel the strong need to finish her book, even though there is so much that has been taken with her in death.  For this very reason, we should never put off what we can do today.

My mother, Betty Mae Peters Porter was born in New York City on November 17, 1926 to Agnes Cully and Charles I. Peters. She was an only child. Betty grew up in the “Sugar Hill” area of New York City where she attended George Washington High School.  Always an organizer and socialite, Betty and her life time friend, Marilyn “Mickey” Sullivan formed and belonged to a club during their childhood called the “149 Street Queens.”
Her mother, Agnes, was a well known seamstress and fashion designer. Her clients included Marian Anderson, Betty Davis, Barbara Rush, Joan Crawford and other celebrities. Betty often modeled in her mother’s fashion show in New York City.
Marian Anderson and My Grandmother Agnes Cully Peters.  My Grandmother was her personal fashion designer
Betty was always an excellent student. She received a dual bachelor’s degree in English and Journalism from New York University in 1947. Her skills and clever talents in writing were evident in her unique holiday letters received by friends and relatives. Betty and her mother moved to Los Angeles, where her Aunt Zara Cully Brown was an actress, also known as “Mother Jefferson” in the television sitcom “The Jefferson’s” (staring Sherman Hensley, and Isabelle Sanford.)
My Great Aunt Zara Cully Brown

While in Los Angeles, Betty received her CA teaching credential from Los Angeles State College, and attended Pepperdine University, where she received her Master of Arts degree in Multicultural Education. Betty became very popular and active in the social and political circles of the Los Angeles Community. Betty taught at Rosewood Elementary School and later founded the Friendship Guild where she was president. This was an elite organization of women who remained as Betty’s dearest friends throughout her life.

In 1957, Betty met and married the late Dr. Walter J. Porter. They moved to San Diego, CA in 1969, and became very active in the field of education, musical and civic affairs. They also became the proud parents of two loving children. Betty taught classes for the Gifted and Talented Students at the elementary school level in San Diego City Schools for many years, retiring in 1992. She was an avid reader, and an excellent cook. A “gathering” at the Porter household was always a special treat. She was very supportive of “Wally’s” numerous activities as she shared forty-four memorable years with him until hes death in 2001. She also enjoyed spending time with her seven grandchildren.
Betty was a member of the San Diego -Tema Sister City Society, the African Arts Committee, The Chapel of Awareness in Encinitas and was an Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Silver Star, (Epsilon Xi Omega Chapter). Betty was a breast cancer survivor who tried to impress on others the importance of yearly exams. She suffered a massive stroke on Christmas Eve, which took her life.

Copyright
The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011