And Still We Rise The Story of Black History in York, Pa.

This chart represents a multitude of Talent on all levels that have risen from this town and although many of the people chronicled in this piece did not have the opportunity to Blossom here in their Hometown it is a testament to our resiliency and tenacity as a people that we achieve this high level of success in spite of……

The talent that has sprung forth from our community over the years, In spite of the adversity we’ve faced, reminds me of Tupac’s song “A Rose That Grew From Concrete” or Mary J Blije’s “Children of the Ghetto” or even Donny Hathaway’s “Little Ghetto Boy”. It kinda makes me think of Claude Brown’s “Manchild in the Promised Land” or Eldridge Cleavers “Soul on Ice”, or even Mr. Louis Lomax’s “When the Word is Given”. It even makes me think about Miles Davis playin’ “So What” or Grover Washington Junior’s Sausilito” or John Coltrane “Greensleeves”. What I mean to say is that the more I research the illustrious History of the Black Man in York the more I am astounded at the depth, level, and variety of the talent that continues to rise from York’s Black community. One of my goals is to be able to tell a version of that story from the perspective of one of the Sons of the community.No automatic alt text available.

My biggest hope and Prayers is that God grant me the grace and mercy to be able to finish such a monumental but worthy task. Reminiscent of one of the theme of the recent Blockbuster movie “The Black Panther”, the more I immerse myself into the Culture, the Greater the Energy that’s share. It’s like being “Plugged In”. My wonderful Cousin Stephanie Terry recently wrote some potent words of encouragement. As we were discussing the powerful effects of Culture, Tradition and Values on a Peoples development she said it’s like the old adage “A People without knowledge of its History is like a Tree without Roots, Destined to Perish”. She said, Jeff, whenever you are propagating our History you are actually watering the roots of our Communal Tree and in watering our roots you help to keep us alive. So keep it up at ALL cost.

Now I don’t take what she said lightly because Stevie is someone I have Greatly admired. A Nationally recognized retired Teacher, She has that “Rose that Grew from Concrete” kinda story that is indicative of that which inspires me. Just the talent that came up from the Neighborhood she was raised in would be enough to fill several volumes. The 300 Block of West Princess Street was the home of an extraordinarily number of high achievers. Like I said, the impact that Block had on and the role it played in the development of York’s Black History is impressive.Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and text

In fact like in the Black Panther movie, the roles and interactions of the different Clans or Council in the movie is to me representative of the interplay which existed between the various Black neighborhoods of York ‘back in the Day’. Neighborhood Pride was at an all-time High. Things have changed over the years but there’s somethings going on. Like my man Beanie Seagle says “I Can Feel It In the Air”, and I believe like my man Sam Cooke would say “A Change is Gonna Come”.

So in the hopes of Rolling with the Flow, I will keep gathering and organizing the scattered bits of our history in the hopes of binding them together again in a manner that will do justice to the magnitude of the Story. I will continue trying to share some of the interesting info I come across in the hopes that it will Inspire someone else. I will continue to share stories about those Roses who came from Concrete.

The chart I drew up to illustrate York’s Black Diaspora is very indicative of the Talent we have produced in this town. It shows hundreds of the Roses that were nurtured and grew here. Like Langston Hughes said in his poem “Harlem” our Dreams although deferred here, have not dried up like a raisin….they may have festered like a sore and at times have even exploded……but in the end, in other places these Dreams are coming true. So like Langston says in another of his Powerful poems “Mother to Son”……Don’t you get tired, don’t you sit down on those steps cause thing are getting’ kinda hard for I’se still goin’, honey…. I’se still climbin’ and Life for me ain’t been no “Crystal Stair’.


Author: jkirk

Founder and Chief Researcher for the York African American Historical Preservation Society