The Black Panther movie was enlightening on so many levels. One aspect I appreciated was it’s emphasis on maintaining a Spiritual awareness or connection to our ancestral culture and traditions.
The old Bandstand on Penn Park represented one of those places to me which provided a source of Spiritual energy for our community. Many times over the years as we faced difficult times in this community, that Bandstand would serve as a rallying point for us to come together and gather strength from each other. At other times it was a place of fun, relaxation and sharing good times.
I was traumatized when it was torn down. It was like destroying a piece of our community. I, in my conspiratorial mindset always believed it was torn down deliberately by the enemies of man, who also realized its potential as a rallying point for future grievances or community uplifting events. I was particularly disturbed when the powers that be in this community spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore a similar edifice on Farqhuar Park.
Over the years I remember a few significant events that happened around that Bandstand including Unity Day festivities, the 1980 Pan African Unity Festival which featured Queen Mother Moore and Civil Rights activist Frankie Getter as speakers, the 1968 student protest over the use of police dogs and police brutality and of course the largest Civil Rights rally ever held in this city in 1963 with over 1500 people in attendance………….
This was spectacular. That Sunday afternoon saw every Black Church in York march from their churches to Penn Park at 12:30 pm singing We Shall Overcome in a show of unity unsurpassed in our History here. NAACP official and Master of Ceremonies for the event William Barber told the crowd that “Negroes in York will no longer patiently accept racial injustice. We will no longer be denied the freedom to develop to our full potential.” Dr. Russell Hackley, President of the local chapter of the NAACP, told the rally that every Black organization in York would be active in this effort.
Rev. Richard Manning, pastor of Shiloh Baptist church and head of the Ministers Monthly Fellowship told the crowd that the Negro Ministry has a very important role to play in this uplifting effort. Manning said “to play our part we will move our programs out of our churches on to the streets as Jesus did when he talked to the multitudes.” Rev. Thomas Montouth of Faith Presbyterian church delivered the invocation. Wade Bowers and Hildegard Beard were vocalist in the program.
Almost every other power organization in the city was represented on the dias including; Mayor John Snyder, City Council president Fred Schiding,The Republican and Democratic county Chairmen, Superintendent of schools, Dr. Woodrow Brown, Jack Barnhart, president of the York Labor Council, John Padden, Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of York, Richard Coesens, President of the Chamber of Commerce, Marty Goldman, from the Anti Defamation League of B’nai B’rith,, and John Zimmerman from the State Human Relations Commission.
Other organizations represented in addition to all of the Black churches were; Charles E Williams Post 794 of the American Legion, the Brotherly Love Lodge Elks of World, Queen Esther Temple, IBPOE OF W, Household of Ruth, Social Friendship Lodge #42 Masons. Deborah Chapter 26 Eastern Star and Crispus Attucks Association. An absolutely powerful, Historic event.
Unfortunately the loss or passing of many of the Black communities historic places and organizations has happened all too often. But although the physical might have passed on, like our Ancestral connections the Spirit lives on………