Have I ever mentioned how much I love the Bronx Culture Trolley? In addition to learning something new and amazing about the Bronx every time I’m on board, the looks people in the neighborhood give this vintage trolley rolling the South Bronx are just priceless.
Saturday, the Bronx Music Heritage Center hosted its Black History month celebration consisting of a trolley tour of historic music locations in the Bronx, an artisan market, a presentation by February’s subject of The Spotlight, Morgan Powell, and a performance by Malang Jobarteh.
The trolley tour was led by Dr. Mark Naison (a.k.a. Notorious Ph.D), an African American studies professor at Fordham who has also studied the musical history of the borough. It included stops such as the Big Pun mural, unofficial block party hub P.S. 99, and Maxine Sullivan’s house. The trolley moseyed along to an energetic soundtrack featuring songs from Elmo Hope to Tito Puente to Luther Vandross and Aventura.
The Bronx was once home to many famous jazz clubs such as Hunts Point Palace and the Blue Morocco. People, myself included, tend to know a bit more about the Bronx’s hip hop roots, but would be surprised to learn about the borough’s rich jazz history.
Dr. Naison attributed the borough’s astounding music history to the shared cultural interactions in the borough. ” People [referring to the rest of the U.S] can look to the Bronx to see how people can live together,” he said, noting that creativity can bloom in what may seem like the least likely of places.
As mentioned above, the trolley tour ended back at the BHMC lab where local businesses Natures’s Garden Beauty Supply, ECWM African Market, Island Lunch Box, and Crusticks sold food and a variety of wares.
Mogan Powell treated the audience to a glimpse into the Bronx River’s history and those who have fought to protect the Bronx’s environment and overall health.
To round out the event, Gambian musician Malang Jobarteh performed a collection of melodic tunes on this very unique-looking instrument called a kora (Seriously. Look it up. I want one in my house just so I can look at it.)
BMHC has a bunch of other really awesome events lined up, so make sure you check their website to keep tabs on them.
P.S. The Wall Street Journal did a very nice write up of the trolley tour, which features a video that is worth checking out. (I am in the background looking cute.)