Updated: Apr 8
I happen to be writing this blog post on a Wednesday, which in social media world is widely known as 'Woman Crush Wednesday' - hashtag "WCW'. It's also WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH, therefore I'm proud to write about Marian Anderson today. Why? She reshaped American and World history in a quiet and humble way.
Marian Anderson broke racial, socio-economic and gender barriers after being denied a concert hall by the Daughters of the Revolution, due to the colour of her skin. Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR, after she and President Roosevelt caught wind of the organization's discriminatory and segregation practices.
Marian's response? On Easter Sunday, 1939, she sang at the Lincoln Memorial instead, leaving her mark on America's history and making a lasting statement against racial injustice. I want to be clear that it is noted, Marian never intended to be a civli rights activist. She sought to lead by example, through singing, in the hopes that her gifts could aid in the fight against race prejudice in America. Her dignified approach was multiplied more than thousands-fold, after she gave a historic performance at Washington's National Mall for a desegregated audience.
Marian is therefore the catalyst for civil rights activism taking place in our Nation's capitol. Years later, it is Marian Anderson who stood next to Dr. Martin Luther King as he delivered his 'I Have a Dream' speech.
LITTLE KNOWN STORY WITHIN THIS STORY:
Marian Anderson befriended theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein, and frequently stayed at his home in New Jersey. They were besties! This titan duo nurtured a platonic, albeit unlikely friendship - a friendship between a black woman, hailed as the "voice of the century" by Arturo Toscanini, and a white Jewish/German man, hailed as "the world's leading authority" on all things theoretical physics. They were besties during America's Jim Crow era, during Nazi Germany's rise to power pre World War II. If this isn't a lesson for those of us bickering and striving to unite during current millennial times, I don't know what is.
Though I'm not 100% sure of this next part of the story's accuracy, it is said that their friendship began after Marian was denied a hotel room at the Nassau Inn in Princeton New Jersey due to her race. Professor Einstein, who occupied an office at the University, attended Ms. Anderson's concert, and after she was denied a room at the Nassau Inn, he invited her to stay at his home instead, whenever she toured there. This is the event New York Playwright, Deborah Brevoort, utilizes to commence her new play, 'My Lord What a Night' the story of the true friendship between Anderson and Einstein.
'My Lord What a Night', directed by Kel Haney at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, is part of a rolling world premiere by the National New Play Network, (NNPN). I'd love for you to see it once this corona virus ceases, and artistic life as we know it, resumes. But until that time, I leave you with a quote from the play to ponder, "They can deny me a hotel room, they can deny me a concert hall, but they cannot deny me from using my voice. If I let them do that, they'll take away the most powerful weapon we possess." Know that your voice (whether you interpret it as being literal or symbolic) is important. What you have to say, and what you use primarily to express yourself (maybe you're an athlete, a pianist, a cellist, a ballet dancer) take Marian's advice and learn from her example, use your' voice' and do not stop using it. Study your it deeply, develop it thoroughly and use it tell your story. It is indeed the most powerful weapon you possess. It is yours to utilize to build a lasting legacy in this world.