Of the many celebrated people who have called Maryland home, there is no disputing that Frederick Douglass remains one of the most influential figures in its history. Born into slavery in 1818 in Talbot County, Douglass eventually escaped to freedom and became a leading voice in the fight against slavery. He was a gifted orator, writer, and publisher, and used his talents to spread the message of abolitionism and call for an end to institutionalized oppression and discrimination.
In celebration of his 205th birthday, Operation Frederick Douglass On The Hill will hold a fundraising evening at the Avalon Theatre on February 18, 2023. Sponsored by the Douglass and Bailey families, the event will feature performances by actors Phil Darius Wallace and Millicent Sparks. Wallace will bring to life conversations that could have been held between Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Nat Turner in a show titled Black Manifesto. Sparks, an award-winning actor, writer, and producer, will take on the role of Harriet Tubman.
The event will not only be an opportunity to commemorate a life, but will be used as a campaign to raise money to cover upcoming expenses associated with a proposal by the Bailey-Groce family foundation to build an African-American Cultural Center. The project is headed by Tarence Bailey, Douglass’ 5x great-nephew, who was successful in having a mural of Frederick Douglas installed in the Hill Community in Easton. Bailey explained the importance of this new endeavor. “With the number of African American communities dwindling nationwide, it became clear that a center would be an opportunity to preserve and tell the story of African Americans before they came to the Hill in Easton, while they lived here, and after they left.” The project is meant to collect, document, preserve and promote Black history, art, and culture on the eastern shore.
The proposed center, to be known as the James Freeman and Grace Brooks Building, is planned as a three-story cultural center/museum. The first floor would be the cultural center; the second would contain a lecture hall and educational space, and the third would house the community outreach and administrative offices. There are also plans to create space for a food program housed in the basement.
In addition, an idea to design a mobile Hill Museum bus is under consideration. “We’re discussing converting a school bus into a mobile interactive museum that will be all about the Hill community. We want to go around to different schools and groups on the shore, Delaware, Baltimore, and DC, and have students be able to board the bus and learn the history of the area.
Bailey said they’ve received praise and support from Maryland’s governor, Wes Moore, Easton’s Town Council, and many other organizations. The Avalon event is the first fundraising event for this venture.
There are two different tickets available. $65 gets you into the performances by Phil Darius Wallace and Millicent Sparks. The limited VIP tickets are $125 and include the show, followed by refreshments and dinner at the Waterfowl Festival Building, where there will be a very special unveiling of a statue of Frederick Douglass by Academy award-winning special makeup-up and visual artist Kazu Hiro. In attendance will be descendants of Douglass, including his great-grandsons.
The statue, which has not been shown anywhere in the US, will premier in Easton before going on a nationwide tour. Says Bailey, “this is the most realistic piece of art of my great uncle I’ve ever seen. Not to mention that it’s a great piece of work as well.”
Val Cavalheri is a writer and photographer. She has written for various publications, including The Washington Post. Previously she served as the editor of several magazines, including Bliss and Virginia Woman. Although her camera is never far from her reach, Val retired her photography studio when she moved from Northern Virginia to the Eastern Shore a few years ago.. She and her husband, Wayne Gaiteri, have two children and one grandchild.
Tickets (https://tickets.avalontheatre.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=1401) for the Frederick Douglass 205th Birthday Celebration at the Avalon
Saturday, February 18, 2023
NOTE: VIP tickets will only be sold through February 15.
Doors open at 5:30, and the show starts at 6 pm. All tickets are general admission.
For additional information and sponsorship opportunities, go to Fdhill.org or contact: [email protected]