The Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress’ 16th Annual Luncheon served to highlight the city’s newest historical site, “The President’s House — Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation.”
The President’s House brings to light the events that shaped history’s course of the slave trade in America. The soon-to-be completed outdoor installation allows visitors to walk through the house’s original footprint, including a memorial space where some of the enslaved lived.
During Friday’s event, Mayor Michael Nutter and former mayor John Street unveiled the city’s first tribute image of the enslaved Africans that will be placed as official banners, sponsored by MAC throughout Independence National Historic Park.
Nutter recalled the experience of walking through the President’s House excavation site in 2007.
“There were literally people at that site in tears. It was just that moving. It was literally like walking through history and having your own personal experience with ancestors. That’s how powerful this site is and I think that’s the experience that people would have when the exhibition opens,” said Nutter.
“Soon we will have one of the best exhibitions of what America is all about, anywhere in the United States and when you talk about freedom, liberty and democracy, possibly anywhere in the world, at the President’s House.
The enslaved Africans commemorated at the President’s House site were honored with MAC’s Outstanding Recognition Award.
Street shared various reasons why the existence of the slaves should be recognized at this time.
“We really do have to remember that these slaves were here because this country was built under slave labor and we must not ever forget it, because if we do we might make that mistake again — both here and abroad,” said Street, who was in office when the project first began.
“When we think of this time we have to recognize that progress has been made in this country. We stand here today knowing full well that the president of the United States is a person of color.”
The event also served to honor hospitality, tourism and community leaders for their accomplishments in supporting its mission to promote Philadelphia as an ethically diverse visitors destination.
“This year’s theme ‘Giving Voice: Past Present and Future,’ showcases our strength as a multicultural destination, furthering our efforts to increase the city’s ability to attract and retain multicultural meetings and conventions,” said Tanya E. Hall, executive director of MAC.
Famed Philadelphia milliner Mae Reeves, celebrated her 98th birthday as she received MAC’s Pioneer Award. The Pioneer Award is presented to individuals who have overcome obstacles in dedication to their mission.
From the late 1930s and 1980s, Reeves was one of Philadelphia’s most successful millinery designers and was also one of the first African-American women to establish a business in the downtown section of the city. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture recently acquired part of her extensive hat collection, antique furniture from her millinery shop and other items to showcase her illustrious career.
Melanie Burney, Deirdre M. Childress and Sarah Glover nettled the Bring It Home Award for their work for making Philadelphia the site of the 2011 National Association of Black Journalists. The convention is slated to have a $6.6 million economic impact on the city. The award is presented to individuals that support MAC’s mission by partnering with the PCVB to bring a multicultural convention to Philadelphia.
Radio One Philadelphia’s E. Steven Collins received MAC’s Industry Appreciation Award, which is given to individuals or organizations that paved the way for multicultural initiatives and partner with various segments of the hospitality industry.
This year MAC honored two recipients for the Share the Heritage Awards, Jeri Lynne Johnson, founder of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra and Joe Kim, director, Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival. The award is given to individuals or organizations that have helped propel multicultural tourism initiatives in Philadelphia and in the nation.
PCVB President and CEO Tom Muldoon received MAC’s first Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to the hospitality industry, while supporting the division’s mission. A leader in the tourism and hospitality industry for over 25 years, Muldoon played a key role in the creation and development of MAC from its inception to its current success.
Rev. Luis A. Cortés Jr., president of Esperanza, the largest Hispanic faith-based evangelical network in the U.S. received the Community Impact Award for his many years of community advocacy. This award is presented to individuals who strive to create a better Philadelphia and the surrounding communities.
The MAC luncheon is considered the largest gathering of diverse hospitality professionals that are dedicated to increasing Philadelphia’s recognition as a top multicultural tourism and convention city.