The Lead

Philly playground exhibit honors city’s Black leaders, legends

By: - February 9, 2022 11:37 am

Dr. Ala Stanford, of the Philly Black Doctors Consortium is among those who are being honored in the exhibit at Smith Memorial Playground (Philadaelphia Tribune photo).

By O.J. Spivey

PHILADELPHIA — As Philadelphia celebrates Black History Month, oftentimes children learn of great African Americans nationwide but not necessarily those from their neighborhoods.

At the historic Smith Memorial Playground in East Fairmount Park, young people can get to know their local and homegrown heroes with the “Leaders and Legends of Philadelphia” exhibition. It will be on display through Feb. 28.

Across from the playground’s building, several 5-foot-by-7-foot banners spotlight impactful individuals past and present along with their career contributions to the city and beyond.

IF YOU GO: For more information about the exhibit and Smith Playground, visit their website at

“It is important that children become aware that many African-American heroes, and leaders lived and made their mark in Philadelphia,” says Frances Hoover, executive director at Smith Memorial Playground. “We are excited to celebrate the achievements of these important people and hope that their inspiring stories will spark conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion among the youth and their families.”

This year’s honorees are:

  • Marian Anderson, contralto singer and South Philadelphia High School graduate who battled segregation in the musical arts during the depression and World War II but was able to perform in such places as the White House, Lincoln Memorial and Carnegie Hall.
  • Octavius Catto, 19th-century civil rights scholar who advocated for the 15th Amendment, educator and alumnus at what is now Cheyney University, athlete and founder of the Philadelphia Pythians baseball club, and served in the Pennsylvania National Guard.
  • Ed Bradley, native Philadelphian and broadcast journalist with CBS television’s award-winning “60 Minutes” news program. Bradley began his broadcasting career with WDAS-FM radio.
  • Juanita Kidd Stout, longtime Common Pleas Court of Pennsylvania Judge and a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice.
  • John Chaney, 1951 City Player of the Year at Ben Franklin High School. Also a hall of fame men’s basketball coach at then-Cheyney State College and Temple University.
  • Otis Hackney, former principal at South Philadelphia High School and currently the Chief Education Officer for the City of Philadelphia.
  • Dr. Ala Stanford, pediatrician, board-certified surgeon, founder of the Black Doctors Consortium and the Dr. Ala Stanford Center, a primary care clinic in North Philadelphia.
  • Robert Bogle, president/CEO of the Philadelphia Tribune, the oldest continuously published African-American newspaper in United States. Also a Cheyney University and Wharton School of Business graduate.
  • Tina Sloan Green, athlete, national champion, former lacrosse coach at Temple University, the first African-American coach in the history of women’s lacrosse, and member of the National Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.
  • Joan Myers Brown, choreographer, dance instructor, founder of the Philadelphia Dance Company (known as Philadanco) and a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts by President Barack Obama.
  • Marcel Pratt, attorney, former city solicitor, the youngest ever in the history of Philadelphia and currently an office managing partner at the Ballard Spahr law firm.
  • Dr. Edith Peterson Mitchell, a clinical professor of oncology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general.

“It’s Black History Month but it’s American history month,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “These are people who have walked the streets of Philadelphia, contributed to our country, our city’s growth, and their stories need to be told.”

Each display includes a short biography, a “Quiz the Kids” section with fast facts, and “Family Time” suggestions for interactive learning beyond the exhibit.

Attendees who visit the playhouse at Smith can receive a set of trading cards with a QR code to learn more about each person through a short audio biography.

The exhibit also has a blank display for photo opportunities to share which is entitled, “Future Leader,” which gives children the ability to aspire to having their headshot and biography one day among the legends who preceded them.

O.J. Spivey is a correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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