Tag Archives: Ella Fitzgerald

Addisleigh Park, a thriving tribute to black history in Queens

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Addisleigh Park, a small portion of St. Albans in southeast Queens, was home to many people who were influential to black history. Athletes and musicians such as Jackie Robinson, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Louis and Miles Davis once called the small town home.

But their acceptance there did not come easy, as it took years to break racial barriers that once kept the neighborhood exclusively white.

“I heard of the problems that used to be associated with my neighborhood,” said Phillip Douglas, 74, who moved to Addisleigh Park in 1952 and currently lives there. “But when I moved in, most of the racial problems had passed and more and more black people started to move in.”

In the 1940s, Addisleigh Park was mostly owned by white families. Black families started to move into the area but were not allowed to live there due to deed restrictions on houses that prohibited the sale of the property to blacks.

These restrictions were later thrown out by the United States Supreme Court, which said that these rules violated the equal protection of all citizens. Upon this case ruling, black families moved into the area at a fast pace and by 1952, Douglas said that the neighborhood was predominately black.

Famous people who paved the way for many blacks took up residence there, including Roy Campanella, W.E.B Du Bois, Eugene Earl Bostic, James Brown and Count Basie, among others.

House of Eugene Earl Bostic

House of Eugene Earl Bostic

Douglas said he remembers playing outside of his house when he was young and seeing Campanella and Robinson drive by and stop to talk to the children in the neighborhood. He said even though some people and celebrities put themselves on a pedestal, it was the exact opposite for the ones he knew in the neighborhood.

“Looking back, I would take conversations with people like Roy [Campanella] for granted,” said Douglas. “You’d be surprised how normal they actually were even though they were looked upon as so important in society.”

He talked about how tight-knit the neighborhood was and still is, a sentiment that Olivia C. Banks, another longtime Addisleigh Park resident, couldn’t agree with more.

“Living here with your neighbors is like living with family,” said Banks, 77, who moved to the neighborhood in 1958. “I liked what we had when I was younger but the neighborhood has made some great improvements since.”

Andrea Scarborough, president of the Addisleigh Park Civic Association, said holding her position for the past 13 years has been very rewarding.

“There’s a mix of professionals, seniors and municipal workers that make the community great,” she said. “The community comes together and the people that live here really care about the neighborhood.”

The neighborhood got recognition for being so important to history in 2011, when the city Landmarks Preservation Commission designated it a historic district. In Addisleigh Park, 442 homes became part of the historic district protecting the area from redevelopment.

Douglas said he was proud that he was able to see all of this history firsthand.

“I grew up around some of the greatest talent, even though they didn’t get the recognition they deserved back then,” he said. “It was nice to live here, these were good times in my life. I have great memories.”


New year, new direction at Queens Theatre

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Carol Rosegg

Visionary Ray Cullom, the recently-instated executive director of Queens Theatre, is preparing his new domain for a metamorphosis. Astounded by the 21-year-old theatre’s immense potential, Cullom plans to turn what previously acted solely as a performance space into a full-fledged, talent-nurturing enterprise.

“[Queens Theatre] is a unique showplace unlike anything I’ve worked in before,” said Cullom. “It’s Queens’ best-kept secret.”

Well-versed in the art of conducting both for-profit and non-profit theatres, Cullom most recently performed as the managing director at the New Haven Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut. Sporting a background in archaeology and history, Cullom previously regarded theatre as merely a hobby rather than a profession. Over time, his passions traded places, and theatre took center stage.

Over Cullom’s first eight months as executive director of Queens Theatre, the institution has undergone a moniker alteration. Previously regarded as the Queens Theatre in the Park, Cullom hopes the simplified name promotes recognition among the public, as well as informs people of the company’s year-round productions.

“My goal is to have the theatre buzzing with life 365 days a year,” said Cullom.

Cullom has also devised plans on how to cultivate productions from within the venue, a previously foreign concept at Queens Theatre.

Cullom’s premier event, “CHIX 6,” centers on a young artist whose drawings of super heroes come to life and assist her along her journey to self-empowerment. “CHIX 6” ran for five weeks, accumulating the highest attendance of any show in the theatre’s history. In 2012, the production plans to move to a larger venue, on Broadway.

During the production stage of “CHIX 6,” Cullom feared the show’s indie-rock filled soundtrack and ground-breaking ideals might alienate the audience. A more traditional Gershwin production trailed “CHIX 6.”

But according to Cullom, the audience asked for more.

“Our audience wants to be challenged,” said Cullom. “They want to come along for a ride with us.”

In the wake of “CHIX 6’s” success, Cullom claims the theatre is now undergoing a period of testing, rethinking previous assumptions about its audience.

According to Cullom, Queens Theatre’s upcoming season promises to hold an innovative blend of original shows, collaborative works and previously-produced pieces.

“Ella,” debuting in February, illustrates the life of “The First Lady of Song,” Ella Fitzgerald. “The Jack Cole Project,” a tribute to one of the most influential choreographers and a Queens Theatre original production, opens in May.