Chicken Bone Beach concert series reduced to one show this summer
Since 2000, Atlantic City native Henrietta Wallace Shelton has been keeping the spirit of Chicken Bone Beach alive with annual free jazz series, workshops and special concerts. The term "Chicken Bone Beach" dates back to when African-American beachgoers were socially restricted to the beach located at Missouri Avenue and the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. By day people of color enjoyed the best barbecue, picnics and socializing on this portion of the beach and at night they headed for the live entertainment on Kentucky Avenue.
This year, Shelton's annual concert series (via her non-profit Chicken Bone Beach Foundation: www.chickenbonebeach.org) has been reduced to a single live concert on the Boardwalk. In past years, the concert series hosted such acts as Roy Ayers, Donald Byrd and Greg Osby. Shelton spoke with me last week about her plans for the summer.
Please give a little background on Chicken Bone Beach.
Our mission is to create pride in our African-American heritage and to promote family values and unity in Atlantic County through the celebration of African-American history at historic Chicken Bone Beach. Chicken Bone Beach is a symbol of African-American unity that originated out of the Jim Crow era of segregation. As thousands of vacationing black families flocked to the shore, often with chicken-laden picnic hampers, the strip became affectionately nicknamed 'Chicken Bone Beach.' The visits of major black entertainers such as Sammy Davis Jr. and Jackie "Moms" Mabley enhanced this block party atmosphere of family fun and enjoyment. Nationally known figures such as Josephine Baker and Martin Luther King Jr. also visited Chicken Bone Beach. ... On Aug. 6, 1997, the Atlantic City Council passed an ordinance declaring the Chicken Bone Beach a local historical land site.
Why is the annual concert series strictly jazz?
Jazz music attracts a multicultural audience, which helps us promote goodwill, peace and brotherhood. We also wanted the senior age group who experienced Chicken Bone Beach first hand.
Tell me about your jazz camp?
|The I.D.E.A. students|
Each year after our jazz camp [co-partnered with I.D.E.A., the Institute for the Development of Education in the Arts: www.idea-arts.org] we have the young students play with our famous artists. The first year we had students from Atlantic City High joining us at our summer jazz camp with other regional music students. This year we are not able to find students from Atlantic City to participate in our camp. [Shelton can be contacted for more information on the summer camp.] Each year we have 25 to 30 students. We wish to bring this jazz camp to Atlantic City for our neighbor children.
Who will be performing in this year's concert series?
[Unfortunately,] we only have enough money for one show this summer. The date is July 3. CN8's Art Fennel will be our host along with our David Goodman at the Kennedy Plaza stage [on the Boardwalk]. Our headliner will be Wallace Roney and the Chicken Bone Beach Youth Jazz Ensemble will open the show. ... We need additional sponsors and more money. We need an operational budget to hire people. I will not stop, but this year I will have to regroup.
Raymond Tyler hosts the Alternative Soul Sunday Breakfast Club radio show each Sunday from 7-8am on 96.1FM WTTH - The Touch.
Most students attending PAS have come from New Jersey Avenue School, one of the oldest in the city, which needed far too many repairs and had become a dark and dismal place for children and teachers alike.
“Being a boxing fan, I appreciate the legacy and history of boxing in Atlantic City. Of course, during the casino era, in the 1980s, when Don King was promoting the Mike Tyson fights, this is where the action was. And the town came alive with every major fight. It was good for the economy. Everybody did well.”
“As a matter of fact, before I moved to New York, I saw Coltrane at his mother’s house one day and was talking to him about how I was thinking about going to New York and he wished me luck.”
Last Thursday, April 5, Henrietta Shelton and the Chicken Bone Beach Foundation opened their spring jazz series at Top of the Trop in the Tropicana Casino. With a room full of supporters, Mayor Lorenzo Langford was on deck to present Henrietta with a proclamation from the City of Atlantic City for service to the community by way of preserving family values, developing community engagement and promoting an appreciation of America’s classical music — jazz.
The Atlantic County Chapter of the American Conference on Diversity will honor Atlantic City’s Henrietta Shelton at its Annual Humanitarian Awards Dinner at the Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield on Thursday, Dec. 1.
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Atlantic City, like many other U.S. cities, once had segregated beaches, but they didn't start out that way. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Blacks and whites lived side-by-side, worked side-by-side and played side-by-side.
"I hope my daughter will be introduced to a different type of music. She usually plays rock and R&B. I've always tried to keep my daughters busy with something constructive during the summer, no sitting around on your butt watching TV for months."
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