Lifetime Achievement Awards Recognize Philadelphia's Finest at Marian Anderson Anniversary Gala

Aesha Desai, for GPA -- Every year, The African American Museum of Philadelphia (AAMP) holds a Marian Anderson Anniversary Gala in commemoration of a historic concert event that changed the nation.

Marian Anderson was an unparalleled talent who took a risk on April 9, 1939 by singing at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C after being barred from singing at a concert hall because of her race. With the help of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson performed for a crowd of 75,000 and millions of radio listeners. Later, she was invited to the White House to perform a private event for President Roosevelt, his wife and the King and Queen of Britain. In 1955, Anderson became the first African American to sing with the Metropolitan Opera.

It was the embodiment of these actions that challenged discrimination and impacted people from all over the world.

“Marian Anderson set the bar high and it is very important to be spoken and treasured about because it is an international story that impacted many,” said William Dogget, a historian, arts advocate and independent archivist.

At the beginning of this year’s anniversary gala, which marked AAMP’s 75th, Lady Blanche Burton-Lyles, founder and president of the Marian Anderson Historical Society and Marian Anderson’s only protégé, performed select musical pieces by Anderson. In addition, Congressman Tom Brady was present at the event and honored Burton-Lyles with a congressional record for her achievements and dedication to music and service.

Burton-Lyles played a number of times in the personal home of Marian Anderson and is the first African American woman to perform in Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Moreover, she was a music educator in the Philadelphia Public School System for many years and a recipient of numerous performance and humanitarian awards.

However, Burton-Lyles wasn’t the only one who received recognition for her hard work and talent that afternoon. A number of well-known and esteemed guests received awards for their humanitarian efforts.

Legacy humanitarian awards were given to Daniel Tann, Dolores Bojazi, Audrey Johnson-Thornton, Robert Lott, Patricia Jackson and Enid Adler.

Adler, who recently sat down with GPA for a “Global Conversation,” was recognized for her focus on building relationships locally, nationally and internationally with human rights organizations, working with foreign consuls and consular corps to advance women’s empowerment, cultural studies and the understanding of foreign law systems. Apart from her rigorous humanitarian work, Adler has been a vocalist herself since age 16 and an advisor to the Marian Anderson Honor society.

Lott produces music and educational recordings to teach and inform African Americans of their ancestral lineage. He also co-produced the “Audacious Freedom” exhibit in the AAMP that allows the public to have personal interactions with historians.

Johnson-Thornton is the president and founder of the American Women’s Heritage Society and has successfully maintained and restored Belmont Mansion as a historic site, memorializing its role in American history as a haven of freedom for slaves.

Tann is dedicated to providing legal services to all generations and all walks of life. He is involved in many social and professional organizations such as The Philadelphia Bar Association, the NAACP and the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.

Johnson is known as a renaissance women. From working with Lever Brothers Company in assisting women climb the ladder of success, heading the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Affirmative Action and opening her own corporation called Alpha Security and Consulting Incorporated, she has a collection of achievements and continues to do more work for just causes.

Bojazi has dedicated her life to the pursuit of justice as a union organizer and public defender in court. She specializes in criminal and family law practices and is a part of many organizations and contributes to numerous charities.

Each one of the recipients truly earned the Marian Anderson Humanitarian legacy award for their lifetime dedication to justice and positive social change.

The Marian Anderson Historical Society is an organization that has been dedicated to promoting the late classical singer, who was considered one of the most important opera performers of the 20th century as well as recognizing those who embody Anderson’s symbol of change, justice and dedication to historical preservation.

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