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"Colors of the Human Family" is an art and history installation about Bettie J. Durrah's choreopoem of the same name, Ms. Durrah's life and work, and the storiation of the Presbyterian Historical Society building. The physical installation can be viewed in the front garden of 425 Lombard Street in the Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 4:30.
Pictured on this page are images of the west and east statue areas at PHS, where 6 terra-cotta statues by Alexander Stirling Calder have been recontextualized through the introduction of 6 vertical panels, a prism of skin colors that now stand between the statues and the viewer. Each panel features excerpts from Ms. Durrah's "Colors of the Human Family" that celebrate diversity in a way not suggested by the looming white male statues. A reader board providing information about choreopoems, Bettie, and the historical figures represented by each statue appears in front of the three statues to the west of the PHS building.
Click on the links below the images to see full pdf versions of the vertical panels and reader boards on the west side of the building. And don't miss the historical context for each statue.
Listen to Bettie Durrah's Living History
In this interview Ms. Durrah shares her experiences as a leader of Presbyterian and Women's groups including her work as a choreopoem author. "Colors of the Human Family" was first performed in 1982 at the Presbyterian Women Churchwide Gathering at Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. A story celebrating Middle Eastern coloration was added by Lucy Boyadjian Janjigian for a performance at the 2012 Presbyterian Women Churchwide Gathering in Orlando, FL.
Bettie and me: Featured on the reader board in front of the three statues to the east of the PHS building is additional information about Ms. Durrah's life in-and-out of the Presbyterian church, more excerpts of her poetry, and my own poetic response to her writing, "A Vision Reborn."
Like Bettie I'm an African American woman poet, energized with compassion for others and a passion for fighting injustice. Betty's life and words have inspired every facet of my installation and helped me realize my work in the context of the overall BKBB installation, building knowledge and breaking barriers--artistic and historic--along the way.
PHS materials and Maya poetry on display in lobby
Bettie J. Durrah papers, including earlier and recent versions of "Colors of the Human Family" choreopoem
Maya Holman's handwritten draft of "A Vision Reborn"
PHS Record Group: 22, including information on the six A.S. Calder statues
Learn more about Bettie J. Durrah
Women of Faith of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1986 to 1996, edited by Beth Basham, including feature on Ms. Durrah
"Justice Unbound" article about Bettie J. Durrah, including video by PHS
Radcliffe Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, GA
Watch below to hear Maya read her poem "A Vision Reborn," inspired by "Colors of the Human Family."