Image: Smith Memorial Playground celebrates African American “Leaders and Legends of North Philadelphia”, February 6-28

Joe Frazier. Photo Submitted by Smith Memorial Playground.

Smith Memorial Playground is pleased to announce its inaugural Leaders and Legends of North Philadelphia Black History Month exhibition which celebrates inspirational African American leaders who have made momentous, positive change in the fields of activism, arts, business, education, public service and sports and have become a part of North Philadelphia’s history. The exhibition will be open for free outdoor, socially distanced viewing on Smith’s property at 3500 Reservoir Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19121 in East Fairmount Park from February 6 through February 28. Each display will include biographical information about the honorees as well as highlighted facts for families to “Quiz the Kids” and suggested Philadelphia landmarks, activities, and reading dedicated to or inspired by each honoree that families can explore after they leave Smith.  A family-friendly “Opening Day Hooray!” will be held on Saturday, February 6 from 12-3pm (rain date Sunday, February 7), which will include a ribbon cutting and access to the Playground.

The 2021 Leaders and Legends of North Philadelphia honorees and categories include:


  • Joe Frazier aka “Smokin’ Joe”  - professional boxer and Olympic Gold Medalist (1964 Tokyo, Japan) most known for defeating Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title in 1971
  • Kyle Lowry - six-time NBA All Star and Olympic Gold Medalist currently playing for the Toronto Raptors


  • Ken Frazier - the first African American to lead a major Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company as chairman and CEO of Merck, also a lawyer and philanthropist
  • Floyd Alston - community development leader best known for his inaugural leadership of the Beech Corporation and his work to spark the revitalization of North Philadelphia


  • John Coltrane - legendary jazz saxophonist and composer
  • Jill Scott - GRAMMY Award-winning entertainer, multimedia entrepreneur and youth advocate


  • State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta (181st District) - first openly LGBTQ person of color elected to either chamber of the General Assembly in Pennsylvania history
  • Cecil B. Moore - lawyer and civil rights advocate who helped found the Philadelphia Freedom Fighters and fought to desegregate Girard College


  • Linda Cliatt-Wayman -educator and children’s advocate who achieved national acclaim for her turnaround of Strawberry Mansion high school
  • Delores Mitchell Andy - first African American female commissioner of the Philadelphia Recreation Department who was also a community activist and strong supporter of youth


  • Rev. Dr. Leon Sullivan, Jr. - clergyman and human rights activist best known as the pastor of Philadelphia’s Zion Baptist Church who founded the Sullivan Principles (corporate codes of conduct promoting social responsibility)
  • David and Falaka Fattah - community activists best known for founding of the House of Umoja, an organization whose objective is to end gang violence

“We are excited to celebrate the achievements of these important leaders and hope that their inspiring stories will spark conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion among children and their families,” says Frances Hoover, Executive Director of Smith Memorial Playground.  “It’s important that children know that many African American heroes, leaders and legends lived and made their mark in Philadelphia, and this year, we are particularly proud to put the spotlight on our North Philadelphia neighborhood.”

Even during the Jim Crow Era of segregation in public schools and facilities, Smith remained a racially integrated play space since its opening day in 1899, and operated additional locations that served large African American and immigrant populations. Smith has been an important part of many Philadelphia families’ lives for generations and continues to serve a diverse population, welcoming children from every zip code in Philadelphia and beyond for free and accessible on-site and virtual programming.

Leaders and Legends of North Philadelphia is made possible by the generous support of Alternate Construction Concepts, LLC; Ballard Spahr, LLP; Comcast; Jim Marshall Photography, LLC; Knight Foundation; Merck; PECO and Temple University Libraries. 

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