Announcing PFP's 25th Birthday Bash: June 2, 2012

The Philadelphia Folklore Project (PFP), one of the nation's leading independent non-profit folklife agencies, celebrates its 25th year with a Birthday Bash on Saturday, June 2, 2012, at 6:30 PM at the Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street, in Philadelphia.

The evening will include presentation of the first Folk Arts and Social Change Awards, named after people who have been important in shaping PFP's path, and as a means of extending their legacies: activist Rosemary Cubas, artist Channavy Lenora Koung, eminent folklorist Dr. Kathryn Morgan, and arts advocate and administrator Ella King Torrey. Recipients of these awards are Lois Fernandez, Germaine Ingram, Louis Massiah, and Debbie Wei, who will be honored at the celebration.

The Birthday Bash also will include performances by Terrence Cameron (steel drum), Cheung's Kung Fu Hung Gar School (lion dance), Fatu Gayflor (Liberian song), Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble (African dance), TAHIRA (storytelling), and Elaine Watts and Katt Flagg (klezmer), as well as delectable food, an open bar, engaging activities, and an all-around joyful evening.

Tickets, sponsorships and advertisements can be purchased with a check to PFP (735 S. 50th St., Philadelphia, PA 19143), or through PFP's online store: More information: 215.726.1106 or

PFP is inaugurating the Folk Arts and Social Change Awards to honor people who have shaped and exemplify PFP's mission. Director Debora Kodish says, "The awards are a way to name (and value) work that links folk arts and social justice, widens possibilities for our communities, and speaks truth to power. In naming the awards in memory of people who have guided PFP's path, we hope to keep their memories present, and to pay some small thanks. We have chosen the first awardees, also people who have played pivotal roles in growing PFP. But in coming years, awardees will be nominated by community members. We will start that public nomination process at the Birthday Bash. In this way, we hope that the awards will stimulate dialogue about the roles that folk arts and social change play in our lives, and about people who have used folks to cultivate community well-being."

The Channavy Lenora Koung Award for Folk Arts and Cultural Heritage Practice will be presented to Germaine Ingram. Channavy Koung was a wonderful young artist in her family's Cambodian music ensemble, dedicated to carrying on valued artistic traditions. She and her family inspired PFP's early work with local Cambodians. Germaine Ingram, student and dance partner of the great tap legend LaVaughn Robinson, initiated PFP's engagement with African American women tap dancers in Philadelphia. Her creative work continues to show how African American and other folk arts are rich resources for exploring history and its legacies.

The Rosemary Cubas Award for Folk Arts and Activism will be presented to Debbie Wei. Activist and community organizer Rosemary Cubas helped us make a documentary supporting the struggle of people in her neighborhood to fight the city's eminent domain abuse. She heightened our sense of how community can be knit and rebuilt through people's collective effort. An educator and activist, and a co-founder of Asian Americans United (AAU), Debbie Wei has helped shape our commitment to critical folk arts pedagogy. Her tireless struggles for justice have included the establishment of the Folk Arts - Cultural Treasures Charter School, which AAU and PFP co-founded.

The Kathryn Morgan Award for Folk Arts and Social Justice will be presented to Lois Fernandez. Folklorist Kathryn Morgan pioneered the field of family folklore showing how family stories were "antidotes to racism." She consistently spoke truth to power. Awardee Lois Fernandez has stood strong for self-determination, and for the importance of culture as a means of creating community well-being. She is the co-founder and was the long-time Director of ODUNDE. Both Lois and Kathryn sat on PFP's board in the 1990s.

The Ella King Torrey Award for Visionary Work in Community and Culture will be presented to Louis Massiah. Ella King Torrey helped us get our first grant. Even more important, she encouraged us to imagine possibilities. The founder and long-time director of Scribe Video Center, Louis Massiah has been facilitating opportunities for community people and established media-makers alike to tell stories that need to be told, build voice and power, and use media tools for artistic expression and social change. His visionary work has enlarged the public sense of the history and arts of this city.

For 25 years, PFP has been committed to paying attention to the lived experiences and traditions of local people. PFP has worked from the belief that folk arts - diverse vernacular traditions, local knowledge, and cultural heritage - are powerful resources for social change and vital and necessary elements of community well-being. PFP has had a deep impact on the cultural life of the city.

PFP began in 1987 as a centennial program of the American Folklore Society. It reorganized in 1989 as an independent agency - as such, it was part of a small but significant movement of newly-created independent public folklife not-for-profits. PFP's work falls under three broad headings: community projects, documentary resources, and services. PFP has produced more than 260 public events, 75 artist residencies, and 23 ethnographic exhibitions. Landmark programs include the concerts of Philly Dance Africa; the exhibition Folk Arts of Social Change; the concert, video documentary, and exhibition Plenty of Good Women Dancers; and Art Happens Here residencies supporting local artists and community members in challenging cultural stereotypes and developing new work. PFP's documentary resources include 43 magazine issues, 24 other publications, 15 video productions, an active website, and an archive of 64,000 items. PFP services include free technical assistance and workshops which over 25 years have supported 350 local artists and grassroots organizations in developing projects and raising more than 3.2 million dollars in funding for work of their own design. In many cases, these were the first outside dollars to be invested in low-income communities of color for folk arts preservation and performance.

In 2005, PFP moved into a building of its own, and, in partnership with Asian Americans United, PFP co-founded the Folk Arts - Cultural Treasures Charter School, a public K-8 school serving 450 students with a curriculum grounded in the study of folk arts. More than a dozen city and national awards have recognized the leadership, excellence, and impact of the Philadelphia Folklore Project in its field and in the communities that it serves.

For more information about the Folklore Project, and the Birthday Bash, visit or call 215.726.1106.

Email us for additional high-resolution images ( A selection are below.

- Ayesha Rahim's crocheted crowns were works of art highly valued in the community. Her work was featured in PFP exhibitions and programs, 2006. Photo: James Wasserman
- Bill and Miriam Crawford's dining room, a collage of 50 years of social change ephemera, was featured in PFP's exhibition, Folk Arts of Social Change (1999) and is currently installed permanently in PFP's home. Photo: Will Brown
- Liberian storyteller Gbahtuo Comgbaye and his son, at PFP's Culture Camp, 2009. Photo: Harvey Finkle
- Isaac Maefield's sculpture was featured in PFP's 2011 exhibition, Cultural Exchange. Photo: Debora Kodish
- Tibetan sand mandala artist Losang Samten annually creates (and dismantles) a mandala at PFP: a powerful evotion of peace and compassion. Photo: Selina Morales
- Hmong artist Pang Xiong Sirirathasuk Sikoun makes and sells paj ndaub, story cloths, retelling the history of Hmong peoples' lives. Her work was featured in PFP's show "We try to be strong" (2009). Photo: Debora Kodish
- PFP mounted four Philly Dance Africa programs to support the work of local and immigrant dancers and drummers. Photo: Thomas B. Morton
- "Plenty of Good Women Dancers," PFP's documentary about local African American women tap dancers, included video of a fabulous performance by veteran performers, "Stepping in Time." Here, a rehearsal, with Hortense Allen Jordan directing the band. Photo: Thomas B. Morton
- The finale of "Stepping in Time," with the great Libby Spencer, Kitty deChavis, and Hortense Allen Jordan. Photo: Jane Levine
" Tatreez: Needlework of Palestinian Women in Philadelphia," showed how local people stitch patterns of home villages, and what cultural traditions mean here and now. The exhibit, curated by Nehad Khader, was the first in PFP's series of exhibitions curated by local people about folk arts and social change in their communities. Photo: Sarah Green
- Yvette Smalls, master hair braider, in her home studio, with Estan Wilson us-El. Yvette's work was featured in PFP exhibitions and programs. Photo: James Wasserman