A video series by Jeannine Osayande (Nina Simone: Four Women; Fences), part of an ongoing collection of oral history and identity stories from the Historically Black Neighborhood in Swarthmore, PA.

"The Historically Black Neighborhood in Swarthmore predates the existence of the Borough of Swarthmore. During the Great Migration, African Americans moved up north for for a better life. Black folks from Delaware, Maryland and Virginia settled in Swarthmore, living in an enclave of the segregated section of town, which they made a Homeplace. 

I am a fifth generation African American resident from this neighborhood – my grandchildren mark seven generations of living in Swarthmore. I live in a unique historically Black neighborhood with folks who established rules for survival and community integrity. Everybody knew each other and the entire neighborhood looked out for each other. As Ms. Kitty, a long time neighborhood resident, said in a Philadelphia Folklore Project interview, “We didn’t survive, we thrived.” Now, with the onslaught of gentrification in our neighborhood, we no longer know all of our neighbors and the cultural integrity of the community is in an uncertain transitional period. The way things are going, in the next 10 to 20 years, our community will be gone. Recording our stories is paramount. 100 or 200 years from now, I want people to know that we were here.

In this excerpt I present three personal stories in three different formats. "The Birthday Party Story" is the narration of a defining moment from my childhood; "Where I’m From Poem" is a reflective identity poem; and "My Skin is My Home" is a video haiku developed in a workshop with the Bartol Foundation called 'Mapping Ourselves'."




The Birthday Party Story: Jeannine Osayande
Based on true events

Where I'm From Poem: Jeannine Osayande
Poem template created by Beth Antonelli

Archival photos and videos: Jeannine Osayande
Original music by:
Jeannine Osayande & Dunya 
Performing Arts Company 
Daryl Kwasi Burgee

Ira Bond
Steve Jackson Sr.
(HBNS Juneteenth Black Lives Matter Protest 2020)

Additional Photo & Video Credits:                          

The Johnson Family
The Coleman Family

The Camp Family
Catherine "Miss Kitty" Jones
Dr. Jayasinhji Jhala, Temple University CLA
Andy Shelter Photography
Wesley AME Church Swarthmore
Stanley G. Ruley Jr.
Eagle Scout Nate Linderman
Images of America Swarthmore Borough, Susan K. Morikawa and Patricia C. O'Donnell
The Swarthmorean Newspaper
Delaware State News

Additional Credits:

Victoria Shelter
De Ama Battle, The Art of Black Dance and Music
Sandy Sparrow-Wilkinson
Ibrahima Camara
Betty Ann Wilson
Young Audiences of New Jersey and Western Pennsylvania
Philadelphia Folklore Project
Columbia University Teachers College, Teaching Artist Certification Program 
The Historically Black Neighborhood of Swarthmore
Philadelphia Museum Of Art 
Creative Africa
Colorscape: Architect Francis Kéré
Editing: Aaron Mathis and Jeannine Osayande
Production: Justa Few Guyz, LLC.


JEANNINE OSAYANDE is a choreographer, master movement and teaching artist of Diasporic West African dance and drum tradition for 38 years. She is founder and director of Dunya Performing Arts Company, specializing in Art in Education programming, commissioned choreographic works, and community engagement. Ms. Jeannine’s mission is to add value to her environment and community through Arts, Culture, and Social Change. Theatre Choreography Includes: Nina Simone: Four Women and Fences at People’s Light, The Lion King Jr, Once on This Island. Art for Social Change Choreography Includes: The Rent Party, Tribute to Amadou Diallo, and After a While (UCDC); Malika Sarabhi’s Colours of the Heart (India). Film/Television Includes: Scribe Video Precious Places, Making a Homeplace: The Historically Black Neighborhood of Swarthmore. Co-Curation Includes: Philadelphia Folklore Project’s Honoring Ancestors. Training/Education: Apprenticeships include De Ama Battle and Bamidele Osumarea, The Art of Black Dance and Music (USA); Mentors include Ibrahima Camara (Senegal), F. Nii Yartey (Ghana); BA Anthropology, Temple University; Certificate in Traditional and Contemporary African Dance, Noyam African Dance Institute/Ghana Board of Education; Teaching Artist Certification, Columbia University Teachers College. More details here.