Scenes from Thelonious Monk Highway Marker Ceremony

The event on Friday May 4 at the Booker T. Theater in Rocky Mount was magnificent.  I was honored to be part of the program.  As I told the warm, engaged audience of a couple hundred, one of my passions is to reconnect jazz to the South (other than New Orleans, which in my opinion gets more than enough credit).  The people of Rocky Mount and the NC Department of Cultural Resources deserve some credit for their efforts in this reconnection, in particular Mavis Stith and James Wrenn, President and Vice President, respectively, of the Phoenix Historical Society.  It was also wonderful to spend more time with Thelonious Monk’s cousins Pamela Monk Kelley and Edith Monk Pue.  Their father, Conley Monk, was a first cousin of Thelonious, and Pamela is a family historian.  Monk’s son T.S. Monk contributed a video commentary, and Monk’s esteemed biographer Robin D.G. Kelley, an old JLP friend, contributed poignant remarks that were read by James Wrenn.  In my remarks I focused on my childhood and youth seventy-five miles east of Rocky Mount and some of the findings in my Oxford American article.  Here are some photos:

Early arrivals for the 5pm event.

Early arrivals for the 5pm event.

The Booker T. Theater on the Douglas Block

The Booker T. Theater on the Douglas Block, the black business district of Rocky Mount during segregation.

Monk family members gathering for a photo.

Monk family members gathering for a photo.

Pamela Monk Kelley, middle front, Edith Monk Pue, second from right.

Pamela Monk Kelley, middle front, Edith Monk Pue, second from right.

photo-37

Pamela being interviewed by local TV.

Pamela being interviewed by local TV.

-Sam Stephenson

3 Comments

  1. Olivia (Chris) Monk-Henderson Said,

    May 11, 2012 @ 10:19 am

    I am Pamela Monk-Kelley sister and I too would like to commend her for her unselfish contributions that she has made on behalf of the Monk family.
    She put in alot of time and devotion in tracing our family history back to Africa and writing the book “All Roads Lead To Newton Grove”.
    She is also a member of The Monk Council along with My two brothers (Conley Jr. and Garry Monk). She was the chairperson for the Family Reunion Train Excursion that took place on April 16-19 ,2012.
    This week was was a historical one, visting ancestral graves and meeting new family members in our blooline.
    And I would like to give the credit to Pam as the “Visionary”.
    I would like to ask God to continue to bless Pam on her next big endeavor.
    Love you Pam, your sister Chris

  2. Ruth Lawrence Driver Said,

    May 11, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

    The pictures are great and I know the celebration was fantastic. Wish I could have been there. My father always talked to us about Thelonious Monk and we are proud to see his history come alive so that future generations will want to listen to and study his musical work and know about his wonderful contributions to this world.

  3. Bobby E. Monk Sr. Said,

    May 11, 2012 @ 11:11 pm

    Hello Cousins, To God be the glory! All good things come from the Lord,and we must rejoice and be glad. I can see how much effort has been put into everything that has happened. I want to join in and say thanks to Pam and the Monk Council for a job well done. I am still reeling and rocking from the Excursion. I am sorry that I didn’t make it on time for the unveiling and dedication ceremony on Friday but I thank God that I was there to represent the family on Saturday. We had a great time and I was able to thank the people once again for their kind deeds towards the Thelonious S. Monk Family. Pam, June and Gary thanks again and keep up the good work.Love ya Bobby, Gloria and family