The Champions Who Walked Among Us – Article 11 – The Ice Breaker


 

 

 

 

 

It was three years before the ending of the nineteenth century, as this young infant opened her eyes, to see the light of the world, outside of her mother’s womb.  The month, the day, the year,  February 27, 1897, and her birth herald something new, something, which had not happened before, was about to take place.   A seed had been planted in this baby, who would later become  a woman that would cause her to seek the expression of her God-given gift, on  stages outside of her own nation of birth.

What would you do, if you had been given something extraordinary that made you stand out?

Born in the state of Pennsylvania, in a family whose father was self-employed, and whose mother had the opportunity of attending the Virginia Seminary and college in Lynchburg, Virginia, the young girl grew up with a love for music.  It was a special innate gift, a seed that had been laid before she was born into the world,  which would define her life.  Her voice was unusual and began to manifest itself soon,  and her aunt ,who had noticed this peculiar gift, convinced her to join the church choir–– she was only six years old.  It was unusual, this Contralto voice, significantly different from other voices.  Peculiar, because this contralto voice set her apart from others, not only in her race, but across all races of people.  Unaware of the role she would play on the world’s stage, the lively young girl, who loved to sing, stood on the side of her aunt  singing duets and travelling wherever her aunt would take her, singing songs of inspiration.

It was her aunt,

  • Who influenced  her childhood career,
  • Who contracted venues such as the YMCA, or concerts at local churches, or local community events,
  • Who made  sponsors  aware of her voice for certain special events they sponsored.

Three weeks before Christmas, tragedy struck. Her father was accidentally hit over the head while working. It was an accident, which came with complications that would demand his life a month later, and the young woman, who was now twelve years old would be left fatherless, along with her two younger sisters.

My lord what a morning,

My lord what a morning,

My lord what a morning,

When the stars begin to fall.

You’ll hear the trumpet sound,

To wake the nations underground,

Look in my God’s right hand

When the stars begin to fall,

When the stars begin to fall. {1}

Her mother, left with three daughters to bring up, had no time to mourn the loss of her mate.  She moved into the home of her father and mother-in-law, who themselves had already impregnated the history book with their new beginning.  Benjamin Anderson, born before the Civil War, was a freed slave and the first Black African- American to move into a neighborhood in South Philadelphia.

It was her grandfather;

  • Who vaccinated her with the vaccine of equality,
  • Who through the daily doses of self-esteem he poured into her character, built up her self-esteem,
  • Who opened her eyes to see the significance of the gift she had been given,

And The Ice Breaker with the contralto voice was born.

Can’t you see her People?

See the young girl being prepared to go on the world stage to change history!

See the young girl as her grandfather  prepares her mentally to greet the world!

See her as she sits at his feet, and he imparts in her the ability to stand with the wind against her face!

The hypothesis that Africans had limited brain capacity was a theory, which circulated for years throughout the scientific community of the United States. That the Negro lacked the ability to take care of himself was one of the main reasons for the continuation of slavery in the Southern parts of the United States. Even though the Negro spirituals, which were born out of  captivity and imprisonment in the South, were beginning to become known, no one had thought that a Negro could sing classics, or sing in another European Language.  That feat was considered impossible––that is until The Ice Breaker came along.

With the passing of her grandfather, one year after her mother had moved in with her and her sisters, finances were sparse in the family, and The Ice Breaker knew she would not be able to attend high school, or take those music lessons  she so desperately needed.

  • What do you when your lack of money stands as an obstacle on the road of your  destiny?
  • How do you deal with the mental anguish you encounter within yourself, the emotional ups and downs, which throw you into a whirlwind of what ifs?
  • Where do you turn when the road does not go any further?

 The Ice Breaker continued to sing. She continued to attend church and sing in the choir.  If she were given the opportunity, she sang at every occasion and every event. The Ice Breaker became, through her obstacles unstoppable, as she strengthened her muscles of faith with the obstacles thrown at her, and a door opened.

As is typical of so many black churches during those times, many young black men and women received the opportunity to study, because their home church supported them, and so it was for The Ice Breaker.  The church stepped up to the plate and provided for her high school, and her singing lessons, and The Ice Breaker was on her way to stardom.

The Ice Breaker was good, in fact, she was more than good, and she had the quality, the talent to be one of the greatest, if only she did not have that unchangeable skin pigment coloration  –– she was black.

She graduated from high school and applied for the Philadelphia Music Academy, which is now the University of Arts. Fortunately for her, they said No.  Her skin pigmentation made her unacceptable for such a renowned music school.  However, the doses of self-esteem she had drunk at her grandfather’s feet had given her the bounce back mentality, and the rejection left her undaunted. She just kept going.

Through private studies financed by her church, The Ice Breaker continued with her music lessons.  People like, Guiseppe Boghetti, and  Agnes Reifsnyder, natives of her city, saw the star hanging over her head and reached out to help her, and the divine hand of justice stepped in.  The Ice Breaker begin to rise.

  • 1925 – first Prize at a singing competition sponsored by the New York Philharmonic
  • 1925 – First appearance with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • 1928 – First appearance at the Carnegie Hall

However, invitations dragged. As soon as a door opened, a slap came her way, and she was thrown back – she was black.

What do you do when your gift is throttled by a society that is bathed in ignorance?

The Ice Breaker went to Europe.  The year was 1930, and The Ice Breaker had found her audience. The Europeans enthusiastically welcomed her, and her career took off.  It was here;

  • She would become world renowned,
  • She would meet the Finnish pianist Kosti Vehanen, who became her accompanist and vocal coach for many years,
  •  She met Jean Sibelius,
  • She found herself and her music.

What a joy to sing! The Ice Breaker made headlines, and the United States was put to shame.

The Ice Breaker battled racial prejudice almost all of her life, before recognition came from the country where she was born. Yet, this gentle soul had no room for hate, and no room for grudges, she loved the country of her birth and returned to its stages in 1935.

My lord what a morning,

My lord what a morning,

My lord what a morning,

When the stars begin to fall.

You’ll hear the sinner moan,

To wake the nations underground,

Look in my God’s right hand

When the stars begin to fall,

When the stars begin to fall.{2}

The Ice Breaker swept away all doubts about her ability. Her forgiving heart melted the callous hearts of the people she met, who were still harboring  racial hatred within their hearts.  She had succeeded, or had she really?

It was 1939, and Adolf Hitler was getting ready to execute the most hideous crimes known to humanity. Millions would be murdered, because one man had convinced a nation, they were the superior race.

That  same year the invitation went out to sing at the Constitutional Hall in Washington D.C. to an integrated audience. The District of Columbia was still segregated, and the Black Americans, who were invited to attend, were to sit at the back of the auditorium. It took only minutes for the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) to make history. They declined to let The Ice Breaker sing at the Constitutional Hall – reason declined?  Her skin pigmentation was different from theirs––she was black.

  • Where do you go when there is a roadblock that says no entry without the proper skin color? 

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt led the way, as thousands of  women resigned from the DAR.   The First Lady and her entourage, along with the assistance of the NAACP, arranged for her to sing at the Lincoln Memorial, and so began the first open-air concert with over seventy-thousand people, and millions who heard the concert on radio.

My lord what a morning,

My lord what a morning,

My lord what a morning,

When the stars begin to fall.

You’ll hear the christians shout,

To wake the nations underground,

Look in my God’s right hand

When the stars begin to fall,

When the stars begin to fall {3}

It was April 8, 1993, and The Ice Breaker was tired.  She had seen the world and done much. Many of her dearest friends, Albert Einstein, Jean Sibelius, Kosti Vehanen, Sol Hurok, her dear sisters and her husband, who had supported her while  she made history,  had crossed over.

Had she not been the first black woman with the golden contralto voice that travelled the world?  Yes!

 Had she not been the first black woman to sing with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra?  Yes!

 Had she not won the hearts of the Europeans and forever engraved her voice upon their hearts? Yes!

Had she not  returned to her own country to open doors for others of her race who would march on behind her? Yes!

 Had she not stood for freedom and liberty for all when she sang her rendition of My Country Tis of Thee at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 to millions? Yes!

 Had she not forgiven and accepted an invitation four years later from the DAR to sing at the Constitutional hall for the American Red Cross? Yes!

 Had she not been a faithful wife to the man who stood behind her with love, encouragement, and his full support for forty-three years until his death? Yes!

 Had she not been the first African-American to sing with the Metropolitan Opera in New York? Yes!

 Had she not sung for Presidents, Eisenhower and Kennedy at their inaugurations? Yes!

 Had she not done all that she could to insure the doors of opportunity were opened for all people, regardless of race, creed or color? Yes!

The Ice Breaker looked back, and then she looked up.  Can’t you see her, People, The Ice Breaker, Ms. Marian Anderson, the lady with the golden contralto voice, picked up her garment , and she spread her wings!

She had fulfilled her purpose!  Her job was done, and The Ice Breaker  looked back with a smile upon her face, and she  got up and Walked On!

She Walked On, People, she Walked On!  Ms. Marian Anderson, the woman  with the golden contralto voice, Walked On!

My lord what a morning!

Walk On!  All people wherever you are,

Bound my faith,

Determined to excel!

Walk On!

Though obstacles stand in your way,

Don’t stop, keep moving,

One step at a time,

Walk On, People, I say, Walk On!

My lord what a morning!

01 Walk On - Kelli Coffey – Permission requested.

Ciao,

Pat Garcia

{1}  http://www.akh.se/lyrics/my_lord_what_a_morning.htm

{2}  http://www.akh.se/lyrics/my_lord_what_a_morning.htm

{3}  http://www.akh.se/lyrics/my_lord_what_a_morning.htm

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25 Comments

  1. susanscottsa

    O my, Patricia! I shed tears while smiling! What a powerful piece of writing about such a wonderfully courageous woman. So INSPIRATIONAL thank you so much! I have FB’d and wordpressed it. Thank you so much for sharing this – all are in for a treat.

    • My Dear Susan,
      Thank you my dear for your open heartedness and honesty. I can honestly say that as I got ready to publish this one, I was in tears. I looked at the research materials that I had gathered, heard some of the songs that she recorded, both classical and spiritual and I was astounded at the humility and courage that this woman had. From what I found out, she didn’t carry a grudge, she forgave quickly and she was very humble. No wonder she was chosen to open the doors for many people. It comes back to a Bible verse that I firmly believe in that says God resists the proud, and he lifts up the humble.
      Thank you once again for your beautiful comments and I wish you a beautiful day today.
      Ciao,
      Patricia

  2. What a story – awsome. An amazing life that you so wonderfully illustrate. Thanks for this series.

    • Hi Larry,
      I thank you for your faithfulness in reading my stories. These stories of forgotten or unknown women who have done much for our world is something that I enjoy researching. It is amazing, because the more I research about them, the more encouragement and strength I receive.
      So, once again thank you, and please forgive me for taking so long to respond back. I have been extremely busy.
      Ciao,
      Patricia

  3. Gwynn Rogers

    Patricia, what a meaningful and heartfelt story. Your story was both inspirational and sad. Sad that people can’t accept one another for our differences, especially since we each contribute something unique to the world. Thank you for your caring and love.

    • My Dear Gwynn, good morning,
      Thank you for reading The Ice Breaker. Thank you for your comments. Yes, it is said that some people cannot accept others differences and I believe it has a lot to do with humility. Marian Anderson was a humble person. She held no grudges and above all, she was always willing to forgive. Can it be that with forgiveness and humility we will find joy in our lives? I believe so, because these two traits release hatred and false pride.
      Once again, thank you, My Dear, and I wish you a nice day.
      Ciao,
      Patricia

  4. Beautiful, Patricia! I love this series. You wrote many exquisite lines, but I especially appreciated this one: “It was a special innate gift, a seed that had been laid before she was born into the world, which would define her life.”

    I get angry when I read the lies people believed and spread to rationalize slavery and prejudice. I admire your boldness. You are not afraid to expose the evil. It makes the truth shine all the brighter.

    I followed the link to Marian Anderson and was blessed by her golden voice.

    Thank you again, Patricia! Peggi

    • My Dear Peggi,

      Thank you. Marian Anderson was really a forerunner and if it had not been for her, classical singers like Leontyne Price, Grace Bombry, Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle, and many others would not be as successful as they are today.
      What amazes me most is her humility. She had no grudges. She kept looking forward. I believe that verse in the Bible that says God resists the proud, but lifts up the humble. She, like Moses, was a good example of humility, and we all could learn from her example.
      Once again, thank you for your comments and forgive me for taking so long to respond. I have been extremely busy.
      Have a beautiful day.
      Ciao,
      Patricia

  5. Each time I read your work, I think it’s the best you’ve ever done–only to move on to the next and have to repeat myself. What a superb piece of art this writing is–it made me shiver near the ending. You, my wondeful friend, are not just an exceptional writer but it’s the subjects you choose to write from your loving heart and intelligent mind that enhance your words into greatness.

    Hugs, Micki

    • My Dear Friend,
      Thank you. I must admit that each time I start on one of these articles and begin my research, I am astounded at what I find out. It is so encouraging learning about the lives of women that we know so little about. Women who did not make it to the society pages, but they were the ones who paved the way for many people. These articles strengthens my own, sometimes, weary muscles of faith, and gives me the courage to keep going.

      I love this series and i am extremely happy that I give you joy at reading it.
      You are really dear to me, Micki.
      Ciao,
      Patricia

  6. Superb! :)

    • Good morning Jeanne,
      Many thanks for your praise of The Ice Breaker. It is wonderful to know that what you are writing is being read by someone. It is a blessing that gives me much joy.
      Thank you and I wish you a very nice day.
      Ciao,
      Patricia

  7. Patricia, Well done! You have a gift for poetic speech and story-telling.

    • Good morning Ellen,

      Thank you for reading the article and thank you for your confirmation of the gifts that I have. Your words of praise mean much too me.
      I wish you a nice day and once again, thank you.
      Ciao,
      Patricia

  8. Thank you for sharing The Ice Breaker’s story with us, in such a moving way! I am so thankful for her and for you! God bless you as His light shines through you!

    • Good morning Debbie,

      I thank you for reading The Ice Breaker. She was a fantastic woman and like so many other women who have courageously opened doors for many, she is also quite unknown to many. The series The Champions Who Walked Among Us, is all about women who have opened doors for people all over the world, but they were never really standing in the spotlight. It is a joy for me to research these women lives and it is a great encouragement to my own life.
      Once again, thank you.
      Ciao,
      Patricia

  9. Here is another piece of this excellent series I like so much! Information, entertainment, emotions – it includes all – and I can only repead: Well done, Patricia!!
    What a great post again!!!
    Thanks for sharing all this!!

    • My Dear Raani,
      Thank you so very much. This series is one of my main encouragements. Researching the lives of these women gives me so much. I sit with my mouth wide open as I learn things about them and I am always amazed at what they had to overcome. It makes my battles seem very small.
      Hope you are fine my friend.
      Take care.
      Ciao,
      Patricia

  10. deirdret

    You know what, Pat? All I can say is WOW! I am new to your sites, as you know, but I believe I will find myself very content here when I need to run from the world for a few moments. Thank you for taking the time to educate me! I’m blessed to know you. Deirdre

    • Dear Deirdre,
      Thank you for your wonderful compliment. This series started out with Abigail Adams, who was in my opinion, the front runner for many positive changes for women in then what was known as the new Continental States of America. It is a privilege to research these women. Most of them unknown, but they were the ones chosen by God to open doors that many of us today do not have any idea about. They were the pioneers!
      Once again, thank you. I am delighted.
      Ciao,
      Patricia

  11. deirdret

    Pat, how can i follow you or leave an email?

    • Hi Deirdre,
      The name of the blog is Walk On. The website is garciaandwalkon.me. It is not a dot com, but the new “me” websites. I believe if you hit the follow button, you will be added. If this does not work, please let me know.
      Have a great day.
      Ciao,
      Patricia

  12. Love this! Finally found your blog, and will now follow it!

    • Hi,
      Thank you for your praise. Only for info, I have six blogs on the internet and that may be why it is confusing to find me. Three of them are here at wordpress.
      I hope you had a great start in the week.
      Ciao,
      Patricia

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