BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore’s Billie Holiday Arts and Music Festival kicked off Friday with a re-dedication of the statue on Pennsylvania Avenue erected in honor of the legendary Lady Day.
Holiday, born Eleanora Fagan, was born into hard times. She was raised in Baltimore in early 1900s segregation.
As Billie Holiday, she sang the blues in a style that eclipsed the artists of her day.
“She refused to play in segregated facilities,” festival organizer Michael Johnson said. “She integrated facilities, integrated clubs.”
Last month, the Pennsylvania Avenue community was designated a state arts and entertainment district.
The designation will bring economic revitalization to the historic stretch that was once the place to be, along with the Upton, Druid Heights and Penn North neighborhoods.
“This is where the arts and entertainment for the African American community started evolving in Baltimore City,” Johnson said.
The focus for the area is now on the future while honoring the heritage of the past.
“This is what Pennsylvania Avenue is about,” State Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (D-Baltimore) said. “It’s overcoming all of the ills and problems that we have. We will see a new day and a bright day in this community.”
Events Saturday include a parade, outdoor music and a salute to Nat King Cole.