Jazz performer and award-winning poet Sandra Turner Barnes has a new title -- executive director of the Camden County Cultural and Heritage Commission. The Lawnside Historical Society will honor her at its fifth anniversary celebration for the Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum.
The celebration is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 14 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Mott House, 26 Kings Court, Lawnside. The requested donation is $2 and includes a tour of the house museum.
Ms. Turner Barnes, a Lawnside native, was most recently director of development for the Walt Whitman Arts Center in Camden. She is the first African-American to lead the commission following Gail Greenberg and Ruth Bogutz.
On Sept. 10, the composition she commissioned to commemorate the Sept. 11 attacks debuted at Rutgers University's Gordon Theater. "For the Healing of the Nations" was performed by the composer pianist Geri Allen with Afro Blue from Howard University and the Creative Arts High School choral group, a stellar array of musicians and vocalists Andy Bey, Mary Sparks and Nnenna Freelon. Since coming to the Cultural and Heritage Commission at Hopkins House in May, Ms. Turner Barnes offered Jazzy July featuring jazz artists and Wonderful Wednesdays in August highlighting chamber music groups. She is committed to helping historical organizations in the county with the same vigor with which she advocates for the arts. She's incorporating a nonprofit organization to do it. As a descendant of Joshua Sadler, the namesake of the free settlement Saddlertown she told a journalist, "This is what I'm supposed to be doing. This is my life."
The day's program will feature excerpts from the society's Tell Lawnside's Story Oral History Project which is funded by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. Light refreshments will be served.