Monday, May 23, 2022

Ancestral Ascension

WHEN: opens to the public on Memorial Day weekend, May 28 open Saturday-Sunday from 1-5 pm.
T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center, 94 Drs James Parker Blvd, Red Bank

In celebration of the 3rd Anniversary of the opening of the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center, the non-profit Foundation, announces the opening of the Parker Family Legacy Room to honor a family of doctors, dentists, and educators, who were the vanguard of Black pride and upstanding civic leaders in the Red Bank community for over 80 years. Ancestral Ascension, a permanent exhibit, tells the story of enslaved people, who ascended to unprecedented heights. 

Sponsored by Monmouth Medical Center/RWJ Barnabas Health, the exhibit is filled with circa photos that date back to 1916, when Dr. James Wesley Parker opened his first storefront medical practice at 254 Shrewsbury Ave., on Christmas Day. His son, Dr. James W. Parker Jr. followed in his father’s illustrious footsteps, along with Sr. Parker’s nephew, Dr. James Alvin Parker, a dentist. They were all serving the Greater Red Bank community at the same time. Dr. Parker Sr. built his reputation on “curing” the Swine Flu that was associated with the 1918 pandemic. Collectively they were known for treating patients even if they couldn’t afford to pay for the visit.

In 1955, Dr. James Parker, Jr., became the first Black doctor on staff at what was then Monmouth Medical Hospital and Riverview Hospital. There will also be a companion exhibit titled: “Black Firsts in Medicine in Monmouth County,” on display at Monmouth Medical Center that spotlights those pioneering physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and other medical professionals. That’s due to open the early part of June.

The Drs. James Parker Boulevard was named after the three doctors in 2001. Today, the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center is proudly located on this street. Therefore, it seems only fitting that this center for research in Black culture is positioned to tell the rich history of the Parker Family. While the Parker Family Health Center continues to uphold the legacy of the Parker family, by serving the most vulnerable people who are uninsured.

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