Honoring The Legacy And 200th Birthday Of Slave-Turned-Entrepreneur Biddy Mason

By Michael Livingston
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) On Saturday, people gathered at Biddy Mason Memorial Park to celebrate the life and legacy of Biddy Mason, a former slave who became a wealthy entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Los Angeles Times

Cheryl Cox remembers as a child standing in front of the wall honoring her great-great-great-great-grandmother Biddy Mason, a former slave who became a wealthy landowner, a noted philanthropist and a key founder of the first African American Church in Los Angeles.

On Saturday morning, Alicia Randall, an Altadena Girl Scout, stood in almost the same spot that Cox did to help place a purple wreath next to the wall to mark Mason’s bicentennial birthday celebration.

Several dozen people attended Saturday’s event at Biddy Mason Memorial Park at 311 Spring St., the site of her former home. It was organized by the Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation and Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation of Los Angeles.

Often, pedestrians walk past the downtown park without reading the history of its famous namesake. On Saturday, people stopped to partake in the celebration and to learn more about Mason.

Cox, her sister Robynn Cox, and Robynn’s two children Daniel and Dakota are the last living descendants of Mason, whose philanthropy included building an orphanage, a school and co-founding the First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles.

“It’s always good to see that people are still honoring and supporting her legacy,” said Cox, who co-founded the Biddy Mason Foundation with her mother, Linda Spikes Brown. Their organization is not affiliated with the Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation.

The park also includes an 81-foot long concrete wall with a timeline detailing Mason’s history in Los Angeles, a collage reminiscent of Mason’s original wood-frame home by sculptor and assemblage artist Betye Saar and a fountain.

“There is power in remembering who our predecessors are and keeping their memory alive,” said Sonny Abegaze, director of Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Los Angeles. “Biddy Mason was a philanthropist before that was a concept. That strength is something we can pull from and rely on.”

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