Black History Month report: Kinston Music Park

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KINSTON, NC (WITN) In the Sugar Hill district of Kinston lies a park with rich African American influence that dates back to more than 60 years ago.

The sounds of jazz, rhythm and blues, soul and gospel can be heard pouring through the speakers at the Kinston Music Park.

What was once the hub of African American music in eastern North Carolina is now a gathering place to celebrate the musical talents that once played there.

Sandy Landis, Executive Director for the Community Council for the Arts says, "This is the old site of the Sheppard Warehouse. By day they sold tobacco and by night, the jazz greats of the 50s and 60s performed here like Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald. They were all here and they were performing to large crowds."

From the signature sculpture with images of the musicians from Kinston and other neighborhoods across the state, to the colorful mosaics that honor their legacy, the music park that sits at the intersection of Spring Hill and South Queen Streets is a tribute to the African American musical community.

Joseph Tyson, member of the Tourism Development Authority, says, "When you get people within the community looking at what some African Americans have done from the city of Kinston, it gives them the ability to feel they have accomplished something, that they have added to something. That is why this is very important for the city of Kinston and Black History Month."

From dawn to dusk, visitors can take a stroll through the music park, where you will be left with a few words from the area musicians and their song titles etched throughout the park.

Tyson says, "when you highlight this, you highlight the best of the best. You highlight the things the best has been able to do, not just for Kinston and the state of North Carolina, but a lot of the citizens are known world wide so it gives us all a great sense of pride and accomplishment."

The Community Council for the Arts does plan to continue expanding the music park.

They do welcome everyone to visit the site, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is free of charge.