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Singer Janice Allen Janice Allen was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania into a family that loved to sing. Her mother, Jacquelyn Beard, was born in Virginia Her mother's father Ulysses was of mixed Irish and African-American heritage, and her mother's mother, Margaret, was part African-American, part Cherokee.

Her father, Richad Allen, was born in Barnwell, South Carolina, son a of a Georgia sharecropper, Phillip Allen, Sr. and his wife Mazzie Allen. Life was a struggle for her South Carolina grandparents, and times were dangerous, so much so that Phillip Allen Sr. sent his wife and four children north to Philadelphia out of fear of the lynchings that had become common in their area. He himself escaped by secretly riding under a train headed north. Janice's parents met in Philadelphia.

When she moved to Boston just before the first grade and started school, Janice had a strong Southern accent and her speech was peppered with phrases in Gullah, the dialect spoken on the Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia, and picked up by mainland Georgians.

The Allen family homes were filled with music old and new, but always firmly grounded in the African-American culture. Folk songs, singing games, playground chants, Motown, spirituals-all were equally loved.

Recipes, too, were a link to the lifeline that had sustained her grandparents' and great-grandparents' generation-dishes like black-eyed peas, pigs feet, neck bones, rice, sweet potatoes and chitlins-the throwaways of the white plantation owners that became the sustenance for overworked black bodies and souls.

Janice's motther careefully taught the history of the traditions and songs she shared with her six children, as Janice now shares with her own four. Janice grew up with the understanding that although there were very few books about the real history of her people, a wealth of knowledge was to be found in their music. This was underscored even more forcefully when she met and became friends with Bessie Jones ("Miss Bessie"), the late Georgia Sea Island singer and educator who was an archive of African-American music and culture during her lifetime. They performed together in Boston in the "Sea Island Revels" in the early 1980's and Janice prepared as her understudy one year when Miss Bessie was not feeling well. Their long personal and profession- al association has a tremendous impact on Janice, rejuvenating her quest for her roots through the meaning imbedded in the music.


Stephen Baird
P.O. Box 380570
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02238
Telephone 617-522-3407

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janice-allen Since April 4, 1999