‘I Was Here’ exhibit at Legends’ ballpark, integration of anthems debuts June 26

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Saturday, June 26 will be a night of firsts at the Lexington Legends game.

It will be the first time the ‘I Was Here’ project, a set of portraits and poems featuring contemporary African-Americans who represent the untold stories of ancestors, is shown at a sports stadium.

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A new anthem, which combines My Country ’Tis of Thee and Lift Every Voice and Sing will be sung by a choir at 6:25 p.m. before the baseball game.

American Baritone Dr. Michael Preacely, in a collaboration with artist Marjorie Guyon, created a soundscape for the I Was Here project.

Preacely brought in some members of the group Virtuosity for the soundtrack, which works in connection with the images to tell the story of America. It will accompany every installation to merge history, geography and the arts in public spaces.

“When I first saw the exhibit, I felt the portraits needed to speak,” Preacely said. “They needed a voice. I hope that when people listen, they will draw correlations and come to a place of understanding, acceptance and growth.”

Preacely, in collaboration with Ron Wilbur created a new anthem by uniting two revered anthems, My Country ’Tis of Thee and Lift Every Voice and Sing. It will debut at 6:25 p.m. Saturday, June 26 at the Lexington Legends baseball game with a small choir performing the song in place of the traditional national anthem.

“The project evokes a spirit and sense of emotion that connects people and helps close the huge divide we have,” Preacely said. “You see a mother, father, child, grandmother. When you’re able to see yourself in someone else, you’re more understanding, more empathetic, and open to change and the realization that we’re more alike than different as human beings.”

A new and permanent ‘I Was Here’ installation also will open that night in the windows of the taproom at Whitaker Bank Ballpark and throughout the ballpark utilizing augmented reality.

Attendees will include some of the 100 kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Dixie Elementary School who participated in a pilot program to study the project.

“As soon as I heard about I Was Here, I said ‘How can we make this happen at the Ballpark?!’ Everything about this initiative embodies community and inclusiveness, which is exactly what our ballpark represents,” said Andy Shea, president & CEO of the Legends. “We are very proud to share the I Was Here experience with our fans and our community.”

Launched in Lexington, the project began in 2016 with Guyon, poet Nikky Finney and photographer Patrick J. Mitchell.

A set of 21 ancestor spirit portraits were created by photographing contemporary African-American members of the community as images to embody the human family and create a visual for an invisible history. I Was Here continues to add collaborators to deepen and broaden the message.

“This work asks us to examine who we are to each other, who we are as a nation and how we can heal the spiritual, economic, educational and political chasm that enslavement created,” Guyon said.