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70 Years After Marian Anderson's Concert on the Mall, Her Memory Lives On
Neither lady will give her age. "You tell someone your age and they start thinking you can't do this and can't do that," Burton-Lyles says. "Just say I graduated music school in 1954."
There aren't a lot of visitors, which both ladies lament. "If we were in Europe, people would be pouring in here all day long!" Sims says.
"We get a lot of people from down South who come," Sims allows. "We get a lot of family reunions. And we get a lot of students during Black History Month. Because of our lack of funding we're not on the tourist trail."
"We fund us," Burton-Lyles breaks in. "And we get small grants from the city and state. When I say small, I mean small. Fifteen hundred, two thousand. Largest grant we ever got was for twenty-five hundred."
She shakes her head.
Sims shakes hers, too.
"Sweet Honey in the Rock," Phyllis starts up, referring to the singing group that will be featured in Washington during the Anderson tribute, "has no connection to Marian Anderson. Now I've been knowing Blanche -- who knew Marian -- my whole life. Why is she not up on that stage?"
Burton-Lyles just nods. If she's heard this spiel before, she's not tired of hearing it.
On Sunday they'll be part of a celebratory event at a local church.
When Burton-Lyles retired from teaching, she wanted to go into real estate. "I picked that up from Marian," she says.
A real estate agent was walking the neighborhood with her in 1997 and told her that 762 S. Martin St. was for sale. A renter was living in the house. "He did not know this was her address," she says of the agent. "And I never said a word until the settlement."
After paying less than $70,000 -- "it's still the 'hood," Sims says -- for the home of the great opera singer, she came up with the idea for the Marian Anderson historical home.