Boyz II Men Boulevard is more than a street name for Philadelphia natives
How does Boyz II Men Boulevard sound? A portion of the Avenue of the Arts South now has a name other than Broad Street.
The stretch between Christian and Carpenter streets was dedicated on Saturday to the Philadelphia natives and members of the Grammy Award-winning R&B group.
Although Boyz II Men croon the song, “End of the Road,” it’s actually the beginning of the road — or rather Boyz II Men Boulevard.
It’s also the block of their old high school, Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, where the members first met.
The CAPA small jazz band played on the school steps before the dedication.
Boyz II Men member Shawn Stockman, from Southwest Philly, said it was humbling to have the city that gave them so much and the school that brought them together from their respective parts of town recognize them.
“It’s a real, real honor to know that the city that raised us, this city that practically brought us up musically and otherwise were gracious and kind enough to give us this honor,” Stockman said. “We thank Creative and Performing Arts for teaching us and for putting us together.”
Another member, Nathan Morris, said Philadelphia is what the group is about, saying the city has been a part of their career for the past 25 years.
“Even though we may have moved away, Philly is always in our hearts and will always be,” he said. “This high school right here is a special place for all of us, and probably some of you too. Know that what we started was all started here.”
A native of the nearby Graduate Hospital neighborhood, he had the group rehearse at his apartment, so the dedication was even more personal.
“It’s really, really special for me because I literally lived three blocks away, and before this was a school I used to come down here and sit up on the steps and write songs. And every now and then I’d tell myself that I was going to buy this place and make it my house.”
Wanya Morris, a member of the group who hails from North Philadelphia, echoed the appreciation.
“It was far-fetched to reach this point right here,” Morris said. “You know, we had no idea that these things were going to come to fruition. All we wanted to do was sing. Nothing prepared me for these moments and times in our lives.”
Philadelphia believing in the group was a “beautiful thing,” he said.
“It was a time when we didn’t know if they would because, you know, Philly is a tough crowd. We’re real tough, you know what I mean?” he said. “It’s incredible how when they love you, they love you. But when they don’t love you, they hate you, and that’s the bottom line,” he said, laughing.
The official street-naming followed a resolution sponsored by Philadelphia City Councilmen Kenyatta Johnson and Mark Squilla to rename the section.
Squilla came to Johnson with the idea near CAPA, but first they had to find a street.
“It was a slight recommendation from somewhere to say, ‘Well maybe let’s look at Carpenter Street or Christian Street,” Johnson said. “I came back to talk to Mark on the Council Floor … and said, ‘Listen, we going for Broad Street’… because at the end of the day, they deserve to have the honor on the Avenue of the Arts Broad Street here in the City of Philadelphia.”
Johnson, who grew up in the Point Breeze section of the city, spoke about the group’s impact on the city.
“When they got that record deal, it was like we all made it. It was like everybody from the neighborhood made it because Boyz II Men made it. So today is a special day for me,” he said.
The councilman said the vocal group’s success is an aspirational message for all young Philadelphians.
“They show you that every young person here in the City of Philadelphia can follow their goals, their dreams and aspirations despite their zip code, despite their neighborhood, despite anything that they may be going through in their personal lives or their family lives,” Johnson said. “If Boyz II Men can do it, every last young person out here in this crowd and every young person that attend this school can do it.”
The CAPA vocal students performed an acapella rendition of “Motown Philly,” and then a signature CAPA mashup, “Medley America” with the hometown Boyz II Men joining in.
Boyz II Men will perform at the July Fourth Wawa Welcome America festival. The festival kicks off next Thursday, June 29, with six days of 50 free events.
The theme for 2017 is “Everyone is a History Maker.”
The platinum-selling group will be recognized as local history-makers at Independence Hall on July 4 at 10 a.m and perform during the Concert and Fireworks on the Parkway at 7 p.m.
Wells Fargo presents Citywide Community Day on Saturday, July 1, with pop-up performances simultaneously in all ten city council districts as well as City Hall and the African-American Museum at noon. In addition to the performances, there will be 10,000 free children’s books, free Philadelphia World Heritage coloring books and patriotic handouts.
WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.