Rosenwald News – November 1, 2022

Rosenwald News – November 1, 2022

By Nicola Karesh

This year marks my 11th year of community work in Transylvania County, with the last 10 of it being devoted specifically to the Rosenwald community. I wanted to take time to reflect upon some of what happened on my watch so to speak, especially the beginning days, as this will be my last Rosenwald News article.

Towards the end of 2012, I was in the City Planning Department office meeting with then City Planning Manager Josh Freeman. I was doing volunteer work with a group called Imagine Brevard at the time and wanted some information about rules and restrictions related to the downtown planters and outdoor murals. Towards the close of the meeting, we got to talking about some of the other creative, artsy things that I was doing in the community, particularly with youth. We had just held a successful teen whiteout party for middle and high school students and I was planning performance art events for the following year. Josh asked if I’d be interested in doing something similar to what I was already doing, but with another part of the community. I had to go, but I mulled that over in my head for a week and felt intrigued and reached back out to discover what Josh had in mind. That was towards the end of 2012. His subsequent invitation was for me to come on board to engage an isolated part of our community, to help build a bridge between the city and Rosenwald in ways that were not typical for the city. I accepted the role of Rosenwald community liaison and project leader and haven’t turned back since. While my volunteer/contract work with the Planning Department ended in early 2016, my work with and on behalf of the community continued.

Sheila Mooney was the first person that I reached out to because she lived within the historic Rosenwald neighborhood and like most people back then I knew absolutely nothing about Rosenwald other than my associating it with the two signs on the side of Cashiers Valley Road and Mills Avenue, respectively. Sheila began animatedly talking about relevant history, facts I should know and who I should meet. She effectively took me by the hand, introduced me to a group of Rosenwald alumni and to Edith Darity, who in turn introduced me to the group of Mary C. Jenkins Community Center board members at that time (Randy Lytle, Lewis Whiteside, Karen Darity and Robert Hutchison.) The community became my outdoor office bringing meetings to people wherever they were at, reporting back for supervision and support. Freeman’s leadership style was respectful, immersive, supportive and empowering. This collaborative team approach gifted us all freedom in a respectful and dynamic way providing space and opportunity for us to come into our own and that we did! We all worked together as a well-functioning, cooperative unit enjoying the process, the journey and the fruits of our labor. In many ways, it has felt like one elongated party with a few of my best friends.

The early years really stand out for me. We began the process of getting to know each other, of organizing and meeting with regularity, bringing the partnership with the city into the mix. We identified what we wanted to accomplish, again with the city interfacing with input and support.

Janice Pinson, administrative services manager with the Planning Department, shared her thoughts with me: “He (Josh) was totally devoted to and determined to the betterment and recognition of the Rosenwald Community. His sense of value to all community was and is amazing. I do remember the first Rosenwald Community Block Party, cleaning out the stream, Josh in his waders pulling all kinds of litter out of the stream. The continuation of what Josh started lives on today with the annual Rosenwald Block Party. Remember when you and the Planning Department guys did the Bailey Cemetery project, the historical signs that have been placed in the Rosenwald Community and your energetic part of making it happen?” Yes, Janice, I do remember with much fondness, thank you.

Thank you to Aaron Bland, assistant planning director, for his added recollection: “What sticks out to me the most was visiting the Bailey Cemetery. As someone who grew up in Brevard, it was pretty astounding to walk up that hill and find this completely hidden piece of history. I went up there a few times and it was always a unique feeling to walk around in seclusion, not only physically speaking in that it’s away from streets and noise, but almost in a sense of time. In the years since, I’ve mentioned it to several people and none of them knew it was there either. I’ve also learned about how, decades ago, Rosenwald was an almost self-sufficient community with all kinds of businesses such as stores and services in part because it had to but also because it could. I’ve always known that Rosenwald was very connected to their community’s history, but when you hear stories about how the old community center had a pool because they weren’t allowed to go to the public pool, it makes a lot of sense that those who lived through those times are working hard to make sure it isn’t forgotten.”

I do believe with our efforts then and now, we are ensuring that this history is celebrated and cherished, with room to grow and make new memories.

Most of the initial events that were created, for example the Rosenwald Art Festival in the Rogow Room, the 2013 Freedom Walk celebrating 50 years of integration of the schools, “Painters & Poets” upstairs at The Haen Gallery, bringing Pearl Fryar at the end of that year to speak to the community … all had the purpose of engagement and enjoyment while promoting awareness and education about this rich but mostly unknown local black history. Activities were mostly orchestrated at the onset with a group of alumni in conjunction with the planning department. Later, we extended the invitation for broader partnership to include the MCJCC board and other community groups in events and activities. The MCJCC group’s earlier days had more to do with organization, meeting on a consistent basis to now include the city, going into the old community center to take stock of what was what, getting new surveys done on the building and property with estimates to repair versus take down to rebuild, all with an eye to once again having the doors reopened. The whole crazy adventure began of involving legal counsel, sorting out titles and crisscrossing property lines, contacting relatives, getting community surveys done, etc. Further down the road, things broadened to what most people are aware of today involving fundraising efforts like the 2015 revitalization film project with Mountain Sun middle school students, the joint City/Rosenwald Task Forces and reporting to City Council.

So many deserving highlights for me, but here are a few: the introduction of the block party to this community. I am sure that it may have felt like a headache for some (thinking especially of Janice Pinson) as there was no template to follow. We were grateful though. I remember the evening before that first outdoor block party, what a delight to see the tent getting set up, the port-o-potties being delivered and having to be padlocked until the morning, tables and chairs … just everything. The next day, an early morning tannery walking tour followed by dancing, music, hot dogs, community garden planting, cleaning up the creek as part of the Norton Creek restoration project, the arrival of the ice cream truck, the recycling education van, informational displays about things to come along with multiple opportunities for people to share and offer input.

The day we first went into the old, boarded up, community center, I felt like I was on an exciting and adventurous field trip. Seeing things still up on the walls like the giant painting of George Washington Carver, items left on shelves and bookcases, the wooden floors and stage, the old shutters covering the windows, the podium, the trash cans that actually said Rosenwald, the original community sign and musical equipment and neat materials that gave me a glimpse back in time. The surrounding conversations about the structure. I wanted to record it all. Josh talking about the route that the train used to take past the center stopping at the tannery before heading up the mountain. That led to my gathering so many anecdotes from the Rosenwald community, especially about the train passing through, the swimming pool at the center and the tannery down the road. I started documenting and gathering what I was witnessing with my camera and with handwritten notes. Like Aaron, Bailey’s cemetery stands out. We had to get permission to cross a creek on someone’s property and venture up the hill to begin the process of measuring and cataloging what we discovered. I remember so many input sessions and surveys conducted with youth and adults. What did they want in their community, either in general, or at the future community center, the playground and nearby Tannery Park? Going door to door on foot with Josh, Aaron, Daniel Cobb, two other planning department staff and myself to hand out and help people complete community surveys. I remember taking people onto the tannery property, compiling a list of birds, wildlife, learning about the habitat.

There isn’t enough space to share this all here, but I do have pictures, audios and videos that I will continue to post in places that the public can enjoy. I am entirely thankful to The Transylvania Times (editors John Lanier and Derek McKissock) for the privilege to write and submit articles on a volunteer basis on behalf of the community. I feel humbled and happy that the new Mary C. Jenkins Community & Cultural Center has a link to these newspaper articles on their website and laminated copies in house. My journey with our community has been rewarding in so many ways. Thank you.

To close us out, my Rosenwald conversation began in Rosenwald with my colleague (we worked together in the 1990s at Trend Community Mental Health Center in Brevard) and dear friend, Sheila Mooney. Fitting to end with a few words from her: “We had so many great projects: block parties on the playground, Rosenwald reunions, but the 50th anniversary of school integration may be my favorite. When we talk there is a creative flow that brings joy to life. Twenty plus years ago we met and became sisters. With such ease, our friendship blossomed and continues to bring a safe place for us to give and grow. What a gift you are for this community and me. So, no matter where you go, you will have a home in our hearts and Brevard. Thank you for all of your time, talent and love that you have given to us. You are a gem!”

The feeling is entirely mutual, not just for my friend but for a community that I hold dear in my heart. Thank you for opening your hearts and homes to me. Thank you for offering me a seat at a shared community table, speaking truths about what matters. Signing off for the last time in this space.

Rosenwald News – August 23rd 2022

Rosenwald News – August 23rd 2022

By Nicola Karesh

(Left to right) Karen Darity, Tyree Griffin and Susan Threlkel stand in the center’s main area, which includes a stage. (Courtesy photo)

There’s a particular spot by a lake that I like to sit after my morning walk.

There is a lovely fountain in the middle that creates ripples radiating outwards before the water eventually looks still.

Towards the edge where I am, at a first glance, everything looks quiet.

Sit there long enough, I begin to notice the occasional dragonflies flitting back and forth, birds flying overhead in the distance, with the water still appearing mostly tranquil.

On closer examination, I have discovered that there are lots of tiny, silver fish in the shallow waters with bigger fish a bit further out.

Once in a while, I have glimpsed a couple of ducks and a turtle or two poking their noses above the water.

My little nature scene made me think of the Mary C. Jenkins Community and Cultural Center.

I think of all the amazing activity that continues to happen whether you can easily see it or not.

I think of the people involved and the ripple effect that it will have on our community.

It all feels good. I drove by last week on my way to a meeting.

On the surface, I noted many new developments to the structure, the surrounding landscape and parking area.

I didn’t notice anyone, but common sense would dictate that people have definitely been busy and working hard.

Progress and forward movement were clear. I was able to go inside later that afternoon to tour the space with another board member.

What a treat!

I can barely single any one thing out to describe. The overall experience was one of exceeding my expectations.

I was simply delighted and easily began to picture future happenings taking place when we open for real.

The beautiful wood floor and stage in the big room.

The rich paint colors.

The windows and glass doors making the space feel open and inviting.

The views out into the community from all sides. While I was there, we received an official looking document.

Greysen Nolen, our building contractor, explained that our exit sign and fire extinguisher was okayed along with a room capacity of 139 people.

I was not in town for the weekend, but it was heartwarming to hear from others who were also able to set foot in the building.

Starting with MCJCC board member Lewis Whiteside, Jr., “It was great to finally see the inside and see the 12 years of hard work paying off.”

Susan Threlkel, also from our board, “A true miracle has happened at 221 Mills Ave! We are so close to finishing. Our new helper, Warren Robinson, will probably be back to put one more storage shelf together tomorrow. That is it! We are through with Phase 1 of the move-in.”

For any would-be community volunteers, Susan let us know that there are opportunities ahead. “Never fear! There is a kitchen to prepare, pots and pans to wash, dishes, glasses, etc. to get from storage, and when we can truly occupy the space, moving all this stuff we did over the last few days into their permanent rooms.”

We also received an enthusiastic update from board member, Elizabeth Pell, who shared several photos along with her experience, “Sharing good news. First, furniture is being assembled. Thank you, Susan, Fain, Lewis, Keavy, her husband, Lee, and son, Judah. I made a few chairs too!”

She added that we received five boxes of donated books from Ann Zelle for our Community Center library. Ann works at Transylvania County Library and also wanted us to know about this Thursday’s showing of “Summer of Soul.”

It will be at the Transylvania County Library at 6 p.m. The film is free and our community is invited to attend. Elizabeth continued, “The film documents concerts held in a Harlem park the same summer as Woodstock. It is rated PG-13 for several minor issues: some negative reference to drugs, a reference to the assassinations of King and the Kennedys. Additionally, Nina Simone (born in nearby Tryon) sings an anti-lynching song she was famous for “Mississippi goddamn.”

Pell, who spoke to Ann Zelle from the Transylvania County Library, reported that Ann was encouraging everyone to see this film.

The latter thinks the history is important for young people to learn and encourages parents to bring children and discuss the issues with them. It features a lot of great music as well. Please spread the word.

Last Saturday, the Ethel K. Mills awards ceremony took place at Brevard High School.

We have the NAACP Education Committee to thank for this historic occasion.

Stay tuned as they will provide an official report with photos in the newspaper.

For now, here is what one of our local residents had to say. From Judith West, “What a treat it was to celebrate these pupils and teachers! Kudos to the NAACP for imagining this event to honor students, teachers and the formidable Mrs. Mills. I smile remembering the joy on the faces of these students and look forward to next year’s celebration.”

Lastly, Mr. Malford Jeter is letting community members know that he will be offering co-ed aerobics classes to be held at Bethel “A” Baptist church.

Once the community center space is available, he will offer classes there.

In addition, he is offering private, semi-private and open martial arts sessions.

You can reach him via Facebook or at (828) 230-4832.

Newsworthy items for submission for Rosenwald Community News are welcomed from community members, churches, clubs and groups.

If you have an idea for a story or interview for me to capture, please let me know at or call (828) 421-8615.

Rosenwald News – June 7th 2022

Rosenwald News – August 23rd 2022

By Nicola Karesh

Tyree Griffin with his wife, Selena, and son, Tobias. (Courtesy photo)

I was walking in a park yesterday that meandered through the connecting woods. At some point, I found my attention drawn to the details of bark on the trees. A towering giant had bark that was quite striking to me. It was rough looking and split all over, creating these interesting deep grooves and gauges. Nearby, in contrast, was an equally tall neighbour with a surface that appeared smooth. I kept walking, my attention captured, until I came to a space with several specimens side by side… all different. The rough textured and split type next to a smooth barked one, with a papery looking, peeling bark tree to complete the display. I took a picture. I took several. I love being in nature. The sights and sounds, even the smells feed my soul in a very special way. Maybe like yours, my mind loves to make associations and I started thinking about people’s skin. Unique shades, tones, hues… the colours so interesting, captivating and beautiful in their own way. Why would anyone even think to make one better or less than another? The details, complex and simple, that meld together to create a tree, a human being. All precious creations.

I have a wonderful young man to introduce to you today. On behalf of the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center Board, Karen Darity starts us off: “I’m excited that not only do we have a new center director, but someone who can identify with people from the neighborhood. Tyree Griffin will bring a lot of energy to the facility and will motivate young people to get involved. We want him to know that our MCJCC Board fully supports him in his efforts and that we will provide him with everything he needs to succeed. If the center and its programming succeeds, we win as a community.”

Steven Harrell, interim city manager, confirmed the appointment.

“The city of Brevard is very happy to announce the hiring of Tyree Griffin as the city’s first Community Center director,” he said. “Tyree’s hiring was a collaborative effort with the Mary C. Jenkins Board of Directors, as a major part of his responsibilities will be as the director of the newly City constructed Mary C. Jenkins Center, where he will provide oversight of the center, manage the rentals of the center, and assist the Board of Directors with center programming. Tyree’s duties also include oversight and rentals of the city’s Train Depot and the French Broad Community Center. A Mars Hill College graduate and Transylvania County native, the city of Brevard enthusiastically welcomed Tyree aboard on June 6 and looks forward to his leadership as the city’s community center director.”

Speaking with Tyree himself, he shared that he was feeling “blessed and honored” about being hired as the new MCJCC director.

“I’m very excited to see what this brings. Letting God control it… control my steps,” he said.

Tyree referenced the sense that the position carries a lot of weight and responsibility.

“The center has been a very huge staple for the black side of the community,” he said. “With people knowing me and probably already having goals set for me. But I’m not scared about that. It gives me that confidence to go forward and continue to uplift.”

Just turning 30 this past April and having been born and raised in Transylvania County, I invited Tyree to share his recollections of the old Community Center: “From the early 2000s, I have great memories. Special occasions, Halloween costume parties, fish fries, dance parties. It was a safe space for my generation. A place to release and feel free and be ourselves. We were looking for outlets to enjoy ourselves.”

Looking forward, “It’s important that we bring that old spirit back with a new face,” he said. “Add layers of diversity and the fact that this space is for everyone. Let’s focus on diversity and bringing people in.”

When the old building was burned, Tyree shared that he was not in town.

“I was en route to coming home,” he said. “I was a junior, doing my undergraduate at Mars Hill University. It was sad to see it burn, but I was optimistic, thinking that in order for something to grow, you have to replant. I hated to see it go. It was kind of bittersweet.”

What would he like you to know about him?

“I am hard working, from a blue-collar family,” he said. “My grandmother (Judy Griffin) laid the foundation… the blueprint… for us to give back to the community. She communicated a duty that if we went away for schooling, we were to return and give back to our community. Just like you, I am not perfect. I am very family oriented. My community is engrained in my DNA, so anything I can do to shine light on it, I will.”

We spoke about issues of gentrification, lifting up the black community and at the same time making sure that all races and backgrounds equally felt welcome. In early 2022, Tyree became aware that a position for director was coming. Back in January/February, his thought was that he would wait and see if it was for him. By mid-April, when the position became public, things became clearer.

“I felt God calling me,” he said. “I had a sense of peace, like this is it. This is gonna be my legacy. The community center will be a staple, not just for Rosenwald, but for the whole city. Everyone can come too to learn where we’re going with it. The building is just a building. The people make that building thrive. The people know its importance as a vessel to express themselves.”

Tyree expressed a feeling of confidence about his new position in the community. “I am fully aware of what needs to be focused on,” he said. “Strive for excellence and love of people to push me forward.”

That focus and vision is not limited to Tyree Griffin but will include us as a community doing our part to participate, being involved and supportive. Tyree comes from a large family with seven siblings in all. I reached out to his brother Octavian for an insider’s view.

“We are one year apart,” he said. “He’s second born. I’m third born. I would describe my brother as a father, best friend, a role model and leader in the community, passionate, hard-working, reliable, caring, determined, focused, consistent, driven, outgoing, trustworthy, honorable.”

What’s he like?

Octavian, added, “He’s the person you meet that will give you 100% of his energy and time in any situation, all about business with family and friends. He’s the person who is willing to take that smaller piece of the cake and still be satisfied with that. The one who provides for all people around him even when he feels tired or, it could be his last and he would still give it to you.”

When asked about a memorable experience with his brother, Octavian enthused, “All of them! Just having him as a brother creates the best memories. Each one would be memorable to talk about!” My last question was imagining that I had a team and I was to pick Tyree. What could I expect from him as a team member? The response was direct and to the point, “A Championship.”

Speaking earlier with Judy Griffin, his grandmother, she commented that Tyree was “a family man, a good grandson and a fine, young man in our community.”

During our conversation, there was a reference to basketball, so I later asked Tyree about it. Referencing the Silversteen Memorial Playground just around the corner from the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center, he shared, “I grew up playing in that space before the renovations.

All of my skills came from that court. I played in middle and high school. After graduating from Brevard High in 2010, I played at Mars Hill before I came back home. Now, I need to get back in the flow of my roots. I’ve come full circle.”

The implication was strongly felt of coming home to now be in service to his community, just as his beloved grandmother taught him. This young man is sharp, educated, articulate, insightful, bright.

Lots more that I can add to the list, but you’ll come to meet him yourself and form your own impressions of our community champion.

As a follow-up to a feature that I did on Derek Sandlin who will be offering music lessons for adults and youth at the community center in the Rosenwald community, here is a quick addition for those who enquired about the type of music.

From Mr. Sandlin, “I play six instruments overall, but I can only show and teach on four of those instruments: piano, bass, drums/percussion and guitar.”

Newsworthy items for submission for Rosenwald Community News are welcomed from community members, churches, clubs and groups. If you have an idea for a story or interview for me to capture, please let me know. Contact Nicola Karesh at or call (828) 421-8615.

Rosenwald News – May 17th 2022

Rosenwald News – May 17th 2022

By Nicola Karesh

Derek Sandlin will bring his musical talents to the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center. (Courtesy photo)

I had a wonderful conversation recently with Derek Sandlin. If I posted the whole interview it would probably read like a book, so I’ll share snippets with you so that you can get a sense of who this gentleman is. If you don’t know him, he will soon be offering music lessons at the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center, so please put that on your radar.

“I am definitely excited about the Community Center and whatever I can do to be part of it. I was born in Philadelphia. When my parents divorced, my mom moved us back to Brevard… her home. I have been here all my life, since 1977,” Sandlin said.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make a Rosenwald connection, so I checked. Derek’s mother (Edna Mae Williams) did attend Brevard Rosenwald School and then went to Allen School for her high school years. The latter was a private school in Asheville for African American students and an option especially during segregation times. For his education, Derek attended Straus Elementary and then Brevard Middle and High. Following that he studied music at Brevard College.

“I got a B.A in music education and a minor in business, the hardest thing I ever did in my whole life,” he said. “It’s not what people think. It was a lot of work and not what I thought it’d be. There’s a whole process and a lot of responsibility.
Six or seven music classes, studying with a private instructor (professor), learning the music to do a concert, deadlines, plus travel and music at other schools.
I also had to keep up with my core classes, science and business. A lot of people drop out because it’s awful.
I didn’t think I was going to make it. I had a difficult time learning. I had to have tutoring throughout school.
I learn best by hands-on.
It was so much more overwhelming in college. I did make it through, though. I did. I am proud of myself.”

His family was a dynamic influence.

“I had a work ethic growing up,” he said. “My grandmother taught me. When I was 6, she’d give me a little change. I had a paper route. I washed dishes. I always had a job. Through middle and high school, I had summer jobs. I was a hard worker and knew the value. Nothing comes easy. You got to earn everything.”

What inspired his interest in music?

“It started with my mother,” he said. “She would always play music around the house. Old records. Always around me. Something grew on me through her. She had taken courses and learned the piano. I was always beating on stuff around the house. She didn’t want to, but my grandmother talked her into getting me a drum set when I was 8. I was so happy playing the drums. On the second day, I busted all the drums!”

Music wasn’t finished with Sandlin though.

“Later on, at age 10, she tried me out for piano,” he said. “That’s where it really started. Around 11 and 12, I took piano lessons. I hated it. Kept fighting it. I was into sports. I was a boy’s boy. Piano, I thought, was for girls. I look back now and don’t regret it. I didn’t like practicing. They kept pushing me. They saw a musical ability in me.”

His home church was Bethel Baptist in Brevard.

“I played at age 13 in the church,” he said. “Not a lot, just now and then as they had two piano players. I didn’t want to do that either.

I’d learn a hymn and fill in. I played at Christmas and Easter times. Church stayed on me too.”

Outside of church, “From there I ended up trying out for Brevard Middle School band,” he said. “You could pick your instrument. It definitely wasn’t piano. I tried out for drums. I had rhythm. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I knew how to read music from piano. I tried out and made it. I finally got to play the drums. I spent more time learning how to play them. I was on a percussion path, which included the xylophone and bells. I didn’t like them either because they were similar to the piano. Everything related to piano. I still had to do lessons every now and then. It put all the pieces of the puzzle together. The piano was the foundation.”

In high school, Sandlin got experience playing in concert, marching and the jazz band.

“It was a happy moment, playing the drum set,” he said. “Then they needed a piano player, and I thought, ‘No, not again.’ I couldn’t get away from it, so I did some drums and some piano. I also played football. In 12th grade, the percussion instructor at Brevard College needed a fill-in for percussion ensemble and my high school band director recommended me. That was fun. Mrs. Diane Cash at the college further instilled that strong work ethic in me.

I learned pretty much everything from her. She was a professional. I applied and auditioned to get into Brevard College. I struggled and got through it.”

After college, Derek shared that he ended up working and getting experi ence doing other things besides but including music.

There were opportunities like factory/plant work, hotel work, odd jobs. Music provided connections to play and meet people. Rock and roll, rhythm and blues, different genres, time in Georgia when he was accepted into the Atlanta Institute of Music. Derek experienced a difficult period when in Georgia, reporting this to be a low moment and a depressing slump in his life.

“I was happy that I made it in,” he said. “I took a chance to go there, though, as they didn’t have housing.

You were kind of on your own. I gave it a try, but it was horrible. I had a hard time. I had to find work, odd jobs, and go to school.

I tried to make it. It didn’t pan out as I was more looking for work. I stayed a year before returning to North Carolina.”

Positive Change
Positive change came next through a music store in Hendersonville. Over a period of time, he went into Tempo Music several times.

The owner approached him each time as they were looking for someone to teach bass guitar to students. Der- ek’s response was first, “No, I don’t teach. I play.” Then, “No, I don’t do that. I’m not really a people person and there’s a lot I don’t know.”

Finally, he reported that he got upset: “No. You can find someone else.” The owner insisted, stating that he felt Derek was it, asking him to give it a try and that if he didn’t like it he could stop, but to just try. Persistence paid off as Derek agreed to try.

“I wasn’t motivated or excited. Honestly, it felt like piano. I hated it already,” he said.

Something about this felt amusing to me and I shared this with Sandlin. I had a picture of this reluctant student who had obvious promise and talent. Outside forces were coaxing and corralling, tirelessly wearing down his resistance and at some point, the tides changed and what felt negative to Derek eventually turned into a huge positive. But first, he had to get through his initial unpleasant teaching experience.

“The music store owner got people for me,” he said.

“The first lesson was a hor –

rible experience with com municating and showing them. I didn’t know what I was doing. I felt I couldn’t do this and people weren’t happy with me. The owner coached and talked me back into trying again. He said, “Prepare what you want. Show them what you know. Teach them what they want. Meet them where they’re at. You know more than a beginner. Keep it real easy.”

Derek did try again and it went better. He started to think about the students and what they liked.

“I showed them a little technique and how to play the notes,” he said. I gained more understanding. I began to research on the computer how to teach. I still wasn’t really excited until I showed a student a song they wanted to learn. It clicked and I was like, wow! I got the grasp of teaching surely but slowly and began to enjoy it. Going from follower to leader was also a whole different side of things. All this schooling and instruction that I had, I needed to learn, but the teaching was different.

I grew up learning classical music. My students want to play a song they really like.

I had to now learn how to play by ear rather than by reading music. It became more about listening and hearing the music. It was like putting the puzzle pieces together. With teaching, it was more about listening to pick up what they’re doing in the song. Show the student, teach, explain. It’s a whole ‘nother ball game besides reading music. A lot of people who read music, don’t play by ear and vice versa. Some do both. I got the best of both. Funny how God works like that.”

Opening Up
Many more avenues, doors and opportunities opened up for Derek. Union Grove Church, Glade Creek Church, St. John’s Church, Tempo Music… giving lessons for piano, drums, bass guitar along with his regular “main” job doing hotel work.

“God’s been good to me with the last thing that I thought I’d be doing,” he said. “COVID came along and changed everything.

I couldn’t get people for lessons. I sat, reflected and slowed down. I felt I was starting over. Vic Foster encouraged me and informed me about the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center. He invited me to be a part of it, to do my music. I prayed on it and felt that this is what I want to do full time. It’s another door opening for me.

I believe that it will bring a lot of people in.”

In the past in school, Sandlin shared that it was difficult for him to keep up. “Teachers went so fast it was discouraging when I couldn’t understand things like math,” he said. “I needed tutoring so I could get it and pass. I understand what it’s like when people have a different way of learning, or they can’t pick up fast. Everyone’s different in their learning styles. I’ve taught pastors, physicians, professionals… they are all different. I have a way of lightening people up. Music is something fun. You want to make it fun. Life’s hard enough as it is. Music brings joy to people’s lives. It really does. Relating to people, when they get it, either by ear or by reading, there’s nothing like that feeling.

They come back with a smile, ‘cos they’re doing it! It becomes about that individual finding their happiness. They all turn into a kid when they can play that song and do it. I’m always learning through them.”

Community Center
At the Community Center: “I will focus on individual lessons versus group,” he said. “I’d love to do recitals. It makes students feel good about their accomplishments and people can enjoy listening. Let’s bring people out and put the center on the map. There are a lot of amazing people in the community who will have a place to show people things. The beauty of the Community Center will be having a place to learn different things, especially kids. Give them role models and something for them to get into besides the phone and computer… a person to interact with them on a personal level.”

Sandlin reflected how the churches were involved with the old Community Center. “Churches came together so that we were spiritually rooted,” he said.

“We enjoyed trips, had something to do, kept out of trouble, learned old school values and to respect everybody. Now, it is so important that our new center becomes an outlet for people to interact with each other, to learn things, to show things, to have purpose, for churches to come together, for us to come together, to bring it there…being spiritually rooted.”

In closing, the community is invited to come and celebrate with us on Sunday, June 19 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the Silversteen Memorial Playground for our Juneteenth Freedom Day. You can enjoy music, history, food and fun. It is sponsored by the city of Brevard, Mary C. Jenkins Community and the NAACP. Earlier in the morning, the community can sign up for a Tannery/ Black History walking tour. For more information, reach out to me by email or phone (see below.) Also that day, a basketball tournament will immediately follow the celebration. Stay tuned for more information about that. Newsworthy items for submission for Rosenwald Community News are welcomed from community members, churches, clubs and groups. If you have an idea for a story or interview for me to capture, please let me know at or call (828) 421-8615.

Rosenwald News – April 28th 2022

By Nicola Karesh

Edith Darity with Lani Callison during the MCJCC planning retreat in the Rogow Room. (photo by Nicola Karesh)

The community is invited to a presentation next week that is sponsored by the Transylvania County Joint Historic Preservation Commission (JHPC) and the Transylvania County Library. “Walking Around the World: African American Landscapes and Experiences in Transylvania County” will be presented by Michael Ann Williams on Tuesday, May 3, at 2 p.m. in the library’s Rogow Room. I ran into Marcy Williams recently at the library and she shared about the upcoming event: “JHPC is excited to have Michael Ann present the final report again. Be cause of the pandemic we did not get to share it with the public as much as we would have liked.”

The report combines the oral history testimonies of long-time residents of Transylvania County’s African- American communities with a traditional architectural survey of the same neighborhoods to paint a picture of a community that has remained strong and vibrant for over 100 years. A copy of the final report can be found upstairs at the library. A copy will also be accessible in the near future at the new Mary C. Jenkins Community Center.

Earlier this month, I mentioned that MCJCC held a program planning retreat at the library. At the beginning of our day together, Edith Darity guided us through a wonderfully detailed accounting of the history of the center. So many people have expressed interest and asked various questions about this rich history. I thought that it would be valuable to offer Ms. Darity’s presentation in its entirety here. It will also be housed on our new website: “Mary B. Kilgore, while she was a student at Shaw University, envisioned creating a place for African Americans to gather for community meetings and social events. Upon her return to Brevard, she initially presented her vision to a group at Bethel Baptist Church. The idea was greeted with enthusiasm and on June 8, 1942, the first community center in Rosenwald opened at the church. It offered a children’s nursery, daily craft activities for 6 to 12 year olds and sports activities for teens.

“Mrs. Kilgore placed an article in the local newspaper, which pointed out the true need for a community center facility. The article received a generous response from both black and white citizens, and before the project was completed, this community endeavor had been turned into a joint town and county effort.

“Mary C. Jenkins, Mrs. Ralph Ramsey and an organization of Methodist women played an important role in helping create the building that would belong to the community and serve as a their center. Mrs. Jenkins was the widow of Frank Jenkins who started Brevard Lumber Company, a business the Jenkins family owned for nearly 100 years.

On Aug. 24, 1944, she sold approximately ½ acre of land on Carver Street to the trustees of the Brevard Com munity Center for $85 to be used to erect a ‘Community Center for the colored peo- ple of the Town of Brevard.’ The two ladies continued their fundraising efforts to help reach the $3,000 needed to complete the project.

“The Nov. 18, 1945, edition of The Transylvania Times reported a $10 dona- tion from M.B. Witmer of Montgomery, AL, living in New York, who stated ‘… we have been too slow in recognizing our responsibility along this line…’ An editorial urged the community to help raise the funds ‘to establish a recreational building’ and ‘to designate a colored residential section because it has outgrown the small area in which it is restricted.’ The newspaper also noted on Nov. 13 that a Song Festival at Bethel Baptist Church had raised $1,625 for the center. A $25 dona- tion was given by Beulah Zachary, of Brevard, the cre – ator of the TV show ‘Kukla, Fran and Ollie.’ She was later killed in an airplane crash in New York.

“Construction was begun in September 1947 but additional funds were needed, so it lost momentum until the formation of the Transylvania Community Council, chaired by Cornelius Hunt, got the project back on track. In 1952, a Founders’ Day Opening was held for the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center. Rockefeller Kilgore, son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Kilgore Sr. and husband of Mary, served as business manager. In addition, he sponsored a rock and roll band known as the famous Tams, which per- formed around Brevard and as far away as Virginia.

The center operated under a Community Center Board with Cornelius Hunt as president and the following members: Edward Killian; James C. Wulpi, a retired VP of American airlines; Freeman Daugherty; Arthur Hefner, Jr; D.C. Hall; Victor Betsill; and Mary B. Kilgo re.

“It included a library with Ms. Kilgore serving as the first librarian. By May 1953, it had received 400 books, a community-wide expression of support. She had taken courses in library science from Ruth Bernard, the county librarian, of Andrews, N.C. Boy and Girl Scouts, the Merry Hearts Social Club and the Children’s Play House were among the clubs that met in this new facility. A variety of parties, dinners and dances were regular events. A craft workshop in the basement was set-up to teach carpentry skills to young men and in the summer of 1953, the Happyland Nursery and kindergarten was started to help working mothers.

“A swimming pool was built in 1958, but they struggled to meet regulations and stay open. In 1974, the pool was repaired and the county took over its operation for a short time, at which point it closed.

“The Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club of Transylva nia County got a part of its start at the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center, operating there until it moved to its present location on Gal limore Road. Updates and modifications were made to the building prior to their occupancy. The center closed in 2008 because of code and regulation issues.

“Members of the Rosenwald community have advocated for a renovated cen- ter for years. A new Board of Directors was formed, and the MCJCC Historical Rehabilitation Project was created for the purpose of seeking volunteers and donations to aid in upkeep and repair of the building. They also felt that it was important to establish a solid foundation for positive community programming that included education, health and social services and other assistance to those in need. It was time to paint a new picture of Rosenwald and no longer be considered one of the worst sections of Transylvania County.

“Efforts were made to begin improvements despite the fact that a professional assessment stated that the cost of construction of a new building and the renovation of the existing one were very similar. The Board was totally dedicated to making something happen and ap- peared before Brevard City Council to request $20,000 in funding to support asbestos removal. It was this event that sparked the beginning of a partnership between the city and the MCJCC Board of Directors.

“In 2018, the current MCJCC Board of Directors voted to grant the building and property to the city of Brevard in exchange for the construction of a new community center. The City MCJCC Task Force met for over three years working on property access, designing the building and locating parking. A preliminary price was developed to confirm that the project is in line with budget expectations. That has led to the bidding process with construction following. The old building was burned down earlier in preparation for construction. Meanwhile, the MCJCC Board has spent time defin ing the rules and regulations for the building, designing programs that will meet the organizational mission and are working to raise the funds necessary to outfit the center in a way that will be functional, safe and accessible. After facing numerous survey and legal difficulties, the project is now nearing completion. The people of Rosenwald had a dream that one day the center would become an historical museum. Well that day has arrived and the new building will host a cultural center, where citizens from all over can come and learn a bit of African American history, Rosenwald style.” Two links to close out this week for you. Our February Faces Of Freedom event had a few video snags during the livestream, which I promised would get fixed.

The revised recording with all bells and whistles working perfectly can be viewed here: watch?v=W5eUSiIp6uw. Still under construction, but up for you to explore, please visit the MCJCC website:

Thank you to Desmond Duncker for his technical wizardry and expertise. Yes, the Facebook community page is still active.

Newsworthy items for submission for Rosenwald Community News are welcomed from community members, churches, clubs and groups. If you have an idea for a story or interview for me to capture, please let me know. Contact Nicola Karesh at nicolakaresh@ or (828) 421-8615.