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 email@example.com or call (828) 421-8615.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call (828) 421-8615.
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.
Lessons “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.”
Inspiration 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.”
Celebration 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 email@example.com or call (828) 421-8615.
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.
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@ gmail.com or (828) 421-8615.
Last Saturday, with a bit of a nip in the air and snowflakes from time to time, the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center held its retreat for board and committee members. This was immediately followed by the Black History Poetry Awards Ceremony. Thank you to the Transylvania County Library for the welcoming indoor space, where we were safely able to gather, later joined by families and other community members in the afternoon. The reception was simply lovely. Nothing beats hearing a poet add their own voice to their words. The delivery was quite moving. We heard the 1st and 2nd place poems in adult, high, middle and elementary age categories. Here is what we were blessed with:
You lifted our hearts to sing for liberty. You filled a scroll with your beautiful images of farewell to the dark past and a new rising sun of hope. You unlocked the stone defeat of slavery. You showed us a love of ourselves to carry us through muddy times and to look to the purple mountains of love. You found us a key to the locked door of fear. You opened that door to vast freedom with our God training us to be soldiers of truth and teaching us to live in the light. You led us into the light. You gave us a sundial of truth to direct us beneath God’s hand, and to stand at last in the glow of God’s love.
If You Took My Hand in the Dark by Eloise Shepard (Adult Honorable Mention)
If you took my hand in the dark, you would not know the color of my skin. If I took your hand in the dark, I would not know the color of your skin. If the back of your hand was wrinkled or smooth, I might know if you were young or old. Maybe. By your fingernails or bracelets, I might make a guess at your gender, But probably not. If you had certain rings on certain fingers, there’s a chance I’d figure out if you were married or single, But it would be a guess. The perception of race disappears in the dark. Or if your eyes are closed. The trick is to use your eyes to see the person and not just the skin. To see how we are different, and how we are the same. To appreciate the differences, truly appreciate the differences. And allow the sameness to make us open to all those we see in the bright day.
The Experience by Amya Humphries (High School Winner)
It’s about the looks, the stares, simply because of your skin color. It’s about being scared to go to a rural area, in fear of your dignity as a human being. It’s about the feeling of not fitting in. It’s about having all your history be compressed in one month. It’s about the “momma, why don’t I look like her?” It’s about the generational trauma. It’s about your people constantly being killed. It’s about the fear of the police. It’s about crying to your family about your first racial profiling experience. It’s about being upset over the fact that you don’t have the same opportunities as others. It’s about creating a “norm” that shouldn’t be normal at all. It’s about the African American experience
The African American Experience By Miguelina Jimenez Tate (High School Honorable Mention)
A place not welcoming to us is the place we live Through time we have been shunned and shown hatred Now we want a place to stand equal among you We fight for our right to simply exist in your world We will not be quiet We will not be thrown to the side We will make you hear us And we will prove we are stronger than you think We have faced the end of a whip and not backed down The barrel of a gun and stood our ground The face of a judge and demanded to be heard Our future will be shaped by us We will make this place our home And we will make it safe.
Black History Month Poem by Ava Kate Snipes (Middle School Winner)
Speak up don’t stay quiet If we stay quiet there will be no change The world is unfair, not right We need to speak up for each other Have the courage to do what is right Be bold, be brave, make the world a better place It shouldn’t matter our race we are all equal just the same Through the ups and downs, we should be together Making each other stronger not tearing down We all deserve freedom no one should be a slave We have to do something to make that change We are unbreakable, we are beautiful, we are more than people think We should be loved but to make that change we need to speak up Have faith for a better tomorrow We need hope for the present and the future We need peace and prayers for the community and world But most of all we need justice, not tomorrow but today Keep moving, keep moving Free at last!
I, Annabelle by Roma Steiner (Middle School Honorable Mention)
My name is Annabelle A slave I am and will ever be Never, ever will I be free; Keep working I will Until I die.
Bread and rice Was all I got; And in an old pot Some horrible meat Discarded for bad.
I work all day Harvesting tobacco The overseer says,” Hurry ho!” He whips us if we are too slow
All I had was Dresses of rags Out of old flour bags; Mistress’ gowns Dirty and old.
I hated my master With all of my might I was in such a plight With God and man, I wished to run away.
I knew that if I ran away, Flogged at the stake I’d be He’d hurt and maybe ruin me I am worth nothing To anyone but God.
I did not know soon I would be free To look and see Anything I wished And make my own living.
Abraham Lincoln in his speech Let all the slaves be free (I couldn’t believe that meant me!) To work to get payed Although we weren’t treated well.
I was elated And happy, and pleased For that meant all slaves (even me!) Could live on our own, And die as we willed.
Brown Girl Curls by Ava Lytle (Elementary School Winner)
It’s morning again and my hair just won’t do! It looks like a crazy tangly zoo!
The curls are all frizzy, stubborn, and wild, My brushes get stuck, my frustration gets piled.
I call my big sisters. Their hair is like mine. Only one is much thicker, the other more fine.
I tell them I hate this mess, it just isn’t fair! They tell me the magic of my brown girl hair
All the way back to Adam and Eve, God made our hair something to see!
I try lotions and potions, some grease and some goops, the wetter it gets the nicer the loops.
The brown curls are huge, a little more tame, I’m beginning to like the look of my mane.
It’s natural, enormous, unique and it’s free, It’s powerful, beautiful, and wonderfully me!
Stand by Charlotte Coan (Elementary School Honorable Mention)
We will stand through the dark, empty, and cold When one pushes us down Over something we were told Told what we can’t love Blamed by our skin How we identify Our culture and religion This feeling is lonely empty and numb It makes us feel as if we weren’t one But NO you are good enough From now we’ll stand fight for what we believe That is a command We will march with a movement A power so strong To prove no living being should be treated wrong Here we march to a song so sweet Standing up strong Drumming with the beat We won’t stop we continue to sing Sing till we hear freedom ring Ringing from the north ringing from the south Letting nothing drown are voices down We won’t stop till this injustice is broke Standing tall shouting CHANGE we spoke We won’t stop equality until it’s done Fairness and freedom for everyone Doesn’t matter your age Neither your race It’s never too late to stand for change Join your neighbors Strangers, and friends Stand tall and join hands March to the beat sing with the song Stand together and freedom should come along.
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 – Nicola Karesh at nicolakaresh@ gmail.com or call (828) 421-8615