The Anderson Rosenwald Project Planning Committee met on Friday, December 13, 2013, in the basement fellowship hall of Mt. Olive Baptist Church.
Attending were: David and Willa Wyatt, Fatimah Shabazz, Omar McClain, Ryan Phillips, Dan Slagle, Theresa Phillips, Charity Ray, Dorothy Coone, Pauline & Edwin Cheek, Sandra Tolley, and Simone Bouyer.
Willa welcomed everyone who attended. The minutes for November 2013 were corrected as follows: Sandra Tolley was not present; under the history committee report, the two historical markers are for the YMI Cultural Center and Mt. Zion Baptist Church; Margaret Newbold’s grandfather was the Director of Negro Education; Omar McClain and Dorothy Rapp volunteered for the fundraising committee.
Les Rekker, the director of the Rural Life Museum on the campus of Mars Hill University, contacted Willa. The museum features two exhibits each year. He would like the second exhibit to be on the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School. The current exhibit on textiles ends in June 2014. Pictures, artifacts, stories, and videos would be needed for the display. A committee of four or five people is needed. The committee would meet with Mr. Rekker to plan for the exhibit, which would need to be completed in May 2014. Plans include videos showing on two or three TV’s, plus a section displaying artifacts. This would be the second exhibit hosted in the newly remodeled museum.
Dan has three old desks from the school. Fatimah has the old blackboards and a few old books, possibly some report cards. Charity has a copy on cassette of music from the Mt. Olive Choir from the 1950’s. Old photos are needed! These are all perfect for the exhibit. The Rural Life Museum has a budget of $2,000 to help create the exhibit.
The committee needs letters of support for the rehabilitation project. Letters are needed from the Madison County Board of Education, the TDA, the Economic Development Advisory committee, Madison County Government, Mars Hill University, and the Cooperative Extension office. Each letter would focus on the benefits of the rehabilitation project. Willa has spoken with Ross and Elizabeth at the Extension office.
Conservation Trust: Willa met with Melanie Allen and Annie McDonald of the Department of Cultural Resources in Asheville. The conservation trust can purchase land. It’s important that our group writes and shares our story about the land, similar to the “Under the Kudzu” project. Melanie says we are doing great. We have committees in place for history, and we have artifacts.
The properties next to the cemetery and across from the church could be available for purchase. The property across from the church, which was Thelma Young’s house, was sold at auction. The property is the gateway to the community and would be great for an historical marker. David will check into the land records. Melanie has looked at the area and wants to continue the conversation. The properties could become part of a land trust for the Anderson Rosenwald School. It connects the school to the land. Karen Kiena included the purchase of land in her grant proposal.
Could the property owners be approached about signage or tearing down the building? Alonzo said the owners were fixing it up, then it was auctioned off. The group thinks the house is to be demolished. The house was sold for $50K and sits on two acres. What is the history of the house? It was built after the school was built.
The land trust funds an intern each summer. The internship must be connected to a state university. Our group does not have a partnership in place. Diversity directors from each college or university are needed to advise our group.
Fisk University has compiled a list of all Rosenwald Schools. The schools in the 25 western most counties have not been researched, so the list is incomplete. Willa distributed copies of the list to the committee. A network of 25 people, one from each county, could be established for this western region. A contact from the school system or historical society would be ideal. Some of the schools are in Tennessee. The closest school to us is in Newport, Tennessee. Other schools could be interested in joining with us. The Land Trust is fine with groups in TN and NC. The Blue Ridge Heritage foundation only supports NC projects. Our committee could host a group meeting to be held in the spring.
Melanie is searching for a location to host the National Rosenwald Conference, which will be held in NC. We would like to submit a letter inviting the conference to host the event at the YMI Culutural Center.
History Committee: There are no new oral interviews. Willa found information in the school board minutes regarding the naming of the school. She distributed copies of the details to the committee. In July of 1959 Zeno Ponder made a motion that the local school committee select an appropriate name for the colored school. Avery Ray, Seam Roland, Gustie Ray, Manuel Briscoe, and Augusta Ray were school committee members. These notes came from Dan’s work researching the minutes from the school board. Integration as also mentioned. Mars Hill schools were integrated prior to 1965. Prior to 1959 the school was knkown as the Mars Hill Colored School. After 1969 it was called the Long Ridge School. From 1957-1965 the committee worked to rename the school.
Community Relations: Fatimah contacted Sharon West, who is an alumni of Stephens Lee, and a board member for the YMI. Fatimah plans to attend the Stephens Lee alumni meeting to invite all interested people to our next meeting. The hope is that they will co-create this vision of the school with us. Other alumni have also been invited to participate with us. Can Ryan show the video they have created at our next meeting? We want to engage the interest of the alumni. Fatimah is not sure how many people will attend the January meeting, which will be held at their home in Asheville. She is working on a newsletter to be presented to the alumni about the school and our progress thus far.
Willa will ask Tommy Justus or Eugene Jones if they can drive members of the group to the January meeting. It would be great to use the church bus to carpool. Fatimah’s house is located at 66 Austin Avenue, behind Points of Light on Merrimon Ave, just off Coleman Avenue. It is a red brick house. Willa will bring copies of the history and brochures. Simone will bring the artifacts and the architectural drawings. Are any fans available? More need to be made. Cost was $1.98 each. We could make these ourselves. We would need to print the fans, laminate them, and glue sticks on to make the fans. The updated fans could include Charity’s painting of the school.
How can we reach our current community? An article could run in the newspaper. Tours can be given of the school. College students have gone door to door in the past to invite people to the special events and work days held at the school. Storytelling or photo sharing present exciting opportunities for people to participate with our group. One of the artifacts found is a poster, “D for drumming,” featuring a picture of a drum. This artifact could be the basis of our outreach efforts. Perhaps a drum circle could be planned. The school has a percussion band. We could invite them to participate.
Ryan set up a TV monitor and the group watched the short video he created about the Anderson Rosenwald School. The video includes excerpts from interviews, and the work day when the addition was torn down. He will update all titles in the video to the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School.
Fundraising:. Our account stands at $698.06. We hope to attract additional funding from Asheville. Dorothy Rapp heard of a possible grant. Historical facts need to be documented and ready to use to apply for grants. Omar and Dorothy Rapp volunteered to work on this. More volunteers are needed. A review of the history is needed. Willa will gather materials for the promotional package. Simone will help create the package and marketing materials. A clause needs to be added to the history indicating that it is under ongoing research.
Construction: David will put together a list of contractors and builders who may be interested in contributing to the project. Building materials are needed. There is a retired contractor in Mars Hill who is willing to advise our group. Construction could go fast once we have materials. We hope to begin work in the spring. David will get an estimate for the cost to build and install windows. A Hispanic fellow in Georgia builds cutom windows to historical specifications for Rosenwald schools. The cost is $800 each installed. Could the school board be persuaded to fund the purchase of the windows? Perhaps they can match half the cost. David thinks it would be around $8,000 for 10 windows.
The building is ready for electric service. The ramp makes it accessible for tours. Many people can donate time. If we all work together we can get it finished. All construction needs to follow the historical guidelines for the building. Scott Donald has plans for the phases of the project. A time line and goals are needed. A materials list and costs are needed for the promotional package. The county or other boards may be willing to match funds and donations.
Fatimah invited Bryan, a landscaper, to our January meeting. The school property is located just outside of the city limits. A security light could be installed for $8/month. The school system is currently responsible for maintenance costs.
Other Notes: Simone has added April Riddle, assistant to the governor, to our list of contacts. The old school on Hill Street in Asheville caught fire and was demolished. A presentation should be made to the Madison County Board of education. We could show Ryan’s video, and present the promotional package, which includes the history of the school.
The meeting adjourned at 11:40 a.m. The next meeting of the Friends of the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School was planned for Friday, January 10, at 10 a.m. at Fatimah and Omar’s home, 66 Austin Avenue in Asheville.