The Anderson Rosenwald Project Planning Committee held its meeting of July 12, 2013, in the basement fellowship hall of Mt. Olive Baptist Church..
Attending were: Ryan Phillips, Justin and Jessica Metcalf, Teresa Phillips, Richard Dillingham, Omar McClain Jr., Fatimah Shabazz, Charity Ray, Joy Kish, Ray and Dorothy Rapp, and Simone Bouyer.
Simone Bouyer, committee secretary, opened the meeting at approximately 10:10 a.m. Willa and David Wyatt were unable to attend. Willa provided an agenda and comments. The cleanup day was a great success thanks to the many volunteers who helped. The crumpled back portion of the building was removed, and the area around the school mowed. A box containing found objects, including a 1970’s pinball game, was shared at the meeting. Ryan Phillips condensed the 5 hours of work into a 1-minute video which can be viewed on YouTube. He also shared photos form the event. Justin provided a backhoe for the demolition of the collapsed portion of the building. The Sentinel ran a great article. Thanks to everyone who contributed time, and to the Wagon Wheel and Papa Nick’s for their contributions of sandwiches and pizza.
Willa noted that no news has been received regarding the Block grant. Forrest Gilliam will provide the committee with a copy of the grant application. The committee wonders what other projects were funded by the block grant. Can we follow their example for future applications for funding?
History Committee: Richard reports that the committee will be reviewing the 1940 census data, and state superintendent reports. Black families are listed in the newly released 1940 census records. How many students attended the school the first year? Were the schools consolidated? Mars Hill College (MHC) has records from 1886-1960s.
Richard is finishing the Oz Deaver diary, which includes records from 1885-1896. Deaver kept daily records from the Forks of Ivy and Long Ridge communities. Names mentioned include Hampton, Briscoe, and Ferguson. The book will be published in August by the college. It is 333 pages. Lots of little stories make up our community history.
A name is needed for the Board of Directors. Suggested name; Friends of the Mars Hill Rosenwald School.
An interview with David Briscoe is planned for July 26 at Charity Ray’s house. Charity is his first cousin. Briscoe was the first black professor at Little Rock. He nominated several folks from the community who were recognized by the president for their contributions to the community. He will share the history of his family, stories from the community, and history of the church and cemetery. He will comment on how this place impacted his life. He is willing to serve as an advisory member on the board.
Charlene Ray is also a possible advisory board member. She was the first Appalachian scholar at MHC. A major research project on the history of blacks in Madison county stemmed from her acceptance in the program. Her research included a study of the census from 1860 to the 1920s. Her book is in the Mars Hill College Archives. She has a Master’s degree, and is a leading member in the EPA in Washington, DC.
The Mount Olive Church Homecoming weekend will take place August 30 and September 1. The committee is planning for a Community Day on Saturday, August 31. Lynn Boyles, director of Parks and Recreation, will provide games and activities for the Community Day.
Should it be a fundraiser? Plans are to include a grill out, interviews, networking, and opportunities for recruiting volunteers. A table will be set-up with history on the project. The event needs to be promoted in the local papers and at the church. Service will be held on Sunday at Mount Olive Church, followed by a potluck. The afternoon service will be preached by Tommy Brisco. On the following weekend folks will visit the Mars Hill and Yancey county cemeteries.
At the community event people should be able to sign-up for ways they can support the project. David spoke about inviting representatives from the banks and local businesses. The committee should be able to accept donations. Can alumni help provide entertainment? It would be useful to invite the county commissioners. A presentation about the project should be made at a set time; 11 am to 12 noon. Present plans for the project. Invite people to come onboard to help. An itinerary is needed. Can letters be sent to those attending the homecoming? How can we include the families who will be attending? Notices could be run in the Urban News, and on WRES radio. More planning is needed. Do we want to sell food? Have an art auction? We don’t want to overshadow the homecoming.
An article could be run in the Sentinel. Should another work day take place after the homecoming for new volunteers? How to raise the level of excitement for the project? Can we include storytelling, a round table, sharing history, other ways to make people feel included in the project. How can we embrace and nurture the community and alumni? They are a part of this place. People like telling stories. The event should include a show and tell, and tours of the building. Portable toilets are needed. Dan Slagle has tents we can use.
A planning committee was formed: Bob Zink (206-0200 or 689-2015), Simone Bouyer (689-8543), Fatimah Shabazz (254-6158), and Ray Rapp (380-2937). Monthly or quarterly dates could be set so that alumni can return, not just once a year, to participate in this place. Cultural activities and roundtable discussions could take place on these set dates.
Participants should be able to share their experiences at these events. Create a memorable experience. Request donations from local businesses which have served the community, such as Harry’s Cadillac, and Jackie Sheppard’s Pawn Shop. Can the ancestors of people who attended the school be recognized? Plaques with names could be attached to chairs and windows. Any furnishings could be recognized with plaques. How to honor the memory of teachers and students of the school? An endowment would need to be established for the longevity of the project. A two million dollar fund would provide a docent and upkeep of the grounds. With small steps we can move towards that goal.
Needed before the event: mowing; secure steps with a temporary handrail; promotional brochure; letters and photos for the scrapbook. Other materials for show and tell. Charity has photos and will have all materials available by the July 26 date for the interview with David Briscoe. Simone will work on a brochure to promote the project.
The next meeting of the Rosenwald Project Planning Committee was planned for Friday, August 9, at 10 a.m. at Mt. Olive Church.