Minutes: Friday, November 14, 2014

Anderson Rosenwald Project Planning Committee Meeting

The Anderson Rosenwald Project Planning Committee met on Friday, November 14, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. in the basement fellowship hall of Mt. Olive Baptist Church.

Attending were: David Wyatt, Charity Ray, Dorothy Coone, Richard Dillingham, Ray & Dorothy Rapp, Ryan Phillips, Teresa Phillips, Fatimah Shabazz, Omar McClain, Les Reker, Cameron Huntley, and Simone Bouyer.

Willa welcomed everyone to the meeting. Les introduces Cameron, who is a writer for the Mtn. Xpress. He will be writing an article about the exhibit – he does a great job, thoroughly investigating each subject. He is interested in the rehabilitation of the school and all aspects of the project.

Willa’s Report: Copies of the finance report for the past four years were distributed. The one page report showed all of the contributions received and payments made for the Rosenwald School project from 2011 to 2014. Numerous donations have been received. Since Willa turns in the cash donations they appear under her name, although they are not from her.

Update to last month’s Minutes: The music group Lyric could also be called upon to perform in February. Annette Coleman, whom David met, is retired from the bank.

Programming: On Thursday, November, 13, Personal Recollections of the Rosenwald School, a panel presentation, took place at 6:30 p.m. at Redway dining hall at MHU. The panel was moderated by Kevin Barnette and included Anderson Rosenwald school alumni: Oralene Simmons, Charity Ray, Dorothy Coone, Omar McClain, Fatimah Shabazz, Sarah Hart, and Eugene Jones. As each panelist was introduced, it was mentioned that Dorothy loved motorcycles. The committee asked about the story and discovered that it was made up by Kevin and Charity, based on a photo of Dorothy sitting on a motorcycle at Ball Creek.

About 70 people attended the presentation. Thanks to Teresa and Ryan for filming. It was great for students to hear the stories told by the panelists. They gave meaning to the past. Thanks to their shared stories, there was lots of interest in the school. New contacts were made for potential funding. Mr. Bingham attended. His grandfather was the designer of Biltmore Forest. His wife Jane Bingham was an activist. They live near Marshall and are interested in the project. They attended both programs.

Teresa was worried about the sound quality of the film. The films are all on Youtube. Links can be found on our website, and on the museum’s Facebook page.

For February a musical event is being planned. Could be a reading with music. The focus would be the importance of music in the African American community. Dorothy is working with Oralene and Fatimah to find performers. Could be gospel music. Fatimah has her mother’s old gospel music books. The program will be held at Mars Hill University in Broyhill Chapel on February 12 at 6:30 p.m. Sarah Hart’s son could be encouraged to perform. February 12 is Lincoln’s birthday.

Alumni: Fatimah is working to ignite interest with the alumni in Asheville. The lower level of the Stephens Lee Center will be renovated next year. We will not be able to meet in the space beginning in January. Should we eliminate the Asheville meetings? Ideas are sought. Sarah Hart and Mark Norwood attended the last meeting held in Asheville. Our group needs to join the Stephens Lee Alumni Association (SLAA). Our membership will be of mutual benefit to both groups. Richard makes a motion that we join the SLAA. With a second from Omar, all present approved. Willa will ask the school board to write a check to the SLAA.

Construction: The siding that David has contributed is at the school and it needs to be moved inside the building. It can be stacked where the stage was. This is original German siding that matches the school’s exactly. Some boards are smaller, and those match the siding used on the addition to the school. The Department of Cultural Resources plans to visit the school to approve the siding. The siding needs to be sanded and nails removed. A nail pulling party is needed, and warm weather. Bring hammers. An estimate is needed for the cost of the contribution of the siding. David will measure and come up with an estimate, which can be used for matching grants.

An electrician will take a look at the electricity, which is not working. Asbestos floor tiles need to be removed. The committee has received commitments to fund five of the 10 windows at the school. The cost for each window is $750. The back windows are small and can be double-paned. A new water line and hydrant are needed. Part of the Department of Education’s plan to maintain the schools.

Fundraising: David will visit potential funders next week. He has made several contacts. Lots of people don’t know the school is still standing. There is potential for good size checks and funding. He would like to begin construction in the spring. Some contributors are waiting for construction to begin before contributing. A Licensed General Contractor for historical renovation is needed. Ray, Sandra Tolley, and Becky Anderson plan to meet to discuss grants, and to look at ways to sustain the project in the future. Dorothy and Ray will take a group to tour the exhibit on Saturday, December 27. It would be great if alumni could attend. The group may visit the school building.

The Blue Ridge National Heritage Grant has not funded many African American projects. Sandra, Willa, and Karen Kiena attended a webinar, “Creating New Economies.” Projects must have a triple bottom line to qualify. Economic impact is one of the criteria. More research is needed, so we will not be pursuing that grant. Willa will contact Forrest Gilliam to arrange a meeting. Letters of support from the grant will be used in the promotional package. O’Neal Shelton is also interested in the project. The focus this year of the Appalachian Conference is music. More research would be needed, so we are not participating this year. Endowments for the upkeep of the school are needed. This is part of our strategic plan for programming.

Next Steps: What will the school facility be used for? We need community involvement and ideas for continued use. Arts? Music? Teaching? Gallery? Performances? The building itself is not of interest for grants. The operation of the building must be unique. How do we see the school benefitting the community?

The Economic Development Conference held at MHU was mostly technology companies seeking workforce. The Department of Commerce is looking for a facility with high-speed access. See the Epsilon facility in Weaverville on Main Street. Our school would be great for groups to use. Can the groups pay? Utilities, heat, and other expenses need to be covered. Other local community centers, like Ebbs Chapel and Spring Creek, are struggling. People and ideas are needed.

Fatimah asks if the school could offer courses, or be used for continuing education and adult studies courses by A-B Tech or MHU. Madison County Schools are committed to maintaining the Mars Hill Rosenwald School. They own the school building and provide the electricity, insurance, and upkeep. They also provided half of the funds for the roof. Dr. Wilcox is a big supporter, and the school board has expressed support for the rehabilitation project. Other supporters and commitments are needed from MHU, the town, and the church. Working agreements are needed so we can move forward.

The school could operate as a museum, open a couple of days out of the week. The panels from the exhibit would be on display and could also be used to divide the space for multiple uses. Willa asks that the group make notes for the use of the school, and a list of contacts. Please send to Simone and she will compile a list for the December meeting. Let’s zero in on uses and ideas.

History: Richard asks about the typhoid deaths of several of the children who attended the school. Three children died. Facts are needed. Some details are in the exhibit. There are five or six versions told of the deaths, all from oral interviews. Details are needed. One of the children was a cousin of Charity. In the early 1900s there was a typhoid epidemic in Madison County due to contaminated water. And, a flu in 1918 killed many. Open bank privies were widely used, meaning that waste did not go into a pit, but ran down the side of a bank or hill. This was a county-wide issue. The spring at the school was about 3,000 feet from the privy. How was the water contaminated? Charity heard that it was the CC camp. Richard says the camp was far from the spring. In the 1930s pit privies began being dug. In the 1940s Manuel Briscoe negotiated with the town to have water lines laid to the church. White families bought the pipe and the black families dug the trenches for the water line. The project took ten years to complete. The name of Charity’s cousin who died was Willie Ruth, who was Beatrice Henson and Gaither Henson’s daughter. She is buried in Mt. Olive cemetery.

During integration an attorney from the NAACP attended one meeting of the board of education. No demonstrations were held, and he did not attend any other meetings. Charity’s mother was on the school board.

Sarah Hart found that M. Grace Owens was a teacher at the school, not an assistant teacher. Corrections need to be made to the notated history. Frances Owens was a teacher at the school. Her two sisters also taught at the school. Report cards were to be signed by the principle at the school. Since there was no principle, the lead teacher signed the report cards. Charity remembers Grace Owens. In the notated history it should be made clear that this is a work in progress. The history should also include copyright by the Friends of the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School. 50 copies of the history are needed for the promotional package.

The town of Hot Springs had a large black community. Black students from Tennessee attended the Hot Springs school. When that school closed they went to Marshall. A trip to Hot Springs is needed to gather these stories. Sydney Harrison and Bobby Ponder will have names. The group could meet at the library in Hot Springs.

Bernie Edwards also has stories about the black community. Stories about integration from Mars Hill’s white community are needed. Ms. Garnet would visit the school. Also, John Huff, and Walt Wilson’s children could be interviewed. Philip drove the bus Omar rode on. Philip is on dialysis. Omar will see if we can schedule an interview.

Exhibition: Tours of the exhibit are available from Les. Our Story, This Place will be on display until February 2015. Close to 2,000 people have seen the exhibit, along with groups of students from the high schools and colleges. All have had positive comments. They have been fascinated, interested, and they like the film. It’s going well. Les is coordinating a panel discussion for the Appalachian conference held at Eastern Tennessee State University in 2015. He hasn’t heard back from them. He is also seeking more coverage from the press. On December 3, Willa, Fatimah and Les will be interviewed on NPR’s radio program, the State of Things.

The Our State conference takes place in January at the Grove Park Inn. Willa has details. The original artifact from the school, the drum image, will be kept in acetate in the archives at MHU.

Can our group reserve a table for the MLK Breakfast in January? Oralene plans to reserve three tables. Willa will contact her. We could match costs or purchase tickets. This is a great event, and all are encouraged to attend. It will be held at the Crown Plaza Resort this year. We could also run an ad in the program book. Oralene is asking for $100 per button to raise funds for the school. More buttons are needed with Oralene’s photo. A button making party could be planned for January. Space is available in the museum to make buttons.

The Friends of the Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School will meet again Friday, December 12 at 10 a.m. at Mt. Olive Church in Mars Hill.

Respectfully submitted,
Simone Bouyer