QA continues race relations conversation
CENTREVILLE — Sunday afternoon, Aug. 28, another of a year-long series of meetings to discuss local racial relations was held, this time at the recently restored Kennard High School. The former black high school officially closed its doors in 1966, and Queen Anne’s County High School opened in the fall of 1967, bringing the era of legalized segregation in the county’s schools to an end.
Kennard was originally built during the Great Depression of the late 1930s as one of many of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal construction projects. Sunday afternoon, following a blessing to the restored building by the Rev. Terry Gaddy of Bethel AME Church in Centreville, Kennard Alumni President Clayton Washington of Grasonville welcomed ever yone to the discussions.
“It’s appropriate that we have this meeting here at what was once the symbol of segregation, but now is to become today’s symbol of inclusion for all peoples. We
want everyone to use this building as a community resource,” Washington said.
The Kennard Alumni Association has fundraiser for many years to make the renovation and restoration of the now Kennard Heritage and Cultural Center a reality. The official dedication ceremony for the building is planned for early 2017. While construction appears to be complete, the Association is developing a collection of artifacts and plans to make part of the building into a museum reflecting the building’s history as a school.
Washington turned the program over to event coordinators Eric Daniels and Lee Franklin, both members of the Queen Anne’s County Multi-Cultural Committee. Franklin read the mission statement for the event, “To enhance racial understanding, awareness and respect through open conversation.”
She said, “My hopes for this work are to build a community of goodwill across races within which people relate to each other with understanding, compassion, and affection — to go beyond mere tolerance to a beloved community. The goal then will be to identify issues that exist in our community related to race and work cooperatively in creating solutions.”
Franklin also read the famous inspiration poem, “Human Family,” by the late Maya Angelou, first read at the dedication of the Disney Millennium Village.
The poem begins, “I note the obvious differences in the human family ...” and wraps up with the conclusion, “In minor ways we differ, in major we’re the same. I note the obvious differences between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike. We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike. We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
Local singing group Friends of Faith, Tory Brown, Tramaine Hines, Dana Bowser and Zieta Seals, harmonized, singing “Encourage My Soul,” drawing rousing applause at its conclusion.
Daniels explained how the discussion session would work. There were eight circular tables with 8 to 10 people of different racial backgrounds at each. Each table was led by a discussion facilitator, and three questions were asked for each person at the table to answer to their group.
As an ice-breaker, for the first question, each person was asked, “Explain the history of your first name? Where did the name come from?” Question 2: “How were you taught about race when growing up in your family?” Question 3: “What do you hope to see as a result of this discussion event today?”
The discussions and answers were personal and interesting. It was clear that people were honest in their answers to questions.
One woman said, “As part of a military family, we traveled around the world and nation. My friends were of all different racial groups, depending on where we were living at the time. My racial experiences were mostly ones of tolerance, and people in general didn’t make a big deal about what race you were.”
Another woman, who grew up locally, said, “We didn’t discuss race. We knew our place, and there were things we didn’t do. There were restaurants here in the local area where we could not go in to be served and we knew it, so we went around the back of the restaurant to place our order and get our food. That changed over time, but the change was very slow.”
A man in the group said, “I was taught by my parents to always give people more than was expected when in service to others. I learned that by the way my parents worked. My parents earned the respect of others in our community and when I was introduced as their son, their reputation proceeded as a reflection of who I must be — like my parents, people expected me to be of the same honorable reputation, and I was immediately accepted.”
The discussions ended with a blessing by Pastor Mark Delcuze of Christ Episcopal Church in Stevensville on the dinner being served to all who attended.
It was mentioned that the county commissioners had provided “seed funds” for monthly dinners and discussions.
Commission President Mark Anderson, who attended a session held at the Kramer Center this past July, said, “It’s important to get ahead of potential situations that could arise by communicating early with folks who are concerned about the future of our community. These meetings help by eliminating misunderstandings. At the first session, we had our superintendent of schools, and county sheriff present. I look forward to the sessions planned for the coming months to bring about better communication with more people about needs we have in our county and meeting those needs.”
Mike Clark, director of Community Partnerships for Children and Families, Queen Anne’s Local Management Board, was instrumental in organizing the discussions as part of the Multi-Cultural Committee. Clark was also part of the movement many years ago bringing the Character Counts program to Queen Anne’s County schools. Following the tragic shootings that killed many innocent children in Columbine, Colorado, in 1999, local citizens wanted a program that could teach values to children that would help prevent a similar situation from happening here. Clark was one of numerous visionary individuals who recognized the potential for a positive program like Character Counts and helped with its implementation.
The Sunday Supper discussions on inter-racial communications have similar potential, he said.
“There are many people in Queen Anne’s County who are relentless about improving the community. They go right to the heart of issues and work to make improvements,” Clark said.
Local church leaders were invited to the August discussion. The Multi-Cultural Committee plans to invite educators across the county to join the discussions on improving racial relations and communications in September.
A crowd turned out for the Sunday Supper discussions on race relations in Queen Anne’s County, Sunday afternoon, Aug. 28, at the restored Kennard High School (now a community resource and cultural center) in Centreville. In the foreground, the audience was entertained by Faith of Friends, from the left, Dana Bowser, Zieta Seals, Tramaine Hines and Tory Brown, who sang “Encourage My Soul” prior to the round-table discussions.
Numerous round-table discussions were held in small groups with a mix of people of different racial identities, Sunday afternoon, Aug. 28, during the Sunday Supper session on race relations in Queen Anne’s County.
The group Friends of Faith, from the left, Dana Bowser, Zieta Seals, Tramaine Hines and Tory Brown, sing “Encourage My Soul” prior to round-table discussions on race relations in Queen Anne’s County during the Sunday Supper program, Sunday afternoon, Aug. 28, inside the restored Kennard High School in Centreville.