Lifting Every Voice in Summerville Unity during Black History Month

Submitted By Linda Saylor Marchant  (violetsaylor@yahoo.com)

    The last weekend in February closed out with several Black History events in and around the Summerville area. At many locations such as the Brownsville Church of God, the St. James AME Church in Cooper Store, the First African Baptist Church of Summerville, and the Alston Bailey Elementary School, participants viewed traditional clothing and art, had an African tea, sang the Black Anthem “Life Every Voice”, and listened to local Summervillians tell their stories while sitting in rocking chairs on stage. The SHARED DREAMS program at Coastal Coffee Roasters, sponsored by the Charleston Jewish Community Center Without Walls and the Summerville Community Resource Center, successfully and enthusiastically completed the Black History Month activities.

    Violet Saylor opened the Alston Bailey Elementary School event with her shiny black plastic sculpture: “Dismal Maze of the 60’s.” World War II Veteran  Rollins Edwards  shared his stories about education and race matters  during the war.   Other stories presented included: Why Sam Green thought it necessary to form the first Summerville Black Baseball league on the Red Road section of town known to many as Orangeburg Road. The League called The Dixie Youth, now has no ballfield due to the construction of Alston Bailey Elementary School.

      Stories of Summerville’s “Hidden  Figures”  were shared by their offspring and others.   Alfreda McClellan ‘s remembered her father Rev. Marinel McClellan  always solving problems with God’s help first and a lawyer second.  Scientist and Educator Louis Fowler’s dad Rev. James Fowler was a Pastor who kept everyone in line. Juanita Edwards, Educator shared her story of Chris Fishburne .

    Bessie Mae Fields Simmons who is a Germantown Poet, recalled her Mom purchasing a three bedroom home with the money she earned from washing clothes in round tin wash pot.  Sharing the Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights Movement was Robyn Wittenberg Dudley, local Jewish resident. Reverend John F. Scott represented the Summerville Area Ministerial Association.

       Letting their little light’s shine were  the Brownsville Church of God’s Dance Team- God’s Praising Angels :Kahli Bryant(Summerville H.S), Sydney Perry(Alston Middle School), Serenty Attles(Alston Middle School),  Jestacia Jenkins (Alston Bailey), Jasmine Ellington (Alston Bailey), Roxie Thomas (Alston Bailey), Genira Gadsden (Alston Bailey) , Xroria Vaughn (William Reeves) and Miryiah Ezell (Alston Bailey).  The Angels are students who attend Dorchester 2 Schools. Gospel selections from Blessed Vision Ministries and Alberta Addison had the crowd clapping.    

    The last night of Black History Month was spent with SHARED DREAMS at Coastal Coffee Roasters with various youth and adults performing spoken word, music, and showing visual art as part of the monthly Summerville CommUNITY Artists Heritage Series which features thought-provoking and artistic programs highlighting our youth. This month’s theme highlighted Blacks and Jews in the Civil Rights movement.

  The evenings music was provided by Aristotle Butler (Pinewood Prep) on Ukelele; 13 year old vocalist, Lydia Scholl who studies voice at the Creative Arts Impact Academy. Audience members  enjoyed singing along with Robin Shuler, Music Director at the KKBE Synagogue in Charleston, and local musician John P.Taylor.   

    Book sharing included  84 year old Anna Ruth Williams Thurston’s  Summerville Migration Story:  It Wasn’t Easy, But I Made It With God’s Help.  Earlier in February, Thurston  and her biographer  Violet Saylor,  presented copies of the book to  Mayor Wiley Johnson and Summerville Town Council members, and  Berkeley County High School’s Principal and Media Specialist Steven Steele and Lori McCarthy respectively.

   Local Author A. F. Winter shared Poems from his book. One of his writings reflects how some people focus on  their own trivial matters and concerns while others are being wiped out by hate crimes and terrorism.

   Chairpersons  Louis L. Smith , Ethel Campbell and organizers Blanche  and Louis Fowler  are already planning next years Summerville’s Black History program which may evolve into a festival.