Sunday, August 26, 2012

Blog 114: Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?

By Vernon M. Herron

Spirituals are symbolic yet they are firsthand historical documents which may reveal, motivate, inform or even challenge our theology. One Spiritual in particular, asks the question, were you there when they crucified my Lord? In parts, it goes like this:

            Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
            Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree (Cross)?
            Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
            Were you there when He rose up (arose) from the grave?
            Oh! Sometimes, it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
            Were you there when – (It all happened?)

During the last few days, I asked this question to a few of my friends and received the following responses:

            “I was not there but I was remembered.”
            “No, but there are situations when I feel like I know what it was like.”
            “No sir, I was not there.”
            “Well, they crucify Him yet today, so maybe I was there.”

When Jesus, the Christ, God’s only Son was whipped with many stripes and crucified on a Cross, He suffered and experienced a SUBSTITIUTIONARY DEATH i.e. death on our behalf for the sins of the world. VICARIOUSLY  we were all there, including the past, present and future.

The dictionary gives three distinct meanings of vicarious as a substitution.       
1 Serving as a substitute for the benefit of another.
            2 Suffered by one person as a substitute for another.
            3 Experienced the sympathetic participation of another.

Vicariously, we were all there indeed, because He carried the sins of all mankind “with Him there.”

Read Isaiah 53 for a full view of the vicarious sacrifice of Christ. Let me quote selected verses from this chapter.

He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and
we esteemed Him not. Surely He hast borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and
            afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for
            our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with
His stripes we are healed…He was numbered with the transgressors and He bare the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.

At times, Spirituals challenge our theology and our Biblical knowledge. Notice the Biblical reference for each question raised by the song:

            Were you there when they crucified my Lord?      John 19:18
            Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree (Cross)? John 20:25
            Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?  Mark 6:29
Were you there when He rose up (arose) from the grave? Luke 16:3;Acts 10:41.

Oh yes, we were all there!! Let there be no question about it!!!

Spirituals have symbolic, hidden and implied meanings. Each is worthy of examination. Let us look at a few of them.

Wade in the Water
Wade in the water, wade in the water children,
wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water.

According to Queen Sound’s Black History, this song relates to both the Old and New Testaments: Exodus 14 and John 5:4, but we also know that Harriet Tubman
sang this spiritual as a warning to runaway slaves. To escaping slaves, the song told them to abandon the path and move to the water. By traveling along the water’s edge or across a body of water, the slaves would throw chasing dogs and their keepers off the scent.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Swing Low, sweet Chariot, coming for to carry me home.
Swing Low, sweet Chariot, coming for to carry me home.

I looked over Jordan and what did I see?
coming for to carry me home-
A band of angels coming after me!
coming for to carry me home.

Songs like “Swing Low” and “Steal Away” referred to the Underground Railroad, the resistance movement that helped slaves escape from the South to the North and Canada. Yet, still they expressed a desire for a return to the mother land of Africa.

The state of Virginia passed legislation forbidding a call for assembly “by beat of drum.” Thus, the slaves developed another secret code. It called for a secret meeting in the woods early in the a.m. Here is the song.

Let Us Break Bread Together

Let us break bread together on our knees,
Let us break bread together on our knees,
When I fall on my knees, with my face toward the rising sun,
O Lord! Have mercy on me.

When asked, were you there when they crucified my Lord? You can say “yes” with an understanding of Jesus, the Christ’s death which vicariously placed us there. When we hear other spirituals, let us think of the implied message.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Blog 113: The Queen City Classic

By Vernon M. Herron
and other contributors
Joseph Burton, Vermelle D. Ely, Kathryn Frye, Jane Johnson, Gladys Massey, and Rufus Spears

     A classic is a traditional event, i.e. like football, setting a typical or perfect example. The Queen City Classic was the story of football games between Charlotte’s two Black high schools, Second Ward High School and West Charlotte High school during the years 1947-1969. Carver College, which was housed in the Second Ward High School’s building, also participated in the sponsorship of the classic. To understand the Queen City Classic is to understand the historical and the cultural perspectives of these two schools.

     Second Ward High School was the first high school built for Blacks in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina in 1923. By the end of 1966, it had an enrollment of over fifteen hundred students. Eighteen years into Second Ward’s existence, West Charlotte High School was born and erected. It was an outgrowth of Second Ward High School, which was demolished in 1969 by the Urban Renewal Program. West Charlotte High School was built in 1938. Its first principal, Clinton L. Blake, and many of its faculty members formerly taught at Second Ward High. Thus, West Charlotte High was a “child” of Second Ward High.

     Almost everybody attended Second Ward High, but there was an “over flow population.”  It included the bourgeois’ kids of Charlotte’s Black professional citizens, who lived west of Trade Street; these students attended West Charlotte High School. From the beginning, these two populations fostered an underlying rivalry spirit.   At first, football was the game between these two rivaling schools which was played at Harding High School’s practice field located on Irwin Ave. 

     The Queen City Classic was begun as a fund raising event and was held at the Charlotte Memorial Stadium. In addition to fund raising, a parade with floats and marching bands was scheduled but rain caused these activities to be cancelled. However, the football game proceeded and at half time, the planned pageantry was conducted. Vermelle Diamond was crowned the first queen of the Queen City Classic. She and her court received their designations according to funds raised.

   From Black America Series Charlotte, North Carolina, the following description is noted:
“At half time during the Queen City Classic football game, Miss Queen City Classic would be presented to the crowd. The 1948, queen Vermelle Diamond is surrounded by her attendants, Frank Jackson, Shirley Crane and Millie Ann Murphy. The gentlemen in the photo are officials from West Charlotte and Second Ward High Schools. One, Mr. Jackson is identified from Carver College, Fred Wiley, J. E. Grigsby and Kenneth H. Diamond, Sr. from Second Ward High and Clinton L. Blake from West Charlotte High School.”

     However, the cue for survival and personal safety depended upon which team was winning by the third quarter! It is reported that neighborhood outsiders, would start a fight of revenge at end time. Thus, by time the game was over, the stand and seat benches were empty. Because of continuous fighting, Charlotte Memorial Stadium cancelled the use of its facilities for the Second Ward High School and West Charlotte High School games. While Second Ward High was demolished by the Urban Renewal Program in 1969, West Charlotte High moved to a new building in 1954 and left its former home to Northwest Jr. High, now Northwest School of the Arts.   

     Even today, when the Queen City Classic comes to mind, “good sportsmanship” appears as a desired goal.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Blog 112: From Mopping to Nursing: Meet Jessie Maye Herron

By Vernon M. Herron

On Thursday 18 October 2012, the Winston Salem State University (WSSU) at Winston Salem, NC will conduct a Stroll Down Memory Lane Banquet in McNeil Hall, commemorating the 55th Anniversary of its first nursing class of 1957. The honorees include:

     Shirley Caldwell Blanton     Betty Brown Hines        Edna Taylor Williams
            Mary Scott Isom                   Bertha Mae Johnson     Constance C. Lipscomb
            Barbara Hope Austin           Bernice Donnell Davis   Ylene W. Veazie
            Jessie Maye Herron             Sadie Brown Webster   Jessie Little Campbell

Of the class population of twelve, four are deceased, seven are alive and one is unaccounted for. Yet, each will be honored with a brief biographical sketch of her life with a listing of five achievements since graduation 55 years ago.

The five achievements listed for Jessie include:
– She was the great granddaughter of Richard and Minerva Herron who constituted the first known structured African American Herron family in the Piedmont region of North Carolina in 1870.
– She pursued training in Nurse Education ten years after finishing high school.
– She was the Founder and President of the Nurses’ Guild of Charlotte’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.
– She was a member of the Senior Drummer and Percussion Ensemble of Charlotte’s Ebenezer Church.
She was a philanthropist to students desirous of an education in nursing.

This saga began in the 40’s. After finishing high school in 1943, Jessie Maye worked in the Maintenance Department of the Charlotte Memorial Hospital as a maid mopping floors as one of her many duties. After this writer had finished college in 1951 and was employed in his first job, his sister Jessie declared to the family that she was tired of reporting to a job at 6 a.m. and mopping floors daily.

We all urged her to take training in some desired field which would lead to better working conditions and salary. This she did and away Jessie went to Winston- Salem State University, enrolling in the school’s first class for nurses. During the first year, Jessie suffered from loneliness and fatigue, crying and writing, “I want to come home, and I am lonely.” I volunteered to write the family response saying, “I give you no sympathy. Do you want to mop floors the rest of your life? Just stay there, tough it out and learn all you can for a Bachelor of Science degree. You won’t regret the hard study. It will pay dividends in days to come.”

Sister took my advice and graduated in the first class for nurses from WSSU with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing.  She was experienced in the field. She held positions in Washington, DC at George Washington Hospital and at Mercy Hospital in Charlotte, NC. She retired from Carolina Medical Center formerly known as (Charlotte Memorial Hospital) in Charlotte in 1988 after twenty-two years  n  of service as a trained nurse, where she once mopped floors.

Jessie conceived her profession as a ministry and recited the following prayer in her daily walk.

A Nurse’s Prayer

O My God, I am about to begin today’s work.
Teach me to receive the sick in Thy name.
Give to my effort, success, sweet Jesus,
For Thy glory and Thy holy name.

It is Thy work, without Thee, I cannot succeed.
Grant that the sick placed in my care,
may be abundantly blessed and not one of them
lost because of anything lacking in me.

Help thou me, to overcome every temporal weakness
and strengthen me for whatever may enable me to
bring the sunshine of joy to the lives that
are gathered around me day by day.

Make me beautiful within for the sake of the
sick ones and those lives which will
be influenced by them.  A-men

Herron Speaks blog is delighted to tell the Jessie Maye Herron story. Other family members who followed Jessie in nurse training at WSSU include two nieces, Clara Estell Hampton of the 1960 class and Betty Ann Davis of the 1961 class. Clara Estell Hampton married Jessie Herron’s nephew, William U. Harris also a graduate of WSSU’s class of 1958. Nurse Betty Davis is now a Mrs. Burney and is retired. Yet, another niece, Frenshetta Louise Herron followed Jessie in nurse training at another school, namely Lankenau Hospital School of Nursing of Philadelphia, PA. She finished with the class of 1992.

Other family members who have been mentioned in previous blogs include:
15-Nephew Dr. William Harris
65-Mama Mamie
66-Mama Mamie
76-Great grandparents
83-Aunt Leila
103-Niece Gaynelle
108-Mama Mamie

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blog 111: Time, Hope, Change, Forward, President Obama and Some Charlotte Black Lawyers

By Deborah A. Nance
Guest Writer- Attorney
(This article is dedicated to my late beloved mother,
Christine Long Nance)

Forward Moving of Time
     Since the beginning, time has been a silent recorder of history. An irreversible forward mover, time has recorded every hope, change and event, known and unknown to humanity. 
     In early September 2012, time is expected to move forward and record what some Americans have hoped for, but what was inconceivable to many less than a decade ago, given this nation’s history of racial civil rights divisions. The historic setting is the Southeast, more specifically Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.   
     The historic event is the nomination of an African American for a second term as President of the United States of America by a major national political party.  The history-makers are a black lawyer named Barack Hussein Obama, II and the Democratic Party.   
     Ironically over 150 years ago, time recorded the nation’s other major party, the Republican Party, the supporter of the abolition of African American slavery, as the historic racial change-maker.  

Passing and Denial of Political Access
     No publicly known female has ever been nominated for President by a major political party. American females did not gain the right to vote throughout the United States, until 1920 when the 19th constitutional amendment was enacted.   
     Americans possessing a drop of African blood were deemed to be colored, Negroes, blacks or African Americans by this nation’s laws or social conventions.  For many years, given this country’s racial history, it would have been political suicide for any Presidential contender to publicly confirm a trace of African ancestry.
     According to rumors, males possessing a genetic make-up of African and non-African blood secured the White House seat before President Obama.  The rumors are probably true given this country’s history of the races’ co-mingling in spite of past anti-race mixing laws and social taboos.  Of the number, President Obama is the first who has publicly admitted his African ancestry. If others served, then they passed as “whites”.
     For most of this nation’s history, prior to the late 1900s, very few persons known to be black managed to secure local, state or federal political offices. This was true whether blacks were categorized as slaves, free blacks or Jim Crow blacks.  The only exception to this occurred during the Reconstruction Era, which followed this nation’s Civil War.
     The enslavement of blacks was one of the issues that divided the nation and caused the southern slave state to secede from the United States. The Confederate  Army defended the southern slave states.  The Union Army defended the nation and defeated the Confederate Army.  As a result, the northern states and southern states were reunited.  Another lawyer who became President, Republican Abraham Lincoln, occupied the White House seat during the Civil War.  President Obama is an admirer of Lincoln.

Changing of the Racial Climate
     During the Jim Crow Era, extreme racial segregationist laws and practices were renewed against African Americans in the South.  As a result, most of the political, social, economical and educational opportunities gained by blacks during the Reconstruction Era were virtually eliminated. 
     While winning the White House seat and other elected offices appear to be a hoped-for but impossible dream for blacks, a change in this nation’s racial, political, economical, educational and social structure did come.  The change came slowly and gradually despite past laws, social customs, murders, job losses, home-bombings, police dogs, fire hoses, literacy tests, grandfather clauses, poll taxes, lynch mobs and white supremacists.  And through it all, time continued to move forward to record the change and all of the events which led up to the change.
     Obama came to Charlotte to campaign during his first bid for President. At that time his campaign slogan was “hope and change”.  Now it is “forward”. 
     Time recorded that visit and time has recorded the arrival of other black lawyers to Charlotte too.  Unlike President Obama, some black lawyers have come to Charlotte to practice law.  Some have played a role, along with non-lawyers, in the long struggle for racial civil rights in the United States. Victories in the struggle for civil rights for blacks have resulted in civil rights gains for all Americans, including women and other minority racial groups.

Black Lawyers
     Some black lawyers who started law practices in Charlotte before 1960 include John Sinclair Leary, Sr., John Thomas Sanders, Jesse Simpson Bowser, Leon Peter Harris, Ruffin Paige Boulding, Thomas Henry Wyche, Robert Davis Glass, Charles Vincent Bell and Walter Brewer Nivens.  
     President Obama had not been born when they opened their local law offices.  By the time Obama received his law degree in 1991, only Glass, Wyche and Bell were still alive.
     All nine practiced law during the Jim Crow Era and some lived to see the end of the Jim Crow Era.  Many paved the way via litigation and other lawful means to secure the elections or appointments of blacks to local, state and national political offices and/or to abolish Jim Crow laws and customs. 
     Although all hoped for a political, educational, economical and social climate which was just and equitable to Americans regardless of their racial ancestries, none lived to witness the nomination of the first openly black male for the Presidency of the United States by a major political party.   However, time, that irreversible forward mover and silent recorder of history, witnessed it all.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Blog 110: Meet a Young Man Who is Going Places: Alvin “Al” Austin, JCSU’s Major Gifts Officer

By Vernon M. Herron

What a switch from reading about ‘black on black crime’ and the majority of the prison population to positive news regarding Black achievement. Such is the story of “Al” Austin.

Alvin “Al” Austin is one local name many know from television and his community/civic work.  A native Charlottean, his outstanding accomplishments with fundraising, event planning, marketing and community relations have placed him on the Greater Charlotte area’s radar of successful executive communicators.
Al is the Major Gifts Officer for the Division of Institutional Advancement at Johnson C. Smith University. He is responsible for identifying, cultivating and soliciting major gifts from individuals, corporations, alumni, and the community. The university is about to embark on a $150 million Comprehensive Campaign to transform the campus and the communities surrounding it.
Al served as the Executive Director of the McCrorey Family YMCA located in the Northwest Corridor of Charlotte from 2009 until 2012.  Founded in 1936, McCrorey is the second oldest branch in the YMCA Greater Charlotte Association.  He was responsible for a $2.1 million budget, 4,000 members, 75 staff, board development and executing the very successful Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast.  Al also served as the Executive Director of the Hillcrest Family YMCA in Lyndhurst, Ohio just outside of Cleveland, Ohio for over three years. He was the first African American to head this branch of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland.
From 2004 until 2006, Al served as the Y Community Senior Financial Development Director of the Dowd and Stratford Richardson YMCA branches in Charlotte.  There, along with many volunteers and staff, he helped lead the annual campaign of raising $450,000 for the two branches and completed a capital campaign to build the Strafford Richardson YMCA.
In September 2005, he received the Harry Brace Leadership Scholarship Award.  The award is presented annually to a YMCA of Greater Charlotte employee who exhibits the leadership characteristics exemplified by Harry Brace – who served as President/CEO of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte from 1983 until his passing in 1999.  The scholarship award allowed Al to attend the FAR Leadership Institute in High Point, North Carolina which is a nationally recognized leadership development institute. Al credits the institute for helping him be a better leader by better understanding himself.
Prior to working with the YMCA, Al served as Assistant Director of Public Relations with the Charlotte Housing Authority, National Public Relations Director for the American Association of Minority Businesses and Ground Transportation Supervisor for Charlotte Douglas International.
Past honors and achievements include the YMCA Shining Star Award, the YMCA Quality Advocate Winner and the YMCA Branch Rose Award Winner, and the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Volunteer Services to North Carolina. Focus on Leadership Outstanding Alumni, and the Charlotte Housing Authority Employee of the Year.
Al’s affiliations include; Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, the Almetto Alexander Labyrinth Foundation; S.T.A.R.S. Board of Managers. He is a member of the Park Ministries. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received B.S. degrees in Sociology and Criminal Justice Administration.
Al is extremely health-conscious and believes exercise, nutrition and prayer are keys to a long and successful life. 
Today, the HERRON SPEAKS blog salutes ALVIN “AL” AUSTIN.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Blog 109: JCSU in Review: Watch the Trend

By Vernon M. Herron
     Johnson C. Smith University, under the leadership of Dr. Ronald L. Carter, is redefining  the role of Historical Black College or University (HBCU)  and is setting forth new trends which will transform his school into “Charlotte’s Premier Independent Urban University.” He is attempting to achieve this goal through physical transformation, new attitude, a change in program offerings and new ways in institutional operation.

     Let’s be specific. Physical transformation includes the Awarded Energy and Sustainability Grant for Grimes Lounge and Smith Hall; The George E. Davis House to serve as the future home of the Foster Village Network Center; Duke Hall Renovation Project is the new home of the HealthPlex for Health and Wellness Department. New attitude includes the erection of a Mosaic Village in Historic West End, a change in Program Offerings and New Program Trends.

     A few old buildings on Smith’s campus are now undergoing renovation. According to a Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) News Bulletin, the following is reported:

The Awarded Energy and Sustainability Grant for Grimes Lounge and Smith Hall is to fund several critical strategic energy needs. In the spring of 2011, the North Carolina State Energy Office (SEO) announced a request for proposals to increase energy efficiency in the facilities of large non-profits, companies and organizations. This highly competitive grant program was funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) funds. The University, upon review and completion of the requirements, submitted a proposal to fund several critical strategic energy needs on campus. The University then contracted with a team of energy consultants, general contractors and engineers to quickly assess the viability of several projects and create the proposals from which two key projects were selected: 1. The replacement of the roofing system and the glass curtain walls in Grimes Lounge and the top floor of the Mary Joyce Crisp Taylor Student Union, which hosts major events on campus.

The second key project was to upgrade the building systems in Smith Hall. Smith is the second oldest residence hall on campus and was a residence for seminarians in the early years. It is currently a mixed-use residence and administrative hall. Students living in the building were uncomfortable with room temperatures that could not be controlled. The problem often led to open windows while the system was running, which wasted energy. This project allowed for the installation of an automatic control system that adjusts energy use according to the temperature, and installation of new more efficient pumps.

The George E. Davis House will serve as Future Home of Foster Village. The Foster Village Network Center is designed to serve young men and women who have phased out of foster care by providing opportunities for them to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions and the possibilities available through continued education. While an increasing number of universities around the country have established programs to support the needs of non-traditional students, very few are actively working with local child welfare agencies and community organizations to construct an integrated model of support for students in all stages of the foster care system. The JCSU program is rather unique in that it offers a holistic strategy that addresses the needs of students during high school, college years at JCSU and after graduation. The comprehensive program enlists the support of state- and community-based partner organizations, with a focus on funding, easing the transition from foster care to independent living, providing a supportive surrogate family for success during college and propelling young minds toward successful, productive lives in their communities. The Foster Care Network will provide a myriad of services and support including: Year-round housing and other basic needs; financial aid; academic advising, career counseling and supplemental support; personal guidance and counseling; opportunities for student community engagement and leadership; and planned transitions.
Duke Hall is undergoing a $5.5 million renovation with help from the Duke Endowment grant received last fall. The current structure will be transformed into suite-style residential units. This thorough renovation project includes new plumbing and electrical work. Recently, students were given a chance to view the models and express their opinions on the lay-outs of the suites. Upgrades will include full kitchens, modern furniture, study and TV lounge areas. This provides the University another opportunity to create a living and learning environment where students achieve academic and personal success.

The HealthPlex will house the University’s wellness department and will give staff, faculty and students of JCSU free access to a health facility and wellness programming. The programming will address the unique needs and concerns of the JCSU campus and the surrounding community. The center will offer exercise, weight loss and nutrition programs to the University students, faculty and administration. It will also provide community outreach programs to Charlotte-Mecklenburg school children through instructions and promotion of health and fitness improvements.

Mosaic Village Rises to the Occasion in Historic West End. It is a magnificent new urban student housing opportunity scheduled to open in fall, 2012. Located just a half-mile from campus, this modern suite-style apartment complex will serve 299 students at Johnson C. Smith University. The four-story urban housing facility will include: retail shops on the street level; a secured parking garage; a rooftop patio for event scheduling; an outdoor courtyard; two-, four- and five-bedroom unit floor plans; an environmentally-conscious modern design; video surveillance with 24-hour security; and amazing views Charlotte’s skyline.

The University’s goal is to ensure that the student experience is as convenient as possible. Students who live off campus sometimes struggle to balance the resources to pay for an apartment, transportation, gas, utilities, cable and other expenses. Mosaic Village will give them the opportunity to enjoy being close to campus while experiencing the benefits of safe and secure living. Students who are currently living off campus will be offered first priority to apply for housing at Mosaic Village.

     A change in Program Offerings and New Program Trends, have reference to U-Future. This trend will address political, technical, and scientific issues. The first will be an event sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus and JCSU, September 3, 2012. The NDI will bring together former heads of state, ministers, leaders in parliament and political leaders in Charlotte for the DNC. They will focus on three key areas: energy, education and health.

     In a recent public gathering, according to a Mr. Torre, a former JCSU staff member, the Department of Education at JCSU is scheduled to be phased out in two years and replaced with an emphasis on science, technology and political issues. Educational training will be left to state and other institutions.

     JCSU is setting new standards in urban education. Watch this new Independent Urban University for growth and development. Watch the Trends!!!!   

     (I would be interesting in your reaction to this article. Thank you for sharing your opinion. VMH)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Blog 108: My Mother’s 1936 Ledger - Full of History

By Vernon M. Herron

The first phase and place to begin your search for genealogical information is in your home.  Family information may be found in your family Bible, diaries, journals, wills, marriage certificates, organizational papers, military records, photographs, autographs, old newspaper, diplomas, yearbooks, certificates, anniversary and wedding announcements, etc.

In many old documents found in the home, genealogical data can be found. In a broad sense, genealogy is the studies of the origins and descent of families. In a narrow sense, genealogy is concerned with the identification of individuals, their families and community relationship in a historical setting.

That’s just what I found in a 1936 ledger/journal of my mother, the late Mrs. Mamie Herron.  Even though this ledger was old in writing on fading paper, I could still see history and life as they were in my childhood when I was eight years of age and in the third grade. This secretary’s record book was a recording of activities of a religious organization which also gave a glimpse of a segment of Charlotte’s Black community, namely Second Ward  seventy-six years ago.  I soon recognized the value of this ledger and made it a vital part of my home library. I am glad that I did!

At right is the picture. Most saints had their own church affiliation but were also members of UNION PRAYER BAND HALL #1, located on the northwest corner of South Caldwell and 3rd Streets, which met on Sunday afternoon and evenings. The prayer band met for singing, corporate and individual prayers, testimonies, fellowship and socialization. This Union Hall was really a Masonic building with its top floor off limit to the public while the first floor was rented to the UNION PRAYER BAND HALL #1. (Bethlehem Center was a neighbor located on the northeast corner of the streets.)

This Prayer Band #1 had subcommittees, “set apart to do the work,” like the Self-Denial club and the sick committee. My mother, with a third grade education, was the secretary of the latter and in my opinion, did a fabulous job! It is amazing what her ledger book revealed: content of the ledger, significance of the committee’s work, names and addresses of committee members and their relationship to each other and the community, financial records, an indication of the educational level of membership, community economic and socialization, her sense of humility, notes which reminded me of my childhood experiences and finally the disbandment of Union Hall.

Upon opening the ledger book, attached to the inside cover were the table of content and a standard outline for the order of meetings with page numbers. The pages following gave the Mission of the committee as “to go and see after the sick, to pray for the sick and to do what you can.” Other pages included names and addresses of members, number of members present, visitors, number of prayers offered, and the amount of money collected and given to the sick. The minutes were always signed by Mamie Herron, secretary. Now, that’s organization, isn’t it!

Well, let’s go further in the examination of mama’s record book. The ledger gives a clear financial picture. Even though 58 names comprised the sick committee, generally five to ten persons would gather in a home of the sick for prayer, an offering was taken and given to the ill, and even physical labor was offered if needed. Depending on the number of home visitors, 35 cents to $1.25 was raised and given. On one occasion, $13.78 was “raised for the sick in distress.” In her annual report, $17.65 is noted as the total given to sick.

The dues for all committee members were 5 cents per meeting. Even though National Bank was the depository of the organization, seldom was there a balance of $100.00 remaining.

Often in the minutes, when making reference to herself, Mama Mamie’s humility is noted in the following lines. “The meeting opened by little me trying to sing, ‘Remember me, O Lord, remember me.’” In another place she wrote, “Just a little number of committee members met.” And finally, when $2.80 was given to the sick, she closed the minutes by recording, “God loves a cheerful giver but let it comes from the heart.”

Another distinctive and revealing section of the ledger, which gave a glimpse of Black community life in “Second Ward” and which brought vivid memories to mind, was the complete membership roll with names and addresses. Informality and socialization were noted as the males were called “brothers” while the ladies were called “sisters.” Because of my age at the time, I accompanied my mother to the Union Hall, thus I knew most persons on the membership roll.

Noting the addresses, members either lived on streets, courts or in allies. I knew families who lived in alleys, backyards, along creeks and waterways, like the “Blue Heaven” section and parts of the Brooklyn community. This gave a glimpse of how Black folks, with limited resources, were forced to live during the early days.

This blindly sight followed me to my high school days where I found enlightenment in a Family Relationship class, taught by a beloved teacher, Mrs. Bernidene Pinkney. I remembered our discussion on the make-up of the community regarding “alley,” saying that I would never live there as an “alley rat.” The teacher questioned my rationale, explaining that people live according to their means which is a matter of economics. My thinking was corrected. Now, today I love all people wherever they live.

Another episode is about the name and person of Addie Price, number 19, whose address was 719 Watkins Alley. “Miss Addie” was blind and dependent on others for assistance in movement. I was impressed with her general neatness and her ability to keep house even in “the alley.” One day, my mother sent a message to “Miss Addie” by me, asking if she wanted to attend prayer meeting that evening at Pearlena Moore’s home in Saxon Court? Addie Price shouted with joy, answering with a big “yes” and a promise to be ready. Upon entering Mrs. Moore’s home and before she was seated, Miss Price started singing, “So glad I’m here in Jesus’ name.”

Finally, from mother’s recording, I saw indications of the group’s education, social, economic and spiritual levels. They did well with what they had. In the book, I saw reference to a “camp meeting.” This reference brought joy to my heart. Again, at my young age, I remembered attending one, sleeping in a hut’s hay stack bed, eating mama’s homecooked food, attending service under a tent harbor and seeing people from “everywhere.”

Without written facts, it seemed that the work, function and results of the Union Prayer Band Hall were a threat to the role and function of local churches. Thus, the Prayer Band members were encouraged to work exclusively through their own local churches and consequently the UNION PRAYER BAND HALL #1 was disbanded. But, thank God for mama’s ledger book. It gave much genealogical information. It was good to see glimpses of Black life in 1936. Thank God for letting an 83-year-old man again see historical glimpses through the eyes of an 8-year-old lad. Yes! This is a peak into history. Thank you again Mama Mamie.

May I remind all readers of the beginning point. Much genealogical information can be found in your home. Have you looked? If not, start today and send me your results.