The Transylvania Times -

Ground Broken On New Mary C. Jenkins Center

 

Last updated 6/21/2021 at 5:37pm

Matt McGregor

City officials and Rosenwald community members celebrate the groundbreaking for the center.

A grateful congregation of community members gathered Saturday to celebrate the ground-breaking for the new Mary C. Jenkins Community Center in Brevard

"This has been a long time coming," said Maurice Jones, Brevard city councilman and Mary C. Jenkins Community Center (MCJCC) task force member. "So many people have been involved in the culmination of where we are at today."

Many have asked, Jones, why it's taken so long.

"We wanted to have a strong foundation in everything we did for this community center, so we had to take the right steps and follow the correct processes, and with that being said and done, we are here," Jones said. "We are ready to build."

The journey began 10 years ago, said Randy Lytle, MCJCC task force member, and it was Edith Darity, MCJCC task force member, who initiated the steps.

The MCJCC task force, along with the MCJCC Board of Directors, "worked tirelessly trying to think of ways we could make this happen," he said.

The (previous) building was ready to fall in on itself," Lytle said. "It was an eyesore for the community, yet it had tremendous memories for everybody who lived in the community. We felt that there was definitely a need, and we wanted it for our kids."

One challenge was to raise the money, and Lytle said it was hard to imagine how the Rosenwald community and city residents would be able to raise enough to build a new center.

"The best decision was to partner up with the city and come up with ideas of rebuilding it," Lytle said.

He thanked City Manager Jim Fatland.

"He's the money man. He worked it all out," Lytle said. "If you need money, he can find it. I don't know how he does it."

He jokingly added, "I don't think it's illegal. But he finds the money some way and he does it the right way, and he made it happen, so I'm very proud of Jim and what he's done for our community, and what he's done to make the center happen."

There was initial talk of rebuilding from the previously existing structure, Lytle said, but members found that it would have been too expensive, so it was ceremoniously burned in October 2018. The old community center, which opened in 1952, had been for many years the hub of the Rosenwald community.

"We had scores of people watching the ceremony as we burned the building down, so that we could make room for what is going to happen today on Monday," he said.

As previously reported, Brevard City Council approved the plans to build the new center in November 2017. In the city's 2018 budget, a 1.5 cent property tax increase was approved to help pay for the new center. In August 2019, council accepted the donation of Silversteen Memorial Playground, hired Summitt Engineering to prepare a grant application for stream restoration along Norton Creek and requested a proposal from Carolina Parks & Play for playground equipment.

The city's Parks, Trails and Recreation Committee and the task force began developing plans for the new playground, a basketball court, picnic shelter and stream restoration.

Also in August 2019, council accepted a donation of the parking lot across from the center and down the street from Bethel "A" Baptist Church.

The new center will include a large community room, two smaller reading rooms, an office, a stage, kitchen, and interior and exterior restrooms.

The exterior bathrooms will be a benefit for those who use the playground and the greenway trail that runs adjacent to the property.

In May, council approved the MCJCC project ordinance for a total project cost of $2.3 million that includes the community center and improvements to the adjacent parking lot and street realignment.

First Victory, Inc., was the low bidder, at $1.7 million, to do the construction.

Juneteenth Celebration

After the ground breaking, a Juneteenth Celebration was held at Silversteen Park. Juneteenth commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans discovered they were free after Confederate soldiers surrendered in April 1865.

Lewis Whiteside spoke on the history of Juneteenth.

Juneteenth had initially been recognized as a state holiday only, he said.

However, last Thursday President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law and now June 19 will be a federal holiday.

Juneteenth is the 11th federal holiday, and the first one since Martin Luther King Day was recognized as a federal holiday in 1983.

"So, today is a day for commemoration, but the sad part about it is that so many people will celebrate it and have no idea of the history of the story behind it," Whiteside said.

On Sept. 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that as of Jan. 1, 1863, all enslaved people in the states currently engaged in rebellion against the Union "shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free."

"But it was not completely implemented at that time in many of the southern states," Whiteside said. "Some slave owners delayed it for various reasons – some until the next crop season rolled around, so they could have that free labor. I fully understand that we did not have internet, cellphones and televisions for instant communication, but somehow or another, it took two and a half years for the state of Texas to receive word that the Civil War had ended, and the slaves were free."

On June 19, 1865, Juneteenth first came into existence, Whiteside said.

Opal Lee, who is now 94, is an activist who is recognized as "the grandmother of Juneteenth" because of her commitment to making Juneteenth a federal holiday. Her home was burned by white rioters on Juneteenth, 1939.

Matt McGregor

Lewis Whiteside discusses the history of the Juneteenth celebration at the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday.

"As I think about how far we have come, and realizing that systemic racism is still alive in this country, there is a lot further that we must go," Whiteside said, adding that, for the world to get better, "we must replace hate with love."

 
 

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