“Oh, to be home again! Under the apple-boughs, down by the mill!” James Thomas Fields
Sitting outside at the Mill today was DE-vine. The sky was Carolina blue and the temperature heavenly. I love Books and Beans, a beautiful restoration of the old Canteen. With a dear friend, an egg and cheese sandwich on GF toast, and sweet tea, you feel that you could live forever. I would like this October weather to last until Spring, wouldn’t you? The once upon a time story of the Mill lingers in the air, the buildings that were on life support now hail and hearty once again. The energy and new purposes of the Mill seem to radiate from the brick, the windows gleaming with sunlight, and renewed energy that looks out upon a preservationist’s delight. Here is a premier example of revitalization that has brought revenue, people, more private investment to Rocky Mount. The immeasurable contribution of how to do things right is a lesson in a win-win attitude, where everyone benefits. Thankful for a few hours at the Mill on a beautiful day spent admiring the scene. Thank you for providing this sense of place that is vital to Rocky Mount’s story; instrumental to creating its future.
“The sound of water escaping from mill dams, etc., willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts, and brickwork, I love such things.” – John Constable
“Playing dress-up begins at age five and never truly ends.” —Kate Spade
Virginia Dunn Dasher, the original owner of Virginia’s Dress Shop could not have imagined that all these years later her daughter, Ginny Dasher Dunn, would still be holding down the corner selling beautiful clothes. The shop moved to 164 SW Main Street in 1982 where mother and daughter sent you off with the right coat, hat, sweater, dress for casual wear, or fit for a wedding. With a nod to the past, you will still find beautiful negligees and nightgowns for a trousseau and beyond, and half slips.
“Whoever said that money can’t buy happiness, simply didn’t know where to go shopping.” —Bo Derek
Life changes and moves on doesn’t it. Ginny is keeping a watchful eye on her dear husband who now needs some looking after. The fate of the shop is winding down. One of the steps is a storewide SALE that I have twice benefited from with several additions to my wardrobe that I love. Hurry in. Several things I debated over are now gone! Ginny has long been a place marker on Main Street. She belongs to the Downtown Merchants Group, a constant voice cheerleading for the revitalization of property and attracting businesses. A gem. She is one of the prisms of light on Main Street.
The Kress Building holds memories for native Rocky Mount folks. I was told about the fudge, Spanish nuts, and popcorn smells when entering. Today, there is metal signage covering up windows above the front door that would no longer be allowed and would be removed in restoration. Though my photographs are of a photograph, stand with me, and appreciate another Main Street jewel.
This post is written with eyes wider than when I began the series. I have loved all the comments, regardless of the position taken. I was rather proud of all of us, not a temper tantrums to behold. I had this brilliant idea. I will write about black lives that have risen to the top of their professions as proof that blaming racism severely limits the possibilities of life. Some comments basically said that these accomplishments prove nothing. “Well yes,” there are a brilliant few, but under no circumstance should they be separated from the racism and victimization that exist. We cannot and will not abandon the facts we’ve been told about systematic racism, which seems to me makes successful black people out to be aberrations. Don’t skip the fact that “so and so” spoke about BLM and would be scandalized to be included in this series. And really, Stepheny, you have no qualifications to write about something you can’t possibly understand. Though told that writing about racism is racist, I error on the side that says not talking about it opens the door to nonsense. If you believe you are 3/5 of a person because, at last week’s Council meeting, you were told that is so, you are better off listening to me write about how great these successful blacks are.
Dr. Shirley Jackson
A theoretical physicist, Jackson has proven a trailblazer in every aspect of her career. She has been the driving force behind the explosive growth in funds, faculty, and programming at RPI since 1999. Since that time, her Rensselaer Plan has received more than $1.25 billion in invested funds. Jackson secured a $360 million anonymous, unrestricted gift in 2001; essentially, she has overseen and raised more funds than anyone else in the school’s history. During her tenure, Jackson has hired more than 325 new tenure-track faculty and implemented award-winning student life programs. In all her spare time, Jackson finds time to serve on multiple boards, including the New York Stock Exchange, IBM, and FedEx.
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson of RPI is more than the nation’s highest-paid college president: she is the woman Time magazine calls “the ultimate role model for women in science.”
First African-American woman to receive a doctorate from MIT First African-American women to lead a top-ranked research university Co-Chair of President’s Intelligence Advisory Board for Barack Obama Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, appointed by Bill Clinton Recipient of 53 honorary doctorate degrees Highest-earning college president with a salary of more than $7 million Ranked among the 50 Greatest Living Geniuses
Walter M. Kimbrough, Dillard University
Walter Kimbrough is known as the “Hip Hop Prez” thanks to his Twitter handle, Dr. Walter Kimbrough is one of the few college presidents known for using social media to its greatest advantage.
Recognized for his research and writings on historically black colleges and universities, Dr. Kimbrough came to Dillard University in 2012 after serving for seven years as the president of Philander Smith College, when he was one of the youngest university presidents of our time.
Named one of the 25 college presidents to follow on Twitter (bachelorsdegree.com, 2010) Named by Diverse Issues in Higher Education as one of 25 to Watch (2009) Made the coveted Ebony Magazine Power 100 list of doers and influencers in the African-American community (2010)
Christopher B. Howard, Hampden-Sydney College
Christopher Howard is not only one of the youngest college presidents in the United States; he also happens to be a Rhodes Scholar, an Air Force veteran, and an All-American high school football player.
Dr. Howard presides over Hampden-Sydney College, a private men’s school in Virginia. Since coming to H-S, the school has seen record enrollment numbers—the highest in the history of the college. Along with his wife Barbara, Howard co-founded Impact Young Lives, a non-profit group that provides scholarships and travel opportunities to college students of color in South Africa.
Recipient of the Air Force Academy’s Campbell Award, the highest academic award in the country presented to a senior football player
Named by the Library of Virginia a 2010 African-American Trailblazer in Virginia History
First African-American president at Hampden-Sydney
Senior advisor on African Affairs at the Albright Stonebridge Group
Gwendolyn Boyd, Alabama State University
There’s no place like home for Montgomery, Alabama native Gwendolyn Boyd, who has returned to her undergraduate alma mater as president. Alabama State University must have been glad to have her home after her 30+ years spent as an engineer at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratories: How often does a board agree on anything unanimously, much less the position of college president?
Boyd, who is single, came back to ASU in January 2014 and signed a contract that contained an interesting clause, one that prohibited her from having overnight visitors (of a romantic nature).
First female president of Alabama State University
First African-American female to earn a master’s in mechanical engineering from Yale
Appointed by President Obama in 2014 to the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African-Americans
An ordained itinerant elder in the AME Church
This information came from an article by The Best Schools – Interesting College Presidents 3-23-20
Michael Bruce Curry (born March 13, 1953) is an American bishop who is the 27th and current presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church. Elected in 2015, he is the first African American to serve as presiding bishop in The Episcopal Church. He was previously bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina.
I met Michael Curry when he first became Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina. He worshipped regularly with us at St. Joseph’s in Durham, and then at Holy Family in Chapel Hill where we transferred. He preached at our Easter Vigil’s and once spent all of Holy Week with us. I have prayed beside him, even considered becoming a groupie to follow him from church to church. His humor, preaching, and magnetism made my three young granddaughters wide-eyed as they listen to him in the darkened church. It seemed the candle that aluminated his dark face and shining white teeth were all the light needed. At the Royal Wedding, the stiff-upper-lip royalty spent most of their time looking at their programs evidently embarrassed by the exuberance. There was nary a smile except for the wedding couple themselves. Here at home, we swayed with the black gospel choir, were filled with pride and love for this preacher-man, who spoke of love to the millions watching. He is an amazing, holy man, a towering presence in the lives of believers. Look no further than this engaging man to remind yourself, “You never cede control of your own ability to be successful to something called racism.” – Condoleezza Rice.
Condoleezza “Condi” Rice is an American diplomat, political scientist, civil servant, and professor who served as the 66th United States Secretary of State from 2005 to 2009 and as the 20th United States National Security Advisor from 2001 to 2005.
“The fact is, race is a constant factor in American life. Yet reacting to every incident, real or imagined, is crippling, tiring, and ultimately counterproductive. I grew up in a family that believed that you might not be able to control your circumstances, but you can control your reaction to them. There was no room for being a victim or depending on the white man to take care of you.”
The first book I bought and downloaded on a new Kindle was Rice’s Extraordinary, Ordinary People. I hope I live long enough to cast a vote for her Presidency. Her story, interests, and endless talents are inspirational. As a child, she was molded into a classical pianist, as well as a competitive figure skater. Professionally, she was taught to be a fearless leader and pursue her goals with limitless horizons. She followed in her father’s footsteps, a career in academia. In 1993, Stanford University appointed her as its provost; making Rice the youngest person ever and first African American to hold that prestigious position.
I write about these “Vital Few” and add Jesse Owens’s words that still apply if you expect to achieve and succeed “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, discipline, and effort.”It is not racism that holds us back but ignoring Jesse Owen’s timeless formula.
The music industry has been transformed by talented, remarkable black artists: singer-songwriters and performers. Their contributions to jazz, soul, rock, gospel, and R&B stand in contrast to the victimization cry that our usual City Councilmen and cohorts cry when questioned or criticized. These usual suspects make a living telling the black community they are victims and thwarted by racism. The reality across the spectrum of American life, however, bears witness to the endless achievements and contributions by blacks who have helped change the world. Nowhere is that more evident than in the field of music. It is a shameless thing, because of personal gain, the usual suspects never extoll the possibilities in the lives of all blacks and especially the youth. No wonder black youth are often left hanging out in gangs where they find some validity to their lives through belonging.
In talking to my grandsons and great-grandsons, I am likely to call them “Honey, boy………” This series is a message for all the black sons, and grandsons: “Honey, boy, it is all possible once you dissent from the victimization explanation of black fate.” – Shelby Steele
I can’t imagine my musical world without this shortlist of favorite black musicians and these particular songs. I know the selections date me, but then, I am dated. This music has followed me through the years, and I am grateful.
Soul music pioneer and fuser of R & B, Gospel and Country music, Ray Charles is a legend and was one of the world’s greatest artists. Blind, but beyond talented, the artist is famous for such singles as ‘Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand’ and ‘Kissa Me Baby’ as well as ‘Mess Around’. Known as ‘The Genius’ and ‘The Father of Soul’ Charles’ remarkable talent inspired many musicians and his creativity extended to the many instruments that he touched.
Legend was born John Roger Stephens on December 28, 1978, in Springfield, Ohio. A child prodigy, Legend’s grandmother taught him how to play the piano, and he grew up singing in the church choir. He went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he directed a co-ed a cappella group. After graduation, he switched gears and worked for Boston Consulting Group, but continued to perform in nightclubs in New York City.
Stevie Wonder, is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer. A prominent figure in popular music during the second half of the 20th century, Wonder is one of the most successful songwriters and musicians.
ELLA FITZGERALD AND LOUIS ARMSTRONG ~ “THEY CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME”
Multi-talented, all-round performer Louis Armstrong had a presence that is world-famous and was known for his influences to Jazz. He was associated with bands such as ‘His Hot Five’ and ‘His Hot Seven’ and ‘The All Stars’, and could popularize music in his style. In the 1930s he broke barriers and was featured in a Hollywood movie. Known for ‘What a Wonderful World’, a world-renowned single, Armstrong truly is one of the greats.
American singer and actress Whitney Houston was incredibly popular in the 1980s and was known for her big voice and unique style. She sang in her local church and was inspired by Gospel as a genre. Clive Davis transformed her career and she is known for such hits as ‘Saving All My Love For You’. She collaborated with Mariah Carey on the single ‘When You Believe’ and her significant contributions to modern music are undeniable.
How Do You Keep The Music Playing (from Duets II: The Great Performances)
Aretha Louise Franklin (March 25, 1942 – August 16, 2018) was an American singer, songwriter, actress, pianist, and civil rights, activist. Franklin began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where her father C. L. Franklin was a minister. At the age of 18, she embarked on a secular-music career as a recording artist for Columbia Records. By the end of the 1960s, Aretha had come to be known as the “Queen of Soul”. Known for her energy and ability to sing multiple genres, her impact on the music genre is unsurpassed.
Nat King Cole was an American musician who came to prominence as a jazz pianist. He owes most of his popular musical fame to his soft baritone voice, which he used to perform in big band and jazz genres. In 1956, Cole became the first African American performer to host a variety of television series, and for many white families, he was the first Black man welcomed into their living rooms each night. He has maintained worldwide popularity since his death in 1965.
Known as the ‘First Lady of Song’ or ‘Lady Ella’, a significant contributor to the Jazz genre, Ella Fitzgerald was a remarkable singer. She was discovered by and worked with Chick Webb and his band and rose to fame in the 1930s. Her uplifting tone can be recognized in such singles as ‘Dream A Little Dream of Me’ and ‘Every Time We Say Goodbye’.
Louis Allen Rawls was an American singer, songwriter, actor, voice actor, and record producer. Rawls released more than 60 albums, sold more than 40 million records, and had numerous charting singles, most notably his song “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine”. He worked as a film, television, and voice actor.
Usher Raymond IV is an American singer, songwriter, actor, businessman, and dancer. He was born in Dallas, Texas, but raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee until moving to Atlanta, Georgia. At the age of 12, his mother put him in local singing competitions before catching the attention of a music A&R from LaFace Records.
Dana Elaine Owens, better known by her stage name Queen Latifah, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, actress, and producer. Born in Newark, New Jersey, she signed with Tommy Boy Records in 1989 and released her debut album All Hail the Queen on November 28, 1989, featuring the hit single “Ladies First”. Her lead in the mivie, The Secret Life of Bees is not to be missed.
I am writing this series for those who dare to embrace the possibilities of their lives refusing to believe otherwise.
I read Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged, after college when I returned to my normal reading life. For years, I worried that I was neither smart nor important enough to disappear from the world as the entrepreneurs and industrialists in the novel leave to make a plan to thwart socialism. Canadian economist Reuven Brenner refers to these rare individuals as the “vital few.” These thoughts have led me to write this series about black achievement across the wide spectrum of American life. The series features but a few of the black men and women who have proven it is possible to live to the other side of the past and live among the “vital few.” The series is offered as an inspiration to all who aspire to live the possibilities of their lives.
When hearing the ongoing rhetoric of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and some of our City Council Members, and cohorts who preach the victimization of blacks, you never hear about the lives mentioned in this series. Such achievements do not support their narrative. Those who cry victimization have made a handsome living to the detriment of their communities. Drive through Wards 1-4 and see for yourself what years of this world view have wrought. This shameless position affects black youth who hear little about the possibilities of their lives. I have spent hours dragging photos and taking notes about black people who have taken responsibility for their lives against all odds and helped change the world. Their photos need to be pinned on bedroom walls as a sign of what is possible. (To think that 63 years after the publication of Atlas we are facing an election about the very thing Rand wrote: we must save Capitalism!)
I think we have come to a place in black America, sadly from my point of view, where we have once again begun to rely on our history of victimization as our primary source of power to wield within society. -Shelby Steele
Misty Danielle Copeland is an American ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre, one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States. On June 30, 2015, Copeland became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in ABT’s 75-year history. Since then, whenever Ms. Copeland has danced leading roles with Ballet Theater, her performances have become events, drawing large, diverse, enthusiastic crowds to cheer her on at the Metropolitan Opera House, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. When she starred in “Swan Lake” with Ballet Theater she becomes the first African-American to do so with the company at the Met.
Because She Did, I Can: A Conversation with My Young Black Ballerina
I wanted to open the dialogue about race in ballet and bring more people in. It’s just beautiful to see the interest that has exploded for such an incredible art form that I will forever be grateful to! Misty Copeland
If there is as much as $20k available for a mural, that money should NOT be given to an organization that can very well pay for their own projects. Not having this kind of money, it is easier to rely on”their guys” on the Council. The laughable bit is that if they were providing the money, I doubt the project would cost $1000.
Taxpayers do not approve of this latest scheme. Read the comments on Concerned Citizens who have far better suggestions for the use of this money. What about the house pictured above in Ward 1? There are plenty of houses in Wards 1,2,3,4 that sit boarded up and abandoned that continue to be neglected by their Councilmen. Even worse is the condition of the housing people are living in.
I will take our local Black Lives Matter Action Committee seriously when they think bigger for the community than a mural on the street. When they mentor young people who need someone to believe in the possibilities of their lives. I’ll believe the Committee when all this posturing and bluster translates to action and real help. If the September 13th City Council meeting approves as much as $20k for Mr. Blackwell’s son, rather than doing the right thing, it will be one more unforgivable decision for the “My Will Be Done” Agenda that has little to do with other black lives that do matter. Wouldn’t it be grand if for once right prevails.
One of my favorite renditions is Willie Nelson singing September Song – – Oh, it’s a long long while from May to December but the days grow short when you reach September….I’m sure you can’t believe, nor can I, that June, July, and August are behind us. A summer not without blessings, but over-all, a horrendous time.
At the beginning of most summers, I make a mental list of what I want to do again as in my childhood summers. To walk barefoot in the dew-wet grass, eat homemade peach ice-cream, lug books home from the library, run under the sprinkler, catch fireflies in a Mason jar, swing on the porch, have a picnic, see the fireworks at Northwestern’s Dyke Stadium, and ride my bike. The list goes on. I did eat watermelon, walked barefoot in the grass, and read books to my heart’s content. The rest of my list didn’t materialize. I traded it all away with the time spent watching the horror of mobs running loose, looting and burning, our historical monuments being pulled to the ground, jumping up and down over the Rocky Mount shenanigans of old. A terrible trade-off!
I’m not naive enough to think that because we have crossed the threshold of September that our troubles are over. Particularly, as we battle down the field to the elections. It isn’t a bad idea to pick one of your sacred places, like the beach, or a hidden spot in the garden, perhaps your favorite chair, and shelter there, if only in your imagination to put yourself right again when the world’s woes are over-bearing.
This brick wall is going to be my sheltering place, which I only discovered when a friend invited me over specifically to place my hand on her back garden wall. This wall is made of Silus Lucas brick. (Below). Mr. Lucas had a major brickyard here and sold brick in other states from the Civil War era to the early 1900s. This wall was laid around 1955 when the homes on Marvelle Avenue were being built in the West Haven area.
A brick can be used to build a courthouse of reason, or it can be thrown through the window. – Gilles Deleuze
Going back for photographs, I found the owners had pulled away some of the ivy. This fall I will think of this brick wall and remember how strong it is, how it has endured all manner of elements, its age has not mattered, it continues true to itself, a thing of beauty and stability. The same attributes I associate with America, the shining light on the hill that must prevail.
PS: The lovely home on Marvelle is for sale.
PPS: These are precious days I spend with you. SFH
I saw Stith – Talbert Park for the first time on the 3rd day of September. It would have been a perfect time for people to head to the park for a ballgame. The heat was still intense but one could hope that the shadows of the early evening might bring relief. On the lush green carpet of the ball field, young men at practice were throwing a ball around the bases and then the unforgettable sound of balls hit into the outfield. I have Tarrick Pittman and Sam Battle to thank for bringing me to the Park. They were once ballplayers themselves. I listened to them reminisce about their youthful summers when they walked to the field with their bat and glove in hand. Those were the days when local businesses sponsored teams, and organizations like The Optimist Club were involved. Families watched their youth play ball and enjoyed a snowcone.
I was teary as I took some photos, remembering all the games at Wrigley Field with my parents watching the Cubs play and Harry Cary leading, Take Me Out To The Ballgame. People on the train heading North after work looking for the winning flag or not, flying from the flagpole as the train passed by. I thought of several boys I dated and watched play during the high school Spring seasons and then in the summer leagues. Perhaps Tarrick, Sam, and I were sharing a moment of grief for the loss of those summers that are easily revisited in a setting like this beautiful, manicured space.
It was explained to me that the field is used for practice but games are played at The Stadium. That has to change. Play a ballgame and people will come to Seith-Talbert Park once more. We sat looking out on this setting trying to problem solve….how to recapture the days of leagues and sponsors. Terrick and Sam remain friends, with those they played baseball with. There is the importance of discipline in playing a sport, learning to be accountable to a team, to show up, and play hard. We must give this generation of kids the great opportunity to smell fresh-cut grass, to hear the magical sound of chatter, and watch a pitcher wind up. Think what a gift this would be to those who will look back one day and remember the pride they felt in playing The American Game. This Park is a jewel in Ward 1 and by next summer, there is the hope to have some teams and sponsors put together. Get involved with this planning. Call Tarrick and have at it. Imagine the call from the home plate umpire, LET’S PLAY BALL!
“Walt Whitman once said, ‘I see great things in baseball. It’s our game. The American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.’ You could look it up.” (From The Movie-Bull Durham)
FYI: The expression, Boys of Summer, comes from a 1972 baseball book by Roger Kahn called Boys of Summer. The book is about The Brooklyn Dodgers, who broke the hearts of their fans when they moved to Los Angeles. That book got its title from a Dylan Thomas poem, publised in 1939, called, I See the Boys of Summer.
“The house gulped in a big breath of fresh air, like some frantic drowning thing breaking the water’s surface and gasping for life. It had sat unopened for so long, suffocating in the silence, it’s memories blanketed by a thick layer of dust.” ― Rachel Autumn Deering
When we think of our Shotgun houses scattered through Wards 1-4, we think of the ones that look like those pictured above. I invite you to enter my movie theater. Here are your 3-D glasses that will allow you to see the possibilities the Shotgun Houses provide. Word of caution: mention the word gentrification and you’ll find yourself out on the front sidewalk with the theater doors closing behind you. Crying gentrification is a sorry excuse to do nothing. Avoiding action is no longer acceptable. Sit back, enjoy your popcorn, and dream a little dream with me.
Blue Shotgun in Louisville: ALL Photos from Bob Villa-This Old House website
The sea-green exterior of this 1900s-era shotgun home is in New Orleans’ Bywater North neighborhood. Thanks to loving renovations, you can see the original refinished hardwood floors preserving its historical appeal.
As one of the original shotgun homes built in the Atlanta neighborhood of Reynoldstown, this petite periwinkle-colored home has retained authentic accents from the 1880s, while keeping up with the time with the addition of modern amenities. A vaulted ceiling and floor-to-ceiling fireplace coexist with stainless steel kitchen fixtures and ultra-fast Wi-Fi to offer the elegance of the old world with the convenience of the new.
This taupe shotgun home in New Orleans has vestiges of the Victorian era, from the transom above the front door to the ornamental violet awning. The historical details can be found throughout the interior as well; pine floors, and ultra-wide double doors.
Our Shotgun Housing doesn’t have to look like the photo above. If those living in neighborhoods full of these boarded up, deteriorating Shotguns, would get together and rethink their importance, it is a great starting point. Restoration will help eliminate crime, no longer having places to deal with drugs. it will help solve our housing problems. They are perfect for singles, young professionals, seniors, workforce housing, and for young families. Home Ownership can bring back pride in the faltering neighborhoods, make them safer places, where people look out for one another once again. EVERYBODY…put on your 3-D glasses and take a new look at these little jewels.
The shotgun house is the signature house style of New Orleans. This home measures 400 square feet. The single bedroom can fit two beds, and a dining area is squeezed alongside the kitchen. Don’t tell me there is something wrong with the gentrification of this Shotgun House. Paint and restoration is not a bad thing, the inference that gentrification is. Research shows that people welcome a revitilized neighborhood to continue living in. Let’s find a way to remove the layer of dust and let our Shotgun houses breathe again.