• At the Theatre, an emotional 25th-annual celebration of Dr. King
• At Scrabble School Preservation Foundation, a new leader and a rich history
A dream is a feeling, an understanding and perception that the impossible is possible.
That, according to this year’s 2016 MLK “DreamKeeper” Award winner Col. (Ret.) Samuel Glasker, who received his honor at Sunday’s 25th-annual observance of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Theatre at Washington. His acceptance speech followed a hair-raising, tear-jerking rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by Marie Davis Roman.
“It is the faith and hope that gives you the strength to move forward. It allows us to look at yesterday, look backward, to look at sorrow,” Glasker said. “It allows us to look at today, and all the things that surround us, and the worry. But it also gives us the deep faith and conviction to look forward, to what tomorrow can be.”
Robert Glasker introduced his uncle by reading aloud an overwhelming life history that included extensive military duty and local community involvement. “As we remember, and as we reflect, and as we look upon our dream, we should all come to understand that the poorest man on Earth is not the one that doesn’t have a cent; it’s the one who doesn’t have a dream, and the faith and hope of tomorrow.”
The elder Glasker, a native of Woodville, attended Scrabble School as a boy, before he became a member of the first freshman class to attend Rapidan’s George Washington Carver Regional High School. After graduating from Virginia State College, Glasker began a long career as an Army officer.
Event organizer and newly appointed Scrabble School Preservation Foundation (SSPF) President Nan Roberts praised Glasker, a family friend and fellow county native she’s known her entire life.
Spirited gospel piano and verses from the Divine Life Men’s choir of Culpeper complemented the dimmed lights in the nearly-full Theatre, as members of the audience, an equal mix of black and white, sang and clapped in time to moving hymns like, “He saw the best in me, when everyone else around could only see the worst in me.”
As offering baskets circulated through the crowd, the choir sang “I want to praise his name,” and a total of about $1,500 in cash was collected before the song ended. That money will go toward a scholarship to help a Rappahannock County High School student pay for college tuition and other expenses, on behalf of the Julia E. Boddie Scholarship Committee. Boddie, born in 1914 to a family of 16 children, taught school in Virginia for a total of 37 years, mainly in Rappahannock County where she lived out her life since 1950.
After an extended standing ovation for Glasker, St. Peter Catholic Church of Washington Pastor, Father Horace “Tuck” Grinnell introduced the night’s guest speaker, veteran broadcaster and Richmond radio talk show host Jack Gravely.
The distinguished, well-dressed and intense Gravely, standing tall, gesticulating with emphasis, as he rhythmically spanned the wide spectrum of issues facing African Americans and Americans at large in our era, in 30 minutes (excerpts from speech, right hand column).
On Sunday, Gravely, one of 12 children raised by two parents whom neither finished middle school, also became the acting head of the Virginia chapter of the NAACP.
“For those of you in here, the best thing you can do in honor of Dr. King is love the community that he talked about. The best thing you can do is volunteer in the community . . . work, and educate, and be a mentor . . . go to school and mentor some of these young men on basketball teams and baseball teams, and tell them they can be something bigger than that. Tell them how important education is. Tell them how you made it. Point them to heroes, and my heroes are the men that made it possible,” Gravely said.
“He is the best you’re ever going to hear,” Roberts said Tuesday, of guest speaker Gravely. “That’s why I wanted to get him, because he knows the issues, he’s seen a lot of things. And through his radio show he gets a wide, diverse audience that calls into him on a daily basis. So he’s really on top of it. And he’s out there in the community. So I hope the people did glean a lot from him.”
TRANSITION AT SSPF
According to a press release from the SSPF announcing Roberts appointment, the board expressed gratitude to Bob Lander for the many years he devoted to restoring Scrabble School and developing an interactive and educational program dedicated to its history. Lander assumed the presidency of SSPF in 2003 following the death of its founder, former School Board member and Scrabble School alumnus Frank Warner. “Under his leadership, Scrabble became one of the first historic Rosenwald Schools in the country to be restored. SSPF has achieved national and regional recognition for the quality and breadth of its accomplishments.”
Roberts has been a SSPF board member the last two years.
“I knew Bob Lander,” she said. “I also knew Mr. Warner, who was a personal friend of my dad and myself. He was at the forefront of getting Scrabble School preserved. Unfortunately, Mr. Warner passed away before he saw it come to fruition. But he and Bob were very close, and he asked specifically that Bob would take on that project. And he’s done a great job over the years.”
Roberts said it is extremely fortunate that the Scrabble School is so well preserved. She noted that there were formerly five or six similar schools in the county, that the Flint Hill school burned down, and the Amissville and Washington schools are in private use.
“For the most part, it looks much like it did 50 or 60 years ago, while students were there. It has been restored beautifully,” Roberts said. “It’s sort of the phoenix rising out of the ashes. It didn’t go up in flames, but it was used as a dump, at one point. It was a dump for that area of Rappahannock. You came into the front, right into the drive, and the bins were out right in front of the school.”
County Administrator John McCarthy, who attended Sunday’s celebration, recounted the county’s purchase of the Scrabble School property just before he took his post in 1986. Until the late ’90s, the property was used as a dumping site for local residents, as the school building was evaluated for potential use, including the concept of renovating the school to become the county animal shelter.
He said it was Frank Warner who came up with the idea to save the school building.
“There was a lot of support built by Warner and Bob Lander, in finding other people who’d be interested in it, like the National Trust for Historic Preservation,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “But the biggest anchor to the funding was a grant from the state, from the Department of Housing and Community Development, for $200,000, to help fund the cost of renovation, which after all was said and done, was just under $400,000. So we rewired, replumbed and built an addition on the back to accommodate the kitchen. In exchange for which we agreed to maintain it, the historic character of the older part of the building, for the future.”
When asked if Roberts thinks life for young African Americans in Rappahannock is better today than it was when she was growing up, she replied:
“Well, it’s hard to say. In terms of people being able to access different places and go to different places, and being welcomed at a restaurant or a theatre, those types of things, certainly those kinds of things have changed. But I look around, and a lot of young people are not staying in Rappahannock County, mostly because they’re not able to find a job…I look at the number of African Americans and other children in the school system, and it’s very sparse.
“And that concerns me, because it appears that the population is almost dying out, you know. Look at the churches. The same thing is happening with the churches. There are churches in which — I’m talking about predominantly African American churches in the county — attendance is down.
“Not to recoin a phrase, but to use an old phrase, ‘We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go.’”
A MESSAGE TO LOCAL YOUTH
Guest speaker Jack Gravely directed much of his speech last Sunday at the Theatre at Washington toward young people. Excerpts:
I don’t care where you come from, I don’t care what color you are, I don’t care what street your momma and daddy grew up on — if you have an education, you can go places and do things. Get an education. If you’re in school, stay there. If you are out of school, get back into one . . .
You are the future. And you need to understand, young folk: Your competition is not coming from Culpeper. Your competition is not coming from Warrenton . . . from southeast DC . . . from Fredericksburg . . . from Saluda or Newport News, or Roanoke. Young folk in this room today, your competition is coming from Osaka, Japan. It’s coming from Paris, France . . . from Sao Paolo, Brazil . . . from Munich, Germany . . . from India and third-world countries across the world.
If you want to compete in the world you live in, you’ve got to be well read . . . You’ve got to be well-spoken. You’ve got to know how to use the king’s English. You have to know how to speak, because the world is made up of people who make an impression with the words and what they say. And if you’re well read and well spoken, you’ve got to be well-dressed. You’ve got to present an image . . . You all came to some type of conclusion when you saw me walk out here and sit on this stage, the way I was dressed, the way I carried myself . . .
Individuals can motivate and cause something to happen deep inside your spirit. My heroes were not Supermans . . . were not John Waynes . . . were not on the movie screens in Hollywood. My heros were my mother and father. My heroes were Martin King and Adam Clayton Powell . . . were Dr. Howard Thurman . . . were Mary McLeod Bethune . . . were Malcolm X . . . were men and women that made it possible for me to stand here. But more than that, my heroes were men and women that made it possible for me to walk on the sweet, green grass of the University of Virginia. Those were my heroes. They were my heroes because they were denied the right that was afforded me.
And I owe them something, which is the other part of what I want to say. I don’t care who you are or where you come from, you owe somebody. Somebody made it possible for you to be where you are today . . .