By Katie Yeager
Special to the Rappahannock News
The Scrabble School Preservation Foundation hosted a memorable event on Saturday to educate about the history of the Buffalo Soldiers, and honor their efforts through the Central Virginia and Charlottesville chapters of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club.
The Buffalo soldiers are a national nonprofit organization named after the once segregated ninth and tenth cavalry of the United States Military. Nationwide, the club holds 126 chapters, not including overseas chapters established in Europe and Korea.
Pete Blake, better known as White Buffalo by his peers in the club, recognized the bravery and accomplishments of the Buffalo Soldiers that once served in the military as segregated troops.
“[The Buffalo Soldiers] fought in many engagements that you hear about today. Not only did they fight, but they kept the Wells Fargo trains running, they helped with sickness when it broke out, and they were so much more of what made America so great at that time,” explained Blake.
“There are approximately 40-42 medal of honor winners who are Buffalo soldiers. Not only did they fight in battle but they fought the environment, racism, and every obstacle that they had leading up to today, where they are honored regiments.”
In addition to the club’s goal of promoting their history, safe riding, and fellowship, they focus on community service and provide scholarships, food drives, and raffles for the Central Virginia region.
Membership to the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club is inclusive to all race, gender, or religion. Even those who do not ride motorcycles have the opportunity to join in as an associate member of the organization, meaning that they are welcome to participate in everything except voting within the club.
The inclusive nature of the club was evident when Blake took the microphone and began to preach their ideals as a group. To go along with the theme of honoring civil rights history, Blake explained the clubs view that humanity should work together and see past many of society’s prejudices.
“The type of fellowship that you see between chapters of the Buffalo Soldiers is exactly what we expect out of us as people in society,” Blake expressed. “We do things together because we are all part of the same family. We are hard working Americans who work to give back to our community. We respect the law and we are a part of the same community as everybody here.”
Nan Butler Roberts, the President of Scrabble School’s preservation foundation (SSPF), organized and hosted the event, which honored and connected the history of both the Buffalo soldiers and the Scrabble School Preservation Foundation.
“[The school] holds African American archives from this county,” Roberts stated. “Part of what we do is try to educate about African American history, and these gentlemen that are here today represent the actual Buffalo Soldiers, Colored Troops of the Civil War [and onward]. So they are going to give a presentation about the Buffalo Soldiers, so that the organization can spread the history [of that group].”
Virginia Democratic Congressional candidate Leslie Cockburn visited the public event in order to speak as a guest on behalf of the Moton School, a civil rights landmark in Farmville. Connecting her own experiences with the history of the Scrabble School, Cockburn told the tale of young Barbara Johns, who organized a school wide strike in order to gain equal resources to the white public schools of the time. The Moton School was once so overcrowded and underfunded that it was forced to use outdoor shacks as classrooms, causing extremely poor conditions for its students.
The audience left the presentation understanding that it’s important not only to preserve local African American history, but also to become educated on the topic.
“My goal is always just to give back to people who have given you the opportunity to excel, become educated,” explained Blake. “Every generation needs to be better than the last. The one greatest thing I’ve learned is that I love my brothers . . . It has to do with the fact that we are all humans, we are all equal, and we all take care of one another. You can love anybody, you just have to give it a shot”