Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Local News

A national initiative, HOPE CREW, was launched at Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton on June 19 that will help preserve the fort’s historic structures.

In partnership with the National Park Service and the Fort Monroe Authority, HOPE Crew will deploy a team of national experts and young, local participants to rehabilitate Fort Monroe National Monument’s historic quarters this summer.   

Fort Monroe National Monument, known to many as “Freedom’s Fortress,” is the place where more than 500,000 African-Americans took the first step in ending their enslavement during the American Civil War.

HOPE Crew participants working on former living quarters built in 1834 will have an opportunity to discover the site’s history while acquiring advanced preservation skills that make them competitive in the job market. These skills include foundation stabilization; wall assessments; re-pointing; masonry; painting and refinishing; and carpentry.

“We cannot understand the Civil Wa – the most significant event in American history – without knowing what happened at Fort Monroe,” said Terry E. Brown, National Park Service superintendent of Fort Monroe National Monument.

Fort Monroe was the site in 1861 that provided freedom via a federal policy known as “contraband of war” for three enslaved Blacks who had escaped their owners. The Fort became the place where hundreds of escaped slaves sought and obtained freedom during the Civil War.

“In helping us preserve historic Building 50 this summer, HOPE Crew participants are also helping us commemorate the courage of Civil War-era freedom seekers and allowing future generations to understand the full American story.”

The success of HOPE Crew highlights a hands-on approach to saving places that – beyond addressing deferred maintenance at historic sites – is making a positive difference in the lives of future preservationists and the communities where they serve,” said Stephanie K. Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“We’re excited to continue broadening the preservation movement with our partners and to kick-off HOPE Crew’s 100th project at Fort Monroe National Monument, a National Treasure and site of one of our country’s most extraordinary chapters in the fight for freedom.”

Since the start of the program in 2014, HOPE Crew (named for “Hands-On Preservation Experience”) has completed 99 projects around the country, trained more than 600 young people and veterans in preservation trades and recruited over 2,000 volunteers to protect places that are significant to their communities.

The public event was launched on the date honoring the Juneteenth holiday that celebrates the ending of slavery in the United States. 

Additionally, the National Trust for Historic Preservation will collect and curate the multifaceted stories of descendants of Fort Monroe’s Civil War-era freedom seekers. Individuals with special connections to Fort Monroe, in the Hampton Roads area and across the country, are encouraged to share their family stories at: www.savingplaces.org/freedom-stories

For more info on HOPE Crew, please visit: www.savingplaces.org/hope-crew.

When  Glen Mason first  waded into the field of mainstream media in the early 1970s, the waters of Jim Crow racism were receding, but yet alive.

It was somewhat historic when Glen Mason became “head copy boy” and later an editorial assistant at the daily Ledger-Star newspaper in Norfolk.  William “Bill” Forbes was the first Black editorial assistant and preceded Mason before Forbes left to attend college full-time.

Mason worked his way into auditioning and securing a job as a sportswriter and columnist at the afternoon daily, a rare feat for an African-American  at the time.

Before wading into the waters of mainstream media,  Mason had inspiration from Black journalists who worked with pride and distinction at Black-owned newspapers and magazines such as the  Norfolk  Journal and Guide.

As a young athlete, he idolized the Guide’s  longtime sports editor and columnist,  Cal Jacox, a sports and journalistic icon, who for many years covered the exploits of amateur, collegiate and professional Black athletes, especially local ones, ignored by White reporters.

Jacox’s career in the early 1970s was winding down as Mason’s  and his contemporaries were given oxygen by the Civil Rights Movement.

“I went to talk to Mr. Jacox about his work and the business,” recalled Mason, during a recent interview with the GUIDE, for a series of articles on  long time Black print and broadcast journalists serving in Hampton Roads.

“He, Len Graves, Collie Nicholson, Marvin Leon Lake were GREAT role models,” said Mason.   “When I told him about the opportunity at the Ledger Star, he was happy. I told him before I told my parents. He wished me well. I felt I needed his okay. To me, that was supposed to have been HIS job.

“He was the journalistic pioneer who paved the way, but times were changing and the doors were slowly opening for Blacks in the field.

“To  me, our  meeting was like passing the, pardon the pun, baton from one generation to another.  I felt honored to have gotten his blessing.”

Mason’s blue collar family lived initially in Norfolk’s Titustown community before  moving to Chesterfield Heights.  He attended Norfolk Catholic High School and lettered in football, wrestling, Track and Field, swimming and had an avid interest in fencing and judo.

Books and literature were always present in the Mason household. Reading about and debating political and social issues was the norm around the dinner table. His parents demanded that he and his siblings, Martha, Annie, Reginald and Darlene watch “The Six O’Clock News With Walter Cronkite,” like it was homework.

“I got into the spiritual and poetic rhythm and improvisation of Langston Hughes as a teenager,” he said. “Black authors, especially those of the Harlem Renaissance, took me from the exploration of the imagination in comic books to the realization that I can write, and what are the other African and African-American stories that are not being told?

“I wanted to tell ‘our’ stories because there were so many that had not been told and, during that period of my life, there was only one Journal and Guide, Ebony and Jet to tell our stories. There was more to people of color than misery, crime and the battle for equality.”

◆ ◆ ◆

“My first big story came about by accident in August of ‘71,” he recalled.

“Julius Erving was a star player for the Virginia Squares, an American Basketball Association (ABA) professional basketball team in Norfolk.  But Erving jumped ship to the NBA (National Basketball Association), and all of the sports reporters were trying to find him for an interview.

“I was visiting a friend down at Morehouse in Atlanta and we were walking through the Peach Tree Mall,” Mason said.  “And who do I see walking with his sister – Julius Erving!  I talked to him and using the A.P. writing style the Pilot used, I wrote a piece and turned in my first scoop to Turner Dozier, the Ledger’s sports editor. After that, I learned from the best in the business, Bill Leffler, Dick Welch, Dave Lewis, Dozier and Cal.”

The Ledger Star and the Pilot, centered their interest,  up until the 1970s on the talents at the historically White  colleges and universities. The Journal and Guide focused mainly on  the Black colleges.

Mason, got his share of stories from both worlds.

“I recall they sent me to an Equestrian (horse riding) competition at the Norview High School’s old Chittum Field,” Mason said. “I suspect my editor did not think I would enjoy covering the assignment.

“But, as a little boy, my father took me and my brother to horse shows out in the Greenbrier area of Chesapeake long before they built the mall. So, I knew something about breeds of horses, the courses they ran and the jumps, and surprised the staff with one of my better stories.”

Mason said he kept producing and gaining experience, but felt he needed to bolster his skills to keep working, so he enrolled at NSU.

When he enrolled at NSU full-time in1979, the school was cultivating its Mass Communications  Department. Most of his fellow student scribes at the university’s newspaper and broadcasters at the radio station went on to distinguish themselves in the media and their fields.

Regina  Mobley, who laid her foundation at WRAP radio, is now an anchor woman at  WVEC Channel 13. Otis Jones, formerly the editor of the popular K-94 Rock Monitor, is an executive with IBM. Derrick Dingle emerged as the managing Editor of Black Enterprise and, DC’s Milestone Media comic books, Roy Campbell became a fashion editor and writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

McCall wrote “Makes You Wanna Holler” about urban life in  his hometown of Portsmouth and other books. Bunn, who worked for the Atlanta Constitution covering the NBA, is now an author.

◆ ◆ ◆

Around 1985, Mason ventured off into another realm of media. After spending a summer as an intern at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, he wrote, directed and produced an educational documentary, “Saving America’s Bay.” The film was Cox Communications’ first Cable ACE Award entry and, later, premiered at Waterman’s Hall with then Governor Chuck Robb as host. It was later selected for the first Howard Communications Conference film festival.

In 2003, Mason  wrote, directed and produced the Hampton Roads African-American Sports Hall of Fame Induction videos. Two years later  he did his second documentary, “The Feast of St. Joseph and His Many Children,” detailing the history and contributions  of the first Catholic high school in Norfolk that served African-Americans.

Other productions followed. He has  crafted  commercials, features, music videos productions for music artists of various generations  from Gary U.S. Bonds, who got his start in the ‘60s and became one of the major voices of Norfolk’s R&B sound.

Mason is still contributing articles to the New Journal and Guide and the Virginian-Pilot on subjects ranging from cooking (which is a favorite hobby of his) to fine art.
Currently, he is the editor  and featured writer for the Jazz Legacy Foundation magazine. He continues to mentor a number of young and aspiring journalists providing them experience to build their portfolios.

Glen and his wife, Inez, a retired principal and Early Childhood Education advocate, live in Norview in Norfolk.

“I’m retired but I stay busy,” he said. “I still have a passion for the arts. There are so many people with interesting stories to film and write about in coastal Virginia.”

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

On June 16, President Donald J. Trump traveled to southern Florida to announce what seems to be a partial roll back of the Obama-era policies to normalize  political and economic relations with Cuba.

Supporters of the reforms imposed by President Obama in 2014 say they are relieved Trump did not dismantle all of the reforms.

Departments of the Treasury and Commerce must now write and put into actions Trump’s policies.

Trump’s aim, he said, is to pressure Cuban President Raúl Castro and other communist leaders to allow Cuba’s private sector, especially the country’s tourism industry, to operate more freely.

Dr.  Geoffroy de Laforcade, a Professor of Latin American and Caribbean History at Norfolk State University, is among supporters of the Obama policies.

De Laforcade shared his views on Trump’s efforts with the GUIDE immediately after President Trump made his speech, with Senate and House Republicans at his side, before Cuban American exiles who supported his candidacy in 2016.

“The new policy maintains diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, keeps the embassies open, and does not reinstate Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism,” De Laforcade said. “It  does not re-impose the wet foot-dry foot policy that encouraged illegal emigration from Cuba,” he said.

“It does reverse bilateral agreements on anti-narcotics enforcement, cancer research and marine environment protection, curtail air travel or cruises, preserves the resumption of direct mail service, and seemingly leaves the possibilities of expanded cultural, athletic and educational exchanges intact.”

The NSU Professor who has made many trips to Cuba and led student group excursions there said, “Cuban-Americans can still send remittances to their families. In other words, Donald Trump has actually upheld most of the policy changes enacted by President Obama.”

De Laforcade said the new policy cracks down on U.S. travel to Cuba by forcing Americans to go in groups rather than as individuals.

Also, they will be under scrutiny from the Treasury Department (OFAC) another spending will be limited.

“While it purports to restrict their use of government-owned facilities and services,” he said, “it, in fact, makes it impossible for a U.S. visitor to not commit fraud, since even the new private sector in Cuba is dependent on the government in a myriad of ways (not the least of which are credit and wholesale distribution).”

De Laforcade said the  private businesses are also heavily taxed in Cuba, and foreign ownership of property is banned.

“In my opinion, the new policy penalizes American travelers and entrepreneurs much more than it affects Cubans who are benefiting from multilateral investment and from ongoing reforms,” the NSU Professor said.

Cuba’s military, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, has significant control over the country’s economy, especially the tourism sector. And with Trump’s new plan, the president and his administration hope to prevent additional U.S. money from reaching the Cuban military.

The new policy will ban any commercial dealings with the military and security services. Although  Americans can stay in private hotels, Trump’s new  policy prohibits them from using Cuban military-owned ones.

“The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces are not a traditional military,” De Laforcade said.  “The way the state is set up, the ‘property and investment management’ administration that implements joint ventures with foreign governments and corporate entities is the Army.

“A very small private sector – particularly in tourism services – is inevitably linked to hotels, restaurants and food distribution companies that are owned and managed by military (meaning state) controlled firms. The military is under civilian control (the Communist Party), so the political leadership oversees a ‘socialized’ economy, managing assets and capital, especially foreign currency reserves, which are rarefied due to the U.S. ban on international lending and restrictions on foreign trade) that can’t be in private or individual hands.”

DeLaforcade said, in effect, Trump’s policy banning spending by U.S. citizens in Cuban companies controlled by the military or government will force visitors to violate the U.S imposed sanctions.

De Laforcade  said many U.S. businesses (including President Trump’s) “have seen the opportunity for investment in Cuba as a positive development.”

Investments could be lost and thousands of jobs eliminated, he said,  if the Obama-era reforms are reversed.

He explained that investments from Russia, China, and the Middle East have grown rapidly.

“If the U.S. government chooses confrontation over engagement, it will be harder for the government of President Raul Castro and his successor after 2018 (when he will go into retirement) to further economic reforms,” said De Laforcade.

He continued, “So it really is not in the interest of a Republican administration to rock the boat, unless the goal is to strengthen cooperation with a small hard line faction of Cuban-American legislators led by (U.S. Rep. Ileana) Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and U.S. Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio.”

De Laforcade said  “the essential difference between  the policies of Obama  and  Trump is  that the former realized regime change could not be achieved through coercion, and the latter believes it can.

“I know for a fact that there is little stomach in Cuba for a surrender to the United States’ demands regarding political and constitutional issues.”

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

Let’s say you lost your job during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, lost your home to foreclosure, or wealth flew out of the window; experts say stop brooding, get busy, and make up for lost time.

A growing number of reports show people of color lost more household wealth than whites from 1983 to 2013. Specifically, the average wealth of white households increased by 84 percent during the past three decades, which is three times the increase for African-American families and 1.2 times the rate of growth for Latino families.

The problem is economic conditions streaked downhill for many people of color during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Housing prices fell 31.8 percent nationwide. Two years after the recession ended, unemployment was still above 9 percent. Banks had allowed people to take out loans for 100 percent or more of the value of their new homes.

The point is some are brooding because people of color will need about 228 years to catch up, according to multiple reports.

I had a 401(k). I had a small pension plan. I had some savings. Now I realize I should have had much more. My financial training is teaching me that there are so many other things that can positively affect your life such as savings, bonds, and annuities. I am becoming more aware, and more educated.”

And this is where the disproportionate number of foreclosures among people of color comes in. A 2015 ACLU report showed that people of color were disproportionately targeted for sub-prime mortgage loans. Overall, Americans lost $192.6 billion through foreclosure, according to a 2013 report by Alliance for a Just Society titled, Wasted Wealth. But the bulk of those foreclosures hit people of color.

“ZIP codes with majority people of color populations saw 17 foreclosures per thousand households with an average of $2,200 in lost wealth per household,” the Wasted Wealth report noted. “In sharp contrast, segregated white communities experienced only 10 foreclosures per thousand households and a wealth loss of $1,300 per household … More than 13 million homes are still underwater and at risk of foreclosure and more lost wealth.”

◆ ◆ ◆

But the Great Recession is over – right? Does this mean economic conditions are getting better for people of color?

The New Journal and Guide posed the question to Hampton Roads Realtor Deborah Hunt, who has sold real estate in the area since the 1980s. “When you say getting better it is relative – or compared to what,” Hunt asked.

“I say that because when the economic downturn happened many people lost their jobs,” Hunt said. “Some lost their homes. We’ve always had that disparity there, in other words. For example, when you say the percentage for white unemployment has dropped to 4 or 5 percent, that sounds excellent; but, what they’re not saying is that in the (minority) community, the unemployment level may still be where it was.”

This is the point scores of reports clearly show. Specifically, people of color lost more wealth during the economic downturn. “But when the smoke clears, and the rubber hits the road, are we doing any better?” Hunt asked.

The problem is too many people of color who signed up for sub-prime mortgages were first-time homebuyers. “Because they were first-time homebuyers they had no idea what they were getting into,” Hunt said. “It’s kind of like the first person in the family who goes to college does not know what to expect. So many people were buying a home for the first time. They did not know what to expect. The equity we should have had is no longer there. You have those who were preying on us.”

These days, Hunt said she tends to focus on young, first-time homebuyers because they “are more appreciative,” less discouraged, and more willing to attend first-time home buying classes.

“I help them get access to first-time homebuyer classes that teach them how to own and how to keep a home,” Hunt said. “These classes are offered through Virginia Housing Development Authority, a state sponsored program. The classes teach them know how to get help, and how to reach out if trouble comes. That is the important thing: How do you get and also keep your home? No one is free from the fact that they may find trouble in their way. Circumstances can change for anybody. So knowing what to do is going to be important to a future homeowner.”

To rebuild wealth, consider these tips from McCann, the vice president of Mass Mutual Commonwealth. The key to financial success is to simply stop looking back and look ahead, he said, zeroing on three strategies. First, analyze your cash flow. Second, know where your money is going. Third, reallocate money that is not helping you get ahead.

Finally, save money. “Whether you earn $5000 a year or $5 million, people typically don’t save because they don’t think they can,” McCann said.

If you lost wealth but want to regain it, hire a financial coach, McCann added. “Some people only have about $300 or so left at the end of the month. They decide it will not help them retire so they go out to dinner instead. I am saying identify a goal. The coach will help you get there. A coach reviews your numbers on a routine basis in order to help you reach your goal. My recommended advice is that you start saving.”

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor

In 2007, Chesapeake writer Brenda Anderson wrote a thoughtful, 117-page, self-help book about her grandmother who died in 2006 at age 93 of colon cancer.

After she wrapped up the book on her grandmother, many of the lessons that her grandmother taught her about fortitude and faith streamed through her mind because nurses were now wheeling her into surgery for brain surgery. In other words, Anderson has bounced back from three successful brain operations since she wrote her book about being her grandmother’s caretaker. And she believes her own resilience springs from  her grandmother’s steely resolve, which is described in her book, Touched by Mama.

“I have been retired for three years and have had three brain surgeries since then,” said Anderson, who retired from Chesapeake Public Schools.

“Doctors told me I’d had a tumor at the top of my brain for about nine years,” said Anderson, who had no idea the tumor was growing on her brain while she was nursing  her grandmother, who received her first colon cancer diagnosis in 1977 and died in 2006 at age 93 of colon cancer.

“I started having headaches,” Anderson said of her own initial diagnosis. “And they were unexplained. My mother died at age 52 of a massive stroke from an aneurysm. So, when I started having headaches, my family wanted me to go to a neurologist. That is how my tumor was detected. But the doctors told me it would take years to grow before they had to take it out.”

To survive, Anderson mirrored her grandmother’s example. She felt stronger every time she thought of how her grandmother had handled three successful colon-cancer operations. “No one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.”  John J. Powell wrote in his book, The Secret of Staying in Love.

This is the point. Anderson continues to bounce back by reflecting on her grandmother’s legacy. The Chesapeake writer underwent her first surgery for brain cancer in 2013, and underwent two separate surgeries in 2015. But Anderson said she would reflect on her grandmother’s Herculean effort, lean on her family, and bounce back each time.

“My family prayed for me before I went into the operating room,” Anderson said of her first brain cancer operation. “What normally took 12 hours took two-and-a-half-hours in surgery. Doctors told me (during my third operation) that the tumor came out in their hands before they could remove it. They said, it was literally as if God was doing the surgery. Oh yes, I stayed in ICU one day instead of three. I spent one day in the hospital instead of three. On the third day, I was headed home. I was able to talk.”

More important, Anderson’s doctors gave her a green light after her third operation. So, she is still writing books about her relatives. “My plan is to revise my first book and add my father in because I became a caregiver for him,” she said. “I plan to also write a book about my life from the time I met my husband until now.”

Flip through her book. Notice how Anderson’s steadfast focus on her grandmother’s stamina and faith rarely wavers. Of the strength and faith that her grandmother showed during three colon cancer operations, starting in 1977, Anderson wrote in her 2007 book on page 29, “Mama was a very active and independent woman. She walked fast. . .Mama was the type of person who never wanted to worry anyone, especially her children. . .Aunt Sister, James (who is the author’s husband) and I took her to the hospital in Chapel Hill where she was admitted and treated for colon cancer. This was Mama’s second fight with cancer.”

By the time her grandmother succumbed to colon cancer in the end, she had been admitted to a nursing home and hospice care.

“Mama still did not want to tell us how much pain she was enduring,” Anderson wrote in her book. “She would walk to the bathroom with feet so swollen that it looked as if they would burst open.”

The point is the Chesapeake writer has survived by remembering. Like her grandmother, she stays close to her family. She and her husband James have four children, ages 30 to 42. She talks to all three of her sons on the phone each day. Her daughter is very busy so she chats with her whenever she can.

Anderson, who is working on her second book, said all of her ancestors were strong. Describing the text message from her brother that said their grandmother has passed away, Anderson wrote on page 105. “Her eyes were closed, she was not breathing. There were no feelings of pain or sorrow, but feelings of happiness and relief. We were all at peace knowing that Mama had ended her days of suffering and pain.”

To order her book which costs $9.99, please email her at msgumberry@cox.net.

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor

Special to the Guide

Beginning July 7th, Resistance & Resilience: A Memoir Workshop of the Jim Crow Era, a cost-free creative writing class, will meet for eight Friday mornings in July and August from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Colored Community Library Museum in Portsmouth, providing an opportunity to celebrate through the written word the strength and grace that arose under that oppressive system.

Each meeting will begin with a writing prompt and in-class time to write, loosening up memories and creative energy. Then examples of short memoir pieces on various themes will be read: work, family, faith. Participants will craft their own short pieces of memoir during the week and bring copies to the workshop for helpful, supportive advice on improvement. At the end of the course, writers will have the opportunity to choose their strongest work for inclusion in a bound anthology that will be archived at the museum and made available to the public.

The workshop is sponsored by Seven Cities Writers Project, a non-profit I direct which brings creative writing workshops to underserved communities. For the past two years, I have guided writing classes for men and women in the Norfolk City Jail, which has certainly been an influence on the development of this new project. But more significant were two stories shared with me over a number of years that have continued to resonate.

In the first, a colleague of my husband recounted his mother’s response to the rule that kept Black families from purchasing food at the concession on the ferry to the Peninsula. This man’s mother would pack the most sumptuous picnic feasts that outshone any everyday hot dogs or ordinary popcorn the white families could buy. That image has stayed with me for almost a decade – such a thoughtful, inspired response to hurtful, vindictive regulation. How empowering it must have felt for these children, and such a meaningful life lesson.

The second story was told to me by one of my students in a writing class at the Portsmouth Arts & Cultural Center. This writer recounted riding another ferry, this one from Portsmouth to Norfolk, with her grandmother to go shopping downtown. She was six years old, and when she and her grandmother stopped off at the lunch counter as they always had, she could read the sign for the first time.

“Granny,” she asked, “does that mean the Black grannies can’t bring their little girls to lunch here?”

The answer was deeply upsetting. How had her grandmother let this happen? How can they still come here knowing about this terrible rule? So many years later she still tells this story with real pain in her voice.

These stories are anecdotes, tiny moments in a vast history of restriction and empowerment, division and compassion. They are each a square in a vast quilt of a complicated and often misunderstood history that deserves to be recorded for the next generations. There are echoes of Jim Crow all around us, and I see a marvelous opportunity in our response. Perhaps especially in the year we recognize the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the time is now.

How did you, your family, and your community cope with the daily pressures and challenges under Jim Crow? Join this group and share your stories of resistance and resilience. There are no prerequisites. You do not have to be a writer, or have any writing experience. I will provide the spark to get you started, and lots of help along the way.

The Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum is loaded at 904 Elm Avenue, Portsmouth 23704. To register, contact Emily Kilgore (757) 393-8591 kilgoree@portsmouthva.gov

By Lisa Hartz

Members of the Concerned Citizens of Booker T. Washington High School (CCBTWHS) plan on going before the Norfolk Public School Board to voice their concerns about the physical conditions of the facility and get an idea on the division’s future plans for the school.

CCBTWHS leaders, for the second time this year,  say they will be standing before the panel on June 21 to seek answers about a growing list of concerns from alumni, students and citizens about rumors that the division may be planning to close or repurpose the school, due to budgetary decisions, the eroding physical condition of the facility’s physical plant, and other issues which may be contributing to a declining student enrollment.

The  school is designated as the Academy  for the Arts, according to a recent restructuring of the curriculum of the division’s high schools. But Doreatha Winfield Joyner and other CCBTWHS members and parents say that due to  shortfalls, the division has not provided resources to carry out the goals of that plan.

Want to read more stories like this about your community? Support the New Journal and Guide.

“During an event at the beginning of the school year, we asked a teacher about the program,” said Joyner.

“But the teacher said there were no funds for  it. This is why you did not see any plays or activities related to the arts at the school.”

CCBTWHS has been sending out emails and other communications asking that alumni, students, and others concerned about the future of the school to “pack that school board meeting and express your concerns and show your support.”

“A lot of people fear the division is  not investing the money and resources in the school (with the intent) to set it up to fail to justify closing it down,” said Joyner, who is the CCBTWHS Treasurer. “This fear is just on the rumor grapevine now. But there is no  reason for that school with its history to be in such poor condition.”

CCBTWHS’s  core membership is about 40 school alumni and other mostly Black residents who formed to lobby for funding  to maintain BTW’s physical structure; funding for curriculum and support for faculty and staff; and to raise money for scholarships and supplies for students and teachers in the classroom.

But CCBTWHS leaders went before the  Norfolk School Board in February with similar concerns they say have not been addressed. The group’s leaders are inviting not only the core membership of the CCBTWHS, but all Norfolk and Hampton Roads residents who are concerned about the degrading state of the historical high school.

BTWHS is one of two  area schools that existed during Jim Crow segregation and both still are being used as high schools. The other is I.C. Norcom in Portsmouth. Most of the high schools which served Black students under segregation were converted to junior high schools or were torn down.

BTWHS recently regained its accreditation. But school officials have noted the enrollment of the school located in  the heart of the city’s Black community,  has decreased as  parents have opted to enroll their children in schools they perceive  as  better equipped and able to educate them.

CCBTWHS has complained that BTWHS students have to be bussed to other facilities to practice for sporting events, due to the poor condition of the turf of the athletic fields.

Recently a play open to the public was held at the school and attendees in the school’s auditorium complained of poor lighting,  weak sound system, dirty and poorly maintained walls and floors.

Joyner said she and other CCBTWHS members cleaned up the atrium of the school and have expressed concerns about the poor landscaping and exterior conditions.

Recently during an interview with the GUIDE, Norfolk Schools Superintendent, Dr. Melinda Boone said the mold issue has been addressed and cleared.
Also, the school has been fumigated to rid  the building of bed bugs. School officials  blamed the bed bug menace on students who may have brought them from their homes.

The GUIDE sent an email to the Superintendent’s Communications  Director and Board Chair Rodney Jordan, but received no response at  press time.
The  student population at the school is majority Black and serves students in nearby public and private housing communities. Their families range from low to middle income level.

BTWHS was first opened in 1922 and at the time, it was the only facility which served African-Americans in the city during the height of the Jim Crow segregation. In a September 4, 1963 edition of the GUIDE, students walked out of  the school and protested its ragged conditions,  The original building, which sat near the existing building, was  once called “the Factory” because  the facility resembled  some of the manufacturing outlets which sat near it in the Brambleton section of the city at  the time.

At one point during the latter part of the 60s, the  Black community fought to deter the division from building a replacement  on a site at the 5500 block of Tidewater Drive and changing its name to Washington High School. In 1974,  the school was rebuilt at the cost of $8 million.  After a brief period of desegregation in Norfolk, the school continued to be predominantly minority.

The June 21 School Board meeting starts at 7 p.m., according to leaders of the CCBTWHS, in the meeting chambers in the Norfolk Public Schools (NPS) Administration Building.

Congressman Bobby Scott issued the following statement to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Loving v. Virginia:

“In 1959, Mildred and Richard Loving were charged with violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage.  This injustice launched a courageous legal challenge that culminated in the Supreme Court ruling on this day, 50 years ago, that the United States would no longer allow race-based restrictions on the right to marry.  The Loving Court unanimously stated that marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ confirming that America is a place of equality and freedom.

“The Loving decision is as important today as it was in 1967.  Judge Leon M. Bazile, the state judge who originally sentenced the Lovings for violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, cited his sincerely held religious beliefs as justification for the Commonwealth’s ban on interracial marriages.  Today, we must remember that religious liberty is a fundamental American value and we are free to believe or not – but we should not use a sincerely held religious belief or the ‘conscience-based objections’ of one person to cause harm to others. 

As a nation, we must also remember that this was the same line of reasoning used to justify slavery, segregation, and other forms of discrimination.

“Unfortunately, on May 4th of this year, President Trump issued an executive order permitting individuals to use their ‘conscience-based objections’ to override civil rights protections.  This sets a dangerous precedent that individuals can use their ‘conscience-based objections’ to undermine civil rights laws within the United States.  To curb this dangerous precedent, I will join Congressman Joe Kennedy in reintroducing the Do No Harm Act, which provides that no one can seek religious exemption from laws guaranteeing fundamental civil and legal rights to others.

“The Loving decision – which restored the full dignity and rights of Americans of different races who wanted to marry – is a reminder that protecting civil rights is a compelling government interest.  Today, I ask my colleagues to join with me in remembering this historic case, and urge our nation to keep in mind the equality and freedom for which the Supreme Court’s decision stands.  We are a better, stronger and fairer nation thanks to their jurisprudence and to Mildred and Richard Loving for standing up to demand that their rights be recognized and protected.”

Ask Jamilla Burney-Divens how she moved from being the first female drum major in high school, to recently being promoted to the regional operations chief for the Virginia Department of Corrections- Eastern Region, and she will say she has a habit of finding her way to the front line.

Here are the facts. Burney-Divens was a student at George Washington Carver High School in Martinsville during the desegregation era in the 1970s.  She was a member of the band. But instead of choosing the clarinet or the flute, which most students of color chose, she enrolled in a summer camp for drum majors at Appalachian State College in Boone, N.C. Soon, she returned home to Martinsville, auditioned for the position of drum major, and served as the first female drum major for two years until she graduated in 1978.

The point is she found her way to the front of the line by marching to a different beat. Instead of settling down and picking up a clarinet or flute, like most of the students of color, Burney-Divens decided she would learn how to play the tuba.

“I learned how to play it in two weeks,” Burney-Divens said in a recent email. “From there, I just went from (one) instrument to another; then I asked to be the drum major, but there was no one who knew how to train me … I guess what I am saying in a nutshell is when I entered the band at the lowest level, I put my eyes on where I wanted to be and worked to get there.”

Burney-Divens added, “I always was aware of my leadership ability. I set my aspirations and focus at a higher level and began equipping myself through training to reach that goal.”
Burney-Divens also developed leadership skills at home. Although her mother Jessie M. Burney, a teacher, was battling breast cancer, and challenges loomed since her father, Charles E. Burney had relocated to take a job in Ohio, Burney-Divens nursed her mother and helped her mother raise her younger brother, Rahsul C. Burney, who is 53 now and lives in Greensboro.

“I am the elder sibling,” she said.  “My brother and I are very close. When we were young, my father worked in Ohio for 10 years and my mother was a school teacher. However, during that time, she became ill with breast cancer, and I assumed a lot or responsibility at a very young age.

See I was not going to allow anything to happen to my baby brother (who by the way is now 53 years old, 6 foot 5 muscular and thinks he is now my big brother. I think that is when my leadership skills began.”

The habit of marching to a different beat continued after she enrolled in Hampton University. But multiple mentors stepped in, including a former educator at Hampton, who offered support and gave her a supervisory position in the dormitories.

“As a student at Hampton, I met a lady by the name of Sharon B. Lowe who changed my life forever,” said Burney-Divens who earned her bachelor’s in urban extension/human ecology in 1982 at Hampton. She earned her master’s at Hampton in 1985.

“When I arrived at Hampton, I was just a country girl raised in Martinsville. She was the dean of women. Dean Lowe (as everyone so fondly responded to her) took me under her wing and immediately threw me into a leadership position.

“The college was running out of bed space and they decided to open for the first time, the Trustee House. However, they needed to place someone there to oversee it. I would be the one to be solely responsible for the residence that would be assigned to the Trustee House.

“She paid me $120 a month and I thought I was rich.  Through this one job she taught me ethics, report writing, and how to make tough decisions … A village prepared me for where I am today,” she explained. “I did not get here on my own. I had adopted mothers, an English teacher, a music teacher and friends who loaned me their shoulder for life.”

Burney-Divens’ sprouting leadership skills continued to blossom. She began her career in corrections by working as a rehabilitation counselor with the Greensville Correction Center in 1992.

“I entered the Department of Corrections as a rehabilitation counselor and my goal was to be the best counselor that I could be, but I always was aware of my leadership ability,” she explained. “I set my aspirations and focus at a higher level and began equipping myself through training to reach that goal.”

Three years later, in 1995, she was promoted to the position of operations officer at the Indian Creek Correctional Center. In 1998, she was promoted to assistant warden of housing and programs at Sussex II State Prison.

In 2002, she began working as a probation and parole officer in Danville. In 2003, she was promoted and became the regional manager for community corrections. In 2009, she was promoted and became the first female chief probation and parole officer of Martinsville. In 2012, she was promoted and became the regional administrator for community corrections, Western Region.

She is currently the regional operations chief for the Eastern Region which encompasses all of the probation and parole offices from Emporia, to Accomac on the Eastern Shore which includes but is not limited to Norfolk, Virginia Beach, the Peninsula and Warsaw, as well as all of the prisons and field units, she continued in her recent email.

Clearly, she has a habit of hitting the intended target because she has a habit of taking a leap of faith, thinking in visionary terms, and juggling multiple responsibilities.
“I guess what I am saying in a nutshell is when I entered the band at the lowest level, I put my eyes on where I wanted to be and worked to get there,” Burney-Divens said, describing how she moved from the back-to-the-front-of-the-line  in her high school band.

The same type of logic has paid off in her career. In her new post, she will manage “3132 employees and six direct reports … Included in those six are an operations and business managers, two regional administrators, one over Institutions and the other over community corrections i.e. probation and parole,” she said in her recent email.

“They both have regional managers. This encompasses nine institutions and 14 probation and parole offices.”

At home, she will continue to juggle many balls since she is the wife of a busy pastor,Rev. Thomas L. Divens. “I have to turn my hat as to not be misinterpreted as not caring; which could not be further from the truth,” she said of her multiple roles. “I prioritize by importance and due dates,” she explained.

“In my line of work, the workflow is enormous and emergencies are higher than in the average profession and it rarely, slows down; therefore, you must prioritize and do the best that you can do with the information that is in front of you, but most importantly: Make a decision, own it, good or bad, and move on. I believe leaders that do not make a decision cause chaos for those under them and when they fail to make a decision, it tends to make simple things worse.”

Burney-Divens continued, “I value everyone’s opinion. I am transparent and straightforward and make every effort to be consistent.  I am extremely energetic; sometimes to a fault, because I tend to overdo it.”

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe unveiled a State Historical Marker June 12 commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s striking down the state’s law banning interracial marriage.

The marker is next to  the Patrick Henry Building on  E. Broad Street, the former site of the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals which denied Richard Loving, who was White,  and Mildred Jeter, who was African-American, from marrying. The Loving case was later submitted to the U.S. Supreme  Court, which struck down the Virginia Court’s ruling and the law.

Mildred and Richard Loving lived in the Caroline County community of Central Point, where they were arrested in July of 1958 shortly after they married for  “violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity law which barred  interracial marriage” in the historical marker’s words.

They were convicted and sentenced to one year in jail, with the sentence suspended “on the condition that they leave Virginia,” the marker states. The couple moved to Washington, D.C., before returning to Virginia, after the high court’s ruling in 1967.

Recently the Lovings’ story was the subject of the 2016 feature film “Loving,” which was filmed at locations in Richmond, King and Queen County, and Central Point and Bowling Green in Caroline County.

Richard Loving died in 1975 in an automobile accident and Mildred Loving died in 2008.