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Letter to the editor

Published February 26, 2020 in The Press & Banner

Submitted by

Calvin Wharton

It was the father of black history Mr. Carter G. Woodson who said, “I am ready to act, if I can find one brave soul to help me.” To Allen Chapel AME and all of our guests for the black history program and to those who grew up in this town where your only sin was the color of your skin, my personal question to you is this: can anything good come out of Greenwood County?

I would like to reflect on some things that I spied with my little eye for Black history month in 2020 right here, right now that came out of Greenwood, SC.

A sermon well lived is better than a sermon well preached. You’re preaching your sermon by the life that you live and by bringing souls to Jesus by the service that you give.

Just like Allen Chapel AME (the little black church that sits off road into the woods), if you ever visit Cokesbury College, you will find a brick monument with a metal plaque established in 1870 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church. This serves as a spiritual beacon of hope and intellectual pursuit for the advancement of colored people in honor of Payne Institute.

It was a small college for free slaves that grew so quickly that the school had to move to Columbia, SC and rename itself Allen University.

In November 1970, the Allen University Alumni Club of Greenwood County marked the spot from whence freedom road began, but you have go there and see it for yourself.

Because weeds and high grass have overtaken the marker, I strongly suggest you do what Ms. Harriet Tubman, the female negro Moses of the Underground Railroad, did:

“If you hear the dogs barking, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. When you see the dead bodies hanging in the trees, keep going, When the slave master is shouting your name; keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, you got to keep on going.” Go see for yourself that Allen College, now Allen University, came right out of Greenwood County, started by the AME Church.

Can anything good come out of Greenwood County?

Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, a man for all ages, a man who went from the outhouse all the way to the White House, from the cotton field to corporate boardrooms fighting the good fight of faith, advocating for people black like; and tho he be died, his blood and legacy still speaks to us from the grave.

All the men of Morehouse College have concurred that the main reason for the successful outreach of Dr. Mays’ influence on other people was largely due to the life he lived and the example he set daily at Morehouse and throughout the world. There was no money drama, women drama, and no drugs. What you saw was what you got and they don’t make men like that anymore.

He was a man of integrity who believed if you want to get the man off your back, just stand up straight and he’ll slide right off your back because tragedy of this life is not failure.

The house that Mays built came of age by the blood, sweat and tears of perhaps one of the greatest minds and thinkers of his time.

Dr. Mays believed that no man is before his time. However, what he does with the time God allows him, be he a free man or a slave, is up to him to use it. Life is a tiny little minute but all eternity can be found right in it.

For he who starts behind in the great race of life must forever remain behind or run faster than the man in front.

We today stand on the shoulders of our predecessors who have gone on before us. We, as their successors, must catch the torch of freedom and liberty, passed down by our ancestors. We cannot lose in this battle if we don’t give up. Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive, and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done.

Don’t take my word. Visit the Gleamns Human Resource Commission, home of the Dr. Benjamin E. Mays community museum. Go and see for yourself that the long miles of any journey begin with the first step made by a brave soul (a white man named) Mr. Loy Sartin who was the driving force to help bring and give honor to whom honor is due. A retired armed service man himself, Loy Sartin drove past the deteriorating childhood home of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays long before it was transformed into a museum. He’d read the historical marker beside the dilapidated, century-old cabin in Greenwood County’s rural Epworth community and was amazed. “I couldn’t believe a presidential adviser came from that,” he said. “From this humble cabin came one of South Carolina’s most accomplished native sons.”

Brother Loy knew that there is no place like home. He devoted time, talent and treasure to help build a statue of Dr. Mays with a Bible in one hand and his face looking towards hometown of Phoenix.

A home that had he not walked away from, he would never have emerged from the ashes with renewed life.

There would be no Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Julian Bond, Mayor Maynard Jackson, Dr. Samuel Dubois Cook, Dr. Otis W. Smith (who went on to complete medical school funded by a white woman and author of “Gone with the Wind,” Mrs. Margaret Mitchell).

Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays. A man who had no biological children of his own but gave birth to a nation of black men who went on to change the course of black history, all because he dared to be different and dream the impossible dream.

Can anything good come out of Greenwood County?

Food for thought during black history month.

After visiting the Mays museum, you’ll be fired up and ready to Go!

I want you to enroll your sons, nephews, and grandsons in Models Academy located on the campus of Piedmont Technical College here in Greenwood,SC under the leadership of Dr. Ray Brooks, president of Piedmont Technical College who has demonstrated his commitment to Models Academy by hosting their yearly banquet on the campus and personally attending to show out for many.

I believe the men who are involved with Models Academy truly believe in the philosophy and autobiography of Ms. Jane Pittman. “When a child was born, the black community of elders would look him in the face then ask the question, ‘Could he be the one to emerge as a leader who will help save our people in times like these?’”

All you have to do is talk with Mr. Steve Coleman, Courtney Smith and Christopher Thomas and see for yourselves that the instructors of Models Academy are truly decent men who are willing to volunteer their time, talents and treasure to open up the hearts and minds of our black boys, to instill in them the notion that you’re smart, handsome and you can be anything God created you to be because if it’s truly meant to be, it must first start with me.

Just maybe, my young black brother, if you pull your pants up and put your guns down and use the greatest weapon you have on your body that never runs out of ammunition aka that good book (the B-I-B-L-E).

It’s the only book that can turn a killer into a Christian, to lay down your burdens, down by the riverside, to study war no more.

Dr. Mays said,“It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream...You have the ability, now apply yourself.”

It isn’t more light we need. It isn’t more truth and it isn’t more scientific data.

We need more Christ, more spiritual courage, more spiritual insight to act on the light that we all have inside of us.

Can any good thing come out of Greenwood County?

I personally want to encourage you to visit the campus of Lander University and the Dr. Larry A. Jackson President Emeritus School Library because if you truly want to hide something from Black people, put it in a book. Dr. W. E. B. Dubois was the first black to earn a PhD from Harvard.

The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.

The Bible says in Acts 10 verse 34: “So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,’ 35 ‘but in every nation anyone who fears the Lord and does what is right is acceptable in the sight of the Lord.’” We find here in the pages of inspiration a Jews & Gentiles coming together as one to carry out the will of God because in the end, it’s not about race but God’s amazing grace, Gal. 3 verse 28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

At the Dr. Larry A. Jackson Library, you will find two of the deepest thinkers in the field of education: one Black man and one white man trying to educate all of God’s children in Greenwood, SC and all around the world. The Bible says in pro. 14 verse 34:

“Righteousness shall exalt a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”

Dr. Larry A. Jackson, a longtime champion of equality, counted Dr. Mays as a true friend and brother. Together they worked on civil rights issues, to help to bring their perspective institution of higher learning into the 21st century; changing Lander College to Lander University with the highest enrollment rate among African Americans in Greenwood County.

There is an old saying. “What goes around will eventually come around.” All the more so when you allow patience to have her perfect peace.

Dr. Jackson was a graduate of Wofford College at a time where Blacks in education were far and few in between.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Change takes a long time, but it does happen... Each of us who works for social change is part of the mosaic of all who work for justice and together we can achieve more because only love can blot out hate.

Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Larry Jackson and Dr. Benjamin Mays and Lander University current president Dr. Rich Castenio. These pioneers are forerunners to closing the gap on race relationships here and around the world by hiring females and minorities who are on the move.

To their credit, Lander University has their very first African American female Dean of the William Preston Turner School of Nursing.

Her name is Dr. Holisa Coleman Wharton and she too is a graduate of Wofford College, a school which at one time did not accept black students (especially females). Now she works as the Dean of Nursing for a university whose longest serving president was a Wofford graduate president Emeritus of Lander University (my Brothers and Sisters tell me God does not have a sense of humor! God is good all the time.)

Now, our oldest daughter Calin Wharton is about to be a graduate of Wofford College and our middle daughter Zaria Wharton is currently a freshman at Lander University.

The sky's the limit for our baby daughter Alisa Wharton whose mind and brain is out of this world. She’s in Beta club and an honor student at AHS and all my daughters get their smarts and good looks from their dear old dad.

Can anything good come out of Greenwood, SC?

Brother Wharton; can anything good come out of Greenwood, SC?

Scripture tells me for we brought nothing into this world and surely we will carry nothing out, except for a good name.

Pro 22 verse 1: “A good name is more desirable than great riches;”

There is an old saying, “May the works I have done speak for me!”

The fourth thing I spy with my little eye... My grandmother used to say, “Calvin, Jesus he may not come when you want him, but he’ll always be there right on time.”

I would like to commend Dr. Steve Glenn, Superintendent of the Greenwood County School District 50 (by way of Abbeville, SC), Mayor Brandon Smith of Greenwood, SC and the Greenwood County school board for their teamwork in unanimously approving and renaming Springfield Elementary School in honor of Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays during Black History Month this February of 2020.

We may win football state championship in Abbeville, but the true champions are the people who are willing to do the service of voting to make a name change like this a win-win for all citizens of Greenwood County.

Can anything good come out of Greenwood, SC?

The Bible says in; Eph 6 verse 5: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear and sincerity of heart, just as you would show to Christ.” 6 “And do this not only to please them while they are watching, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.” 7 “Serve with good will, as to the Lord and not to men” 8 “because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good he does, whether he is a slave or free man.”

So what is the reward? For my Brothers and Sisters who live in Greenwood and the

surrounding area, for all of your good deeds and good works, after we enter that door to the point of no return your good name and your legacy will live on from generation to generation because you can kill the man, but you can’t kill his dreams.

Allen Chapel AME, you have a lot to be proud of. So much came right here from among you.

Sister Annie Riley among them, an educator who taught in the Abbeville County public school system, working steadily to break the yoke of ignorance that was upon our young black sons and daughters.

Thanks to the efforts of sister Riley and many others, we now have four dynamic women who earned top leadership positions in the Abbeville County public school system (they were rewarded for being steadfast, unmovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord for as much as you know, your Labor is not in vain in the Lord).

Mrs. Lorrie Brownlee-Brenton, Mrs. Dornida Bell, Mrs. Tina Walls and Ms. Brenda Jackson, women who were hidden figures, are now making some huge figures in their chosen field of study.

I can still hear that voice from time past. My dear friend and brother June Riley saying. “Calvin, we didn’t send you down to SC State College because you were a fool,” he said. “We sent you down there to help get the fool out of you, because they can’t chain a fool.”

So what black history facts have you learned today?

A. The AME Church helped establish Payne Institute which gave birth to Allen University.

B. A young man who turned what was meant for evil, but God turned it into something good: now you have the Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays community museum and we have an old school with a new name.

C. Wisdom is the principal thing, but in all thy getting, get a good understanding. You had a white brother and black brother seeking to understand that it ain’t where come from, but where you are going.

Dr. Larry A. Jackson & Dr. Benjamin E. Mays went on to be about their Father’s business to make this world a better place than when they were born slaves or freeman bridging the gap on race relations.

D. Now you can attend Lander University or Morehouse College and it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white.

In closing: My Brothers and Sisters, we now have the model, so I ask you to please stand with me and get up on your feet as we click our heels together and repeat after me:

“There’s no place like home.”

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