Civic Life

Lane Street Project: the end of Season 2.

Vick Cemetery, May 2022.

Thousands of graves lie here. … As do a parking lot and several utility poles. The City — or whomever they contract the work to — finally got around to cutting the grass at Vick Cemetery this past week, but the neglect otherwise continues. Wilson’s voters saw fit to return four incumbents to office. What will you demand of them in return? 

Lane Street Project’s Season 2 ends this Saturday. Please come help us mow the front section of Odd Fellows and clear cut limbs and debris a final time. We need you now as much as ever. As always, thanks for all you have done to restore dignity to our ancestors.

Dr. Yancey’s defeat.

A recent post revealed pharmacist D’Arcey C. Yancey‘s April 1947 declaration of candidacy for a seat on Wilson’s Board of Aldermen, today’s equivalent of City Council. I had not been aware of Yancey’s political career, and his campaign is not covered in Charles McKinney’s Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina.

The Daily Times made sure, of course, to highlight Yancey’s race, but otherwise made no comment about his extraordinary bid for elected office.

Wilson Daily Times, 4 April 1947.

The campaign season was only weeks long, and the Times wasted little ink covering it. May 6 saw a record turnout at the polls, and the Daily Times announced the results the next day. Yancey had been badly defeated, garnering only 75 votes to incumbent Ed W. Davis’ 348.

My thanks to Matthew Langston for following up on the initial post. 

Lane Street Project: a fervent request.

We have, at most, three more organized Season 2 cleanups at Odd Fellows Cemetery — April 23, May 14, and May 21. The heat and fecundity of summer, as well as the hazardous insect and reptile life, make working in the woods more difficult than we can comfortably invite volunteers to do. For these reasons, it is critical that we maximize our time and effort in the coming weeks.

Here’s Odd Fellows on a recent April morning. The Senior Force has been putting in extra work every week and, for the first time in decades, a fifty-foot swath inside the tree line has been cleared.

In February 2020, almost a year before Lane Street Project began, I discovered a pile of headstones well back in the woods, evidence of some misguided earlier cleanup. The pile was nestled just behind an immense thicket of privet and wisteria and could only be reached by circuitous approach. This past February, I expressed hope to Castonoble Hooks that we would be able to break through the thicket and open a direct path to the headstones.

The Senior Force did it.

Circled below, Bessie McGowan‘s headstone at the edge of the pile that includes my great-grandmother Rachel Barnes Taylor‘s. The Senior Force, anchored by brothers Cass and Will Hooks, Briggs Sherwood, and Glenn Wright, demolished a seemingly impenetrable hedge to expose the interior of Odd Fellows cemetery.

Here are Bessie McGowan’s marker and the Jurassic forest that has sprung to life behind it in the last month. Everything green you see is wisteria, an invasive vine that has largely choked off native plant species.

In January, I placed Rachel Taylor’s headstone upright against a stump.

Here it is yesterday. This is what we’re up against, folks, and we can’t do it without you.

Saturday’s going to be beautiful. Please lend a hand. Come for 30 minutes. Or three hours. Bring a hand pruner. A lopper. A rake. A lawnmower. Whatever you have. Or just yourself. If you can’t labor, come offer words of encouragement or bottles of water. Honor the ancestors. Build community. Save a sacred space.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2022.

Williamson School P.T.A., 1942.

This remarkable photograph was taken in 1942 at a Williamson High School Parent-Teacher Association meeting. Williamson had opened the year before as the third Black high school in Wilson County.

As identified by Oazie Mitchell and friends, seated on the front row: Isaac Renfrow, Arabella Greenfield Renfrow, Paul H. Jones, Calvin Jones (squatting), Gertrude Creech Jones, Joe Kent, Cleo Newsome, Otis Newsome, Pauline Kent, Cleveland Mitchell, Addie Lee Kent, Bud Atkinson, Ida Mae Finch, unidentified, Mattie Shelley, Leona Jones, and unidentified. Second row: Annie Mitchell, Carlester Mitchell, Addie Creech, Luther Creech, Irene Jones, Jim L. Jones, Lillie Powell, Luther Wilder, Doretha Finch, Doris Finch, Roy Shelley, Ada Carter Locus, Carl Locus, Ida Carter Brockington, and Annie Barham.

Photo shared by Tondra Talley, whose grandparents Paul and Gertrude Jones and many other relatives are depicted. Thank you! 

Lane Street Project: Season 2, number 2.

The original bulbs of these daffodils were planted in Odd Fellows Cemetery 70-125 years ago.

My visits to Wilson have not generally aligned well with LSP clean-ups, but this one did, and I was elated to join the last Black History Month effort at Odd Fellows. I am grateful to everyone who came out, including the cadre of Wilson Police Department officers that showed up early and stayed late to fell dead pines in the woods and clear winter’s dead weeds from the front; the pastors and members of Saint Timothy’s and Saint Mark’s Episcopal Churches; Our Wilson Mentoring; the Wilson Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (as always!); Wilson Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; Total Impact Church (who brought barbecue lunches!); WhirliDogs; Seeds of Hope; and — surprise! — a group of students from East Carolina University’s Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, who came to Wilson to work at Seeds of Hope’s community garden and were steered over to Odd Fellows to learn a little Wilson history and help us out! 

A cautionary word, though. Safety first. Please, PLEASE don’t lean on monuments. After 100+ years, many are unstable. Henry Tart‘s obelisk, the largest in Odd Fellows, was accidentally toppled Saturday. Fortunately, no one was standing behind it when it fell, as they would have been seriously injured. The obelisk was not damaged, but will have to remain where it is until we can secure professional help to stabilize the base and reset the shaft and pyramidion.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2022.

Honored. Humbled.

I received the Wilson Human Relations Commission’s Social Justice Award Thursday, and Lane Street Project was a runner-up for the Community Initiative Award. Both projects are fueled by my love for the community that made me, and I take these honors as signs that Black Wide-Awake and Lane Street Project are sparking overdue conversations and effectuating positive change. Thank you!

Lane Street Project: Hooks joins Cemetery Commission.

I’m elated to introduce the newest member of Wilson Cemetery Commission — Castonoble Hooks.

Elder, griot, autodidact, social conscience, justice warrior, indefatigable charter member of Lane Street Project, Hooks will be an outstanding asset to the Commission as it enters an era of equity as the custodian of Vick Cemetery, as well as Rest Haven and Maplewood Cemeteries.

Photos of Hooks with section of wisteria vine cleared from Odd Fellows Cemetery and the misnamed entrance to the Vick parking lot, with wild Odd Fellows behind last fall. Copyright Chris Facey, all rights reserved.