Historic African American Social Organizations Elks & the Legion


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Another long one but another piece of our Glorious History. This part is about the Brotherly Love Lodge #228 and its move to West Maple Street from West Princess Street……..

After being located for 42 years at 109 West Princess Street, the Brothers of the Brotherly Love Lodge #228 Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the World came together to purchase a plot of land at 335 West Maple Street on which to construct a New Lodge. The Brothers were actually forced to move from their West Princess enclave due to the properties on West Princess Street, which was a mostly Black neighborhood, being designated as an Urban Renewal area. This was a common practice in those days to undermine and destabilize Black Neighborhoods. As in other so-called Urban Renewal areas the space eventually became a parking lot.

The Brothers retained attorney John R. Gailey to guide them through what would become a difficult and contentious process. The deed to the property, which was formerly owned by Mr. & Mrs. George A. Jacobs, had a racial restriction which stated that the property could not be sold to anyone who had even a drop of Negro blood in them. This was a common practice in many areas of the North at the time and contributed to the concentration of Negroes in specific areas of the community. To get around this Attorney Gailey had his secretary, a white woman, buy the property and then had the Elk Brothers purchase it from her. It worked like a charm. But the battle had only just begun.

The neighbors were very wary of a Black Club moving into what at that time was a mostly white neighborhood, so they protested in any manner they could. Despite neighbor attempts to block it the Brothers obtained a building permit for $35,000.00 and retained Architect Robert G. McAlarney to design a one story brick structure for the location. The neighbors did not give up there. They rally their supporters to oppose the transfer of the Lodges liquor license from their Princess Street location to the New West Maple Street location. More than three busloads of York homeowners and neighbors jammed a Liquor Control Board hearing room on Friday December 2, 1960 in an effort to block the transfer of a retail liquor license to the new Elks building under construction. Over 110 protestors and ninety-one signatories went on record opposing the club request.

Attorney Gailey first called The Lodges Grand Exalted Ruler, Raymond A. Rhoades, to the stand. Rhoades testified that more than 60 spaces for parking would be provided for their patrons. Rhoades rebutted testimony by protestor Joseph Borsellino, that the Elks had a “bad” reputation from West Princess Street. Asked by Gailey whether the fact that the club was a Negro club have any bearing on his objections, Borsellino said no. Rhoades said the Elks club had never called the police for a disturbance. “We operated our club the way it ought to be operated”, said Rhoades. Gailey bought out in Rhoades testimony that the area where the club was located was “the social and recreational center of the Negro community”.
Joe Bendel, executive director of the York Redevelopment Authority, testified that the Elks members were good citizens and that the old club had to be demolished for redevelopment. He stated that the new site would be adequate for the club’s purpose. Other protesters complained of lack of parking and other nuisance objections but eventually on February 18, 1961 the application was granted. The approval raised a storm of protest from the neighbors. But Liquor Control Board Secretary Frank J. Shea who presented the decision said, “Conjecture, fear and supposition cannot be permitted to sway board thinking where sound discretion must be exercised”. He added that the Elks had held a license for more than ten years and had never been cited for a violation. “It would be manifestly unjust to presuppose that a change in location would bring about a corresponding change in conduct. Fairness can dictate that only past good conduct will continue”.

There is so much more to the Elks story. The rise and fall of this Historic organization is a bittersweet part of our Glorious History and this, like other Historical events from our past is a story I will expand upon as I complete my book. Stay tuned.

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Vintage photo of the Charles E Williams Legion Post #794 officers including my Grandfather. Back row from the right; my Grandfather Walter Kirkland, my Uncle Calvin Kirkland, Rev. John Brown, John Murdaugh and 6th from right Raymond Rhoades . Front row second from left Gordon Williams, brother of Charles E Williams who the post was named after and third from left Jerome Dowling. Don’t know the names of the others.maybe some one else does. Photo donated by Vert & Mary Wright. Got some new names standing second from left is Ting Grimes, brother of Voni Grimes and fourth from left is Bob Chapman. Sitting on the left is Walter Woodyard. Thanks Gayle Hunter & Janice Smith for your input.

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Love the classics. Here we have another 1940 something photo donated by Vert & Mary Wright, restored by JKirkStudios. This one shows sitting left to right; Rev. John Brown, my StepFather George Jernigan, Leon Jenkins, Billy Chapman, and Jesse Preston. Standing left to right; Gordy Williams, Unknown, Wick Nelson, Bob Chapman, Jerome Dowling and Walter Woodyard.

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Last of the Elks Photos donated by Vert & Mary Wright…….restored by JKirk…….front row sitting left to right; unknown, George Jernigan, Gordy Williams, Bill Chapman. and Jake Rhoades. Standing left to right; unknown, Walter Woodyard, Leon Jenkins, Bob Chapman, Ting Grimes, and John Murdaugh………Good Men…….

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In a ceremony at the Elks Lodge 335 West Maple Street, Newly elected Ruler of the Queen Esther Temple #105, Mrs. Delores Rhoades, fourth from left, accepts the gavel from out-going head Julia Leffler while other old and new officers of Queen Esther Temple and the Brotherly Love Lodge #228 look on. the others are; l – r; Charles Hunter, Jesse Orr, Henry “Hab” Kirkland, Raymond Rhoades, Betty Hopkins, Adele Williams and Emory Dorm

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1957 installation of new officers of the women’s auxiliary of the Charles E. Williams Post #794 American Legion are l – r; Mrs. Barbara Kent first vice-president, Mrs. Victoria Smith secretary, Mrs. Helen Peaco treasurer, my mother, Miss Gladys Kirkland president, Mrs. Sadell Nimmons outgoing president, Mrs. Luther Leibowitz, state legislative chairwoman of the Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary, Mrs. Jesse Chatman second vice-president, and Gladys Mitchell chaplain….

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Brotherly Love Lodge #228 and Queen Esther Temple #105 fashion show committee; sitting Mrs. Betty Hopkins and Mrs. Lois Nelson. standing; Mrs. Lyda Montouth, Carol “Dolly” Day, Julia Bridgette, Voni Grimes, Ruby Coleman and Juanita Evans

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Grandview Incident shows Segregation Continues to be Active in York


What Do these 4 Clubs Have in Common?

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The recent Grandview Golf Course incident, where a group of Black Women golfers were harassed by the owners, who then called the police to have them ejected, brings to light the deep vestiges of segregation and racism which have plagued this city since the days of William Goodridge. The images of segregated restaurants, swimming pools, social clubs and schools flood to the surface whenever another of these racist incidents occur.

The recent Grandview incident elicited a storm of protest, condemnation and outcries both locally and across this country. There are calls for investigation and unprecedented public statements by the local ‘Movers & Shakers’, many of who signed letters to stifle such outcries decades ago.

As a lifelong Yorker (69 years here) I have seen this cycle of feigned outrage and concern happen over and over again. Whenever emotions and feelings run high around any of these event, commitment to change is often expressed by those who hold the reigns of power. But as soon as the emotional level subsides that expressed commitment to change disappears. Why is that I ask myself.

As I compile information for my book on a personal perspective of York’s Black History, I come across historical accounts of organizations where the vestiges of power and control congregated to reinforce the restrictive social structure which exists here. Clubs like the Manor club, the infamous Lafayette Club and the Country Club of York to name just a few. Those old bastions of segregation have either gone out of business or have modified their rules to some extent. But lo and behold there still exists a system of exclusion amongst many social clubs here in York which reinforces and sustains the power construct.Image may contain: house, sky and outdoor

Clubs like the ones shown here and several others have existed in this community somewhat under the radar for many decades, some even before I was born. The South End Democratic Club on West College Avenue was established in 1935; the 9th Ward Political Club on South Penn Street; the 13th Ward Political Club out behind Met Ed, and the Rooster Club on Parkway Boulevard, all represent old values of separation and exclusion. And they exist right smack dab in the middle of a community of citizens who they exclude. Local resident are barred from even parking on their lots when the clubs are not open.

Image may contain: outdoorOn a personal note, back when I worked at Consolidated Freight Company, a local trucking firm, many of my co-workers patronized the Rooster club and the 13th Ward club. One of the guys who I had developed a rapport with use to bring food in from the club. He often talked about how reasonably priced it was. I asked him one day, why don’t you take me to the club to get a little something to eat. He responded somewhat facetiously, “Kirk, man are you trying to get me kicked out of the club. They don’t even have dark meat chicken on the menu”. We both laughed, but we both new he was serious. Social constructs are strong in this community.

Now I’m not saying they don’t have the right to be restrictive and exclusive in who they allow in their clubs, but I just wonder what type of public/government resources these establishments have access to. And even more so who or how many of our public officials and public workers patronize these clubs. Do they have tax exempt status, etc.Image may contain: text and outdoor

In a recent analysis of York County Government employees and their compensation, I found that of the top 140 or so highest earning employees, 96 of them are employed by the prison system or the court system. Now I’m wondering how many, if any, of these employees are patrons of segregated establishments. If they are, do they allow the segregated sentiments expressed by the values espoused by these club to distort their attitudes when working with the large number of minorities subjected to the controls of the prison and court systems. I’m just asking. What are your thoughts.

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Community Icons- Mr. & Mrs. William & Dorothy Sexton


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To me the movie The Black Panther was a game changing, seminal event. By this I mean the movie gave Black folk and others a glimpse of what a world could look like when Spiritual righteousness and not Capitalistic consumerism is the driving force in our society. It showed that even though it was based on a Mythical version of History, those of us who are aware of our True history know that African civilization was Far more advanced than any other Greek, Roman or Western civilizations that came afterward. Not boasting or putting others down, just stating Facts. We may not have had flying automobiles and other things but in the area of Science, Technology, Education, Medicine and other areas important to community growth, African culture was far more advanced. And its very simple what happened. We as Blacks have been cut off from our True Spiritual connectedness to each other and to God. I say this to say that the event I went to last night was reminiscence of the Spiritual energy that drove millions of us to go see the Movie in unprecedented numbers.

We as people are here on this earth for a fleeting moment but the spiritual energy we bring to our community is felt forever. Our Energy moves like a shooting Star through our community. And sometimes we don’t even realize the Impact we are making on individuals and our collective group. Oftentimes the True Heroes of our community are not recognized by the powers to be for the impact they have on our community. Mr. William Sexton and his Lovely Wife Dorothy who were honored for their 60th Wedding Anniversary, are two of those people. They have built a Legacy that not only inspires and motivates their own Family to aspire to Greatness, but they also serve as community Icons who spread love and uplift to All.

They are both Spiritual people, longtime Pillars of their church community. Mr. Sexton epitomizes the meaning of Fatherhood on this Fathers Day. He has worked TWO jobs for over twenty years to provide for and nurture his Family. Judging by the comments last evening his wife and Family Matriarch Dorothy spreads the Love, Discipline and High Expectations strong Black Women have been known for. Together they have presented an example and a vision of their own Personal Wakanda for the world to see and for us to Emulate. People say you can tell a lot about a person by the Fruits of their labor and the Strength, Talent and Respectfulness of the Sexton Clan is a true testament to their labors. You can tell a child who was raised up connected to these two fine people.

The Black Panther was about our Spiritual connectedness. To me it was not just a Movie but a State of Mind. I salute these two Wonderful people and as a Historian I know History will speak well of their Legacy. Our community has been truly fortunate to have crossed paths with these two Giants of our History and Culture. Happy Fathers Day Mr. Sexton and May God continue to Bless you and our community…..

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Henrietta Lacks


 

Henrietta Lacks

An Elegant Picture of Henrietta Lacks with her Husband David Lacks. Mrs. Henrietta Lacks was an African American woman whose cancer cells were the source of the HeLa cell line, the first immortalized cell line and one of the most important cell lines in medical research. “The reason Henrietta’s cells were so precious was because they allowed scientists to perform experiments that would have been impossible with a living human.” Rebecca Skloot – freelance science writer and author of the best-selling book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

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The Social Determinants of Health – DNA vs ZNA


For the first time in our history, the United States is raising a generation of children who may live sicker and shorter lives than their parents. Reversing this trend will of course depend on healthy decisions by each of us. But not everyone in America has the same opportunities to make healthy choices.As I was driving through the city today, doing what I do, I happen to turn down East Princess Street. As I drove I noticed a cloud of dust rising as other cars were going past. As I look further I noticed that one side of the street appeared to be a different color than the other side. As I investigated even closer, I realized the dirt and dust that covered the street was a pollutant coming from the Junkyard that is located in the 500 block of East Princess Street. The dust not only covered the street but the sidewalks, the cars and any plants that are able to survive.  Now this junkyard has been located here for as long as I can remember, well over 50 years, but it has always been a sore spot for me. As I became more politically aware I always thought that there has to be some major polluting going on there with the chemicals coming from the collected junk seeping into the ground in that area.Upon reading many articles and scientific journals about health and life expectancy as it relates to where you live, I became even more sensitized to these major violations of our community health. Many of these articles conclude that an essential key to your health may be related to your zip code, actually saying that your zip code or where you live might be as important to your health as your Genetic Code…..A recent population-based analysis of life expectancy across United States, funded by the Robert Johnson Foundation (RWJF), found that geographic disparities in life expectancy in our nation are large and growing, and can be explained in large part by differences in race/ethnicity and socioeconomic factors such as income, education, and employment status.If DNA represents our biological blueprint, ZNA (zip code at birth) is the blueprint for our behavioral & psycho-social makeup and is just as powerful a determinant of our life expectancy as our DNA.Our ZIP codes can determine everything from our access to healthy food, to the safety of our neighborhoods, to the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink—factors which have a huge influence on whether we get sick in the first place.
To further illustrate how where we live can affect our health, RWJF has supported the development of maps which show how babies born just a few miles apart often have dramatic differences in life expectancy.
A little while back I posted some photos of major smoke pollution pouring from the smoke stack at the Crematorium over on Kings Mill Road. Another Health Hazard placed right in the middle of our community without regards to the environmental and human damage it is causing. In addition to that, just in the recent past a huge cell phone tower was placed right in the vicinity of where our children have to travel back and forth to McKinley school, again without regard for the overall safety and Health of our community, or our kids.
Politicians and others in authority will argue that these pollutants are no threat to us, our community or our children, but again I will bet you a dollar to a dime that these entities would not ever be allowed to be placed in a more affluent locale.Now I submit to you that these violations of the sanctity of our community would not and could not happen in any of our more affluent communities. This is exactly the conclusions reached by many of the studies on Zip Codes and Health. Besides the detrimental effects these toxic entities have on our health, they serve a s major drivers in the skyrocketing cost of healthcare for those who are lest able to afford it. Not in my Backyard is a powerful refrain if you have the clout to back it up.
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Penn Park Bandstand (Wakanda Revisited)


The Black Panther movie was enlightening on so many levels. One aspect I appreciated was it’s emphasis on maintaining a Spiritual awareness or connection to our ancestral culture and traditions.

The old Bandstand on Penn Park represented one of those places to me which provided a source of Spiritual energy for our community. Many times over the years as we faced difficult times in this community, that Bandstand would serve as a rallying point for us to come together and gather strength from each other. At other times it was a place of fun, relaxation and sharing good times.

I was traumatized when it was torn down. It was like destroying a piece of our community. I, in my conspiratorial mindset always believed it was torn down deliberately by the enemies of man, who also realized its potential as a rallying point for future grievances or community uplifting events. I was particularly disturbed when the powers that be in this community spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore a similar edifice on Farqhuar Park.

Over the years I remember a few significant events that happened around that Bandstand including Unity Day festivities, the 1980 Pan African Unity Festival which featured Queen Mother Moore and Civil Rights activist Frankie Getter as speakers, the 1968 student protest over the use of police dogs and police brutality and of course the largest Civil Rights rally ever held in this city in 1963 with over 1500 people in attendance………….Image may contain: sky, tree and outdoor

This was spectacular. That Sunday afternoon saw every Black Church in York march from their churches to Penn Park at 12:30 pm singing We Shall Overcome in a show of unity unsurpassed in our History here. NAACP official and Master of Ceremonies for the event William Barber told the crowd that “Negroes in York will no longer patiently accept racial injustice. We will no longer be denied the freedom to develop to our full potential.” Dr. Russell Hackley, President of the local chapter of the NAACP, told the rally that every Black organization in York would be active in this effort.

Rev. Richard Manning, pastor of Shiloh Baptist church and head of the Ministers Monthly Fellowship told the crowd that the Negro Ministry has a very important role to play in this uplifting effort. Manning said “to play our part we will move our programs out of our churches on to the streets as Jesus did when he talked to the multitudes.” Rev. Thomas Montouth of Faith Presbyterian church delivered the invocation. Wade Bowers and Hildegard Beard were vocalist in the program.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, crowd, tree and outdoorAlmost every other power organization in the city was represented on the dias including; Mayor John Snyder, City Council president Fred Schiding,The Republican and Democratic county Chairmen, Superintendent of schools, Dr. Woodrow Brown, Jack Barnhart, president of the York Labor Council, John Padden, Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of York, Richard Coesens, President of the Chamber of Commerce, Marty Goldman, from the Anti Defamation League of B’nai B’rith,, and John Zimmerman from the State Human Relations Commission.

Other organizations represented in addition to all of the Black churches were; Charles E Williams Post 794 of the American Legion, the Brotherly Love Lodge Elks of World, Queen Esther Temple, IBPOE OF W, Household of Ruth, Social Friendship Lodge #42 Masons. Deborah Chapter 26 Eastern Star and Crispus Attucks Association. An absolutely powerful, Historic event.

Unfortunately the loss or passing of many of the Black communities historic places and organizations has happened all too often. But although the physical might have passed on, like our Ancestral connections the Spirit lives on………Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

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Black Leadership


 

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A 1966 photo of Eva Dianne Whidbee receiving a scholarship check from members of a newly formed group Youth Bound for College. In the photo with Ms, Whidbee is her Mother along with three members of the Newly formed group; Maurice Peters, Jim Colston and Ocania Chalk. These three men were Giants in the development of York’s Black History.

Mr. Maurice Peters took the lead in addressing much of the discrimination and racism which existed in York at the time. He was the Father of Maurice Peters Jr. who went on to become a National spokesman for the Nation of Islam as Dr. Alim Abdul Muhammad, Mr. Peters also was the lead protagonist in the effort to end discrimination at the Boys Club Pool in those days. For you who do not remember, the pool was closed for many years by the city because they did not want to admit Blacks and were ordered to do so by the Federal Government.

Mr. Jim Colston was a leader and inspiration to many of us young Black Males growing up in York at the time.Mr. Colston showed us we could be anything we put or minds to and worked hard for. He was at one time or another an insurance salesman, a milk man, a business owner, a government worker and held several other industrious positions.

Mr. Ocania Chalk became one of our most outspoken leaders of the time. He won a landmark decision against the York County Board of Assistance for discrimination. The Board of Assistance had fired Mr.Chalk from his position as caseworker because he was an out spoken proponent of Black Power and would often speak out on that topic around the community. After he was fired he took the agency to court and won a decision, won his job back and really rocked the boat at that time. I will be writing a lot more about these Black men in upcoming post.

Chalk described the purpose of the organization as one of “excavating untapped resources from York’s ghetto areas”. “We not only provide financial aid and information but we also give moral support and encouragement to the youth of thiss community”. Other charter members of Youth Bound for College were; local undertaker Russell Chapman, Raymond Crenshaw, Theodore “Teddy” Holmes, Bruce Martin Jr., Timothy Warfield, District Attorney John Rauhauser Jr., and Alex Woodard.

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