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The Voice of the Black Community

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SE Raleigh pioneers honored in black history program
 
Published Sunday, February 24, 2019
by Lori D.R. Wiggins, Correspondent

RALEIGH – Mary Hodge let soft tears flow as she reflected on her late husband being honored for his legacy as a young entertainer who infused joy into Raleigh’s African-American community.  

“It’s amazing,” she said. “We actually don’t think we can put something into black history, but they all had minds to bring something valuable to this community, and now it’s our history.”

Hodge was in seventh grade at then-Aycock Middle School when she met classmate Donald Hodge of Donald and The Hitchhikers, a self-taught boy-band that entertained Raleigh youth at the Boys Club, on Teenage Frolics, in Battle of the Bands competitions and at Temple Lounge.

“It was a time when we were young kids who didn’t know anything but to have fun,” said Mary Hodge, 63, adding her husband’s kind heart led him to consider others when he opened his own printing business. “I feel so good today that my husband was thought of.”

Hodge, who died three years ago, was one of six honorees at the North Central Citizen Advisory Council’s 21st Black History Month Program: Celebrating Community Legacy at the Tarboro Road Community Center. The celebration honored the contributions of residents, families, neighborhoods and businesses who played significant roles in the area’s culture and character.

“We do this to bring the community closer together,” said Octavia Rainey, chairperson of the North Central CAC who has organized the celebration for decades. “They’ve built up the area so much, it has taken away the culture and character of the community. Here, because we talk about the past, we bring culture and character together, and we try to recognize all of it.

“It’s community,” she said. “That’s all we have now.”

Other honorees:

  • Charles T. Norwood American Legion, Post 157, named for the Raleigh native who grew up off Lane Street who became the first African-American killed in World War I.
  • Richard B. Harrison Library, founded by Mollie Huston Lee, the first black librarian in Raleigh. Originally located on East Hargett Street in the Delany Building, the library opened in 1935 with a collection of 890 books. Now, The Lee Collection of more than 8,000 volumes is a treasure for researchers of African-American history.
  • First Church of God Ministries began as tent meetings for prayer and Bible study by South Carolina natives Mary Jane Steward and Sadie Kennedy. Over the years and church leadership, it has become known for outreach and grown as a community resource.
  • St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first independent black congregation in Raleigh and the city’s oldest African-American church, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Raleigh Historic Landmark.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Theodore and Kattie Clifton. Married 64 years, the couple raised their family on Jones Street and became a mainstay of the community.
  • Smokey Hollow, named for its proximity to the railroad, was the site of major urban renewal in the 1960s when homes and businesses were razed in order to sell land to developers. The area is now under development around Peace, West, Harrington and Johnson streets, including the city’s first Publix grocery store, as well as shops, restaurants, residences and offices spaces.

Such changes solidify the reason celebrations of the community’s history remain vigilant in recognition of those who built and have helped sustain the city, said Shelley Winters,  the first black to serve as chairperson of the Raleigh CAC in its 40-year history.

“As Raleigh continues to grow and change, we must also take moments to acknowledge the communities and people that have helped sustain our city before we were on any lists,” said Winters, the great-niece of the late John Winters Sr., a pioneer black developer, and local and state politician. “Thank you for being the backbone to our neighborhoods and to our city.”

State and city leaders also took part in the celebration, weighing in on how history still impacts issues pertinent to CACs across the city – from income and economic equality to affordable housing.

Congressman David Price said understanding history fuels progress as long as intentional efforts are made toward equality and fairness, without discrimination.

“You can’t leave it to chance,” he said.

 

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