Written by Anthony Moujaes
The Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers, N.C., is extending an extravagant welcome to its neighbors for a fun-filled Franklinton Center Day on Saturday, August 3, an annual event that celebrates the institution's legacy of racial and economic justice. It's also a day to share in food and fellowship at the Franklinton Center at Bricks, one of the United Church of Christ's centers for justice.
"It's a day where people find out how involved the United Church of Christ is involved [outside] the congregation," said Vivian Lucas, director of Franklinton Center at Bricks (FCAB). "The congregations are a backbone, and there are places where church goes beyond the walls of the congregation, outside its own community. Our neighbors are not just who is in the congregation. It's a way to say UCC is alive in this area, and we plan to be here beyond the 21st century, in North Carolina."
The event, which runs from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m., is open to the public. The Franklinton Center staff estimated between 400 and 500 attendees at last year's event, and hopes to double that number to 1,000 this year.
The opening ceremony features remarks by the Rev. Ben Chavis, president and CEO of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network, president of Education Online Services Corporation, and former executive director of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. Chavis is an exonerated member of the Wilmington 10, the group of nine black men and a white female that was wrongfully imprisoned in North Carolina in the early 1970s for the firebombing of a Wilmington store.
Other activities and highlights of the day include a farmer's market offering locally-grown produce and meats, a museum displaying artifacts from the Bricks community, musical performances and a big announcement concerning plans for the 21st century transformation of Franklinton Center.
A welcome center and museum are the first projects of a three-year vision plan that aims to expand FCAB's breadth of services in eastern North Carolina, as well as its role within the broader national community. FCAB will work with the UCC's Church Building and Loan Fund and Aim Development Group, a New York-based economic development organization, to help make the vision a reality. While preliminary plans for the welcome center and museum are underway, the full project will be announced during Franklinton Center Day.
"This day represents the collaboration among the United Church of Christ, other [local] churches, and the town around us," Lucas said. "The partnership that is developing shows we're moving toward sustainability – in the short term we're able to build relationships and have financial investments."
Barbara Simmons, a Franklinton Center board member and mayor of the neighboring town of Enfield, has seen the recent growth of Franklinton Center in reaching out to the regional community, and is anxious to see it continue on Aug. 3.
"It means a lot that people gather from different places for a fun, full day of activities," she said. "I'm really looking forward to Rev. Chavis coming. I met him some years ago and I'm looking forward to seeing him again."
"I hope people take away knowing what Franklinton Center has to offer, and a day to share in fellowship together," Simmons added. "People can leave with a broader understanding of what Franklinton Center does. It a way to continue spreading the word of our work to the community."
Since 1895, the FCAB has been a leader in providing programming and services to African Americans throughout the southern United States. For decades in the rural South, the center helped break the cycle of poverty for many, providing educational opportunities, leadership development, and transformative farming and economic development programming. Today, FCAB serves as a conference, retreat, and educational facility, and continues its legacy of justice, advocacy and leadership development.
"This is not just discussion and conversation, but direct action in dealing with the disparity in this area – for education, for economic development, for jobs," Lucas said. "The center represents an active role of putting our faith on the ground, and building regional relationships with a wider outreach."