In 1994, at a dance during Black History Month, Elmer Brown began talking about all the things that had happened within the black community in St. Mary’s County history. How there was no recognition of what blacks had done and contributed to the county over the years. Mr. Brown said, “Let’s put up a monument.”
Under Mr. Brown's leadership, members of the community began meeting regularly in the fall of 1994. The group named itself the Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions (UCAC). Incorporated in the state of Maryland, St. Mary's County, on October 30, 1995, UCAC became a 501(C) (3) non-profit organization.
On November 29, 1994, the committee presented a proposal to the St. Mary's Board of County Commissioners: to erect a monument dedicated to African Americans. The commissioners agreed to placing the monument in Freedom Park** in Lexington Park, Maryland.
Elmer Brown envisioned a monument shaped like an Egyptian pyramid, representing strength and endurance. Inspired by the hymn, Rough Side of the Mountain, the monument was built of rough stone. Says Mr. Brown, "The stones and the shape of the monument represent the difficult struggle of blacks climbing the rough side of the mountain to get to the other side."
In addition to the monument honoring and celebrating the contributions of African Americans, the committee took on another crucial task: recording the oral histories of its oldest black residents.
[Janice Walthour and Merideth Taylor co-chairs of the original Oral History Committee for UCAC.] There is much more to the history and culture of African Americans in St. Mary's County than most residents might realize. Witnesses to portions of that history, by way of oral histories, link the present day county vividly with its past. Janice Walthour and Merideth Taylor co-chaired the original Oral History Committee.
"At the time, you made out with what you had because you didn't realize there was something better that you were supposed to have." ~ Clarence Smith
Examining the history of African-American life in St. Mary's County is a little like examining the lines etched deeply into a person's face or hands: much is suggested, but how much is really known without serious probing, research, and questioning?
The Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions (UCAC), has taken on the task of ensuring that these glimpses are not forgotten. That they are fleshed out, put in context, and brought to the attention of the community for its own examination, enjoyment, and education.
UCAC participates in a variety of events and fundraisers, and is sustained through grants and donor contributions. Governance is by an elected Board of Directors. This Board is comprised of citizens from diverse social, religious and professional backgrounds who make all fiscal and policy decisions for the organization. The Board of Directors has eighteen members who are dedicated to increasing the understanding, and the fostering, of African American contributions to the history and development of St. Mary's County.
Most notable of its community involvements is the annual JUNETEENTH CELEBRATION — an event originally launched in St. Mary's County by UCAC in June 2004. The Juneteenth Celebration exposes the citizens of St. Mary’s County and its visitors the opportunity to sample the various displays of art, education, health, jobs, and faith-based initiatives which surround them every day. Through the Juneteenth Celebration the community becomes more aware of the artist and artistry in their community. It is the hope of UCAC that those who find a passion for some art form pursue that passion fully and share it with the community.
To document, increase understanding of and foster African American contributions to the history and development of St. Mary’s County while advocating for improvements in health, education, and community building for all citizens of St. Mary’s County.
by Janice Talbert Walthour
Walls torn down
Ruins whisked away
The spirit of heritage
No place to nurture
Hearts souls minds
Soul filled memories
Once housed within
Bring pride nostalgia
Bring joyful thanksgiving
From those once
Educated empowered with religion Motivated in black institutes
Let not those memories
Be whisked away
Like these structures designed
To create success
Build monuments within
That reflect heritage
That create vision
Build monuments that
Sing praises of love
Encouragement to ourselves
Build monuments that solidify
Monuments that embrace the
Strength and unity of black institutes
Dedicated to Brenda Thompson Coates and the Catholic community who supported the erection of a monument in memory of Cardinal Gibbons Institute, the first black institute in St. Mary's County, Maryland.
Nathaniel Lawrence - President
Teri Branch - Vice President
Dolly Griffin - Secretary
Bob Lewis - Treasurer
Teri Branch (Membership Committee Chair)
Mike Brown (Juneteenth Committee Chair)
Alma Jordon (History and Research Committee Chair)
Nathaniel Scroggins (Monument Committee Chair)
Merideth Taylor (Public Relations Committee Chair)
Michael Brown, Chair
Founded in 1994 and incorporated in 1995 by Elmer Brown, UCAC is a 501(C) 3 non-profit organization that is governed by an elected Board of Directors.
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