SIDNEY — The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Lincoln Community Center in Troy was the topic of discussion by Shane Carter during the joint meeting of the Sidney Rotary and Sidney Kiwanis clubs.
Carter, who is the director of the Lincoln Community Center, said he has been with the organization for seven years. He oversees a staff of 18 employees and the center offers 50 programs to local youth and adults.
A graduate of Troy High School and the University of Wisconsin, Carter said he was one of 13 siblings and that his father, Clarence Carter, walked through the segregation era of this country.
“He was born in Macon County, Georgia,” said Carter. “He was one generation away from slavery.”
His parents, said Carter, had racial differences in their marriage, along with an age difference of 20 years.
“My grandfather loaded his gun and told my father to go home,” said Carter. “Being biracial, I know some people see race and some don’t. I was taught not to (see race).”
The Lincoln Center School, he said, was originally built by 40 freed slaves who walked from Virginia to Ohio where they had been promised land. Eighty freed slaves started the community on County Road 25A in Piqua called Rossville. Forty freed slaves built Slabtown in Troy. They built the school with their bare hands.”
The school opened in 1865 and until 1894 educated blacks, the only such school in the Miami Valley, said Carter. After the school closed, the students were inegrated into Troy City Schools and attended Edwards School.
“In the early 1900s, the Black Stockings football team used the building (Lincoln Center School),” said Carter. “Then John and Caroline Spencer (Hobbart Industries) saw that the Randolph slaves had nowhere to go. In 1906, he began planning for the Lincoln Community Center.
It took 14 years and money from the WPA, along with a bond issue, before the center would be constructed, said Carter. He said there is a similar to the Bradford Center in Lima.
In 1938, the building was finished and included a pool, gymnasium, classrooms and stage area.
“In 2011 when I took over, the building was in a bad place,” said Carter. “There was mold in the building and the pool had overrun. There were no kids using the center.”
The center, he said, needed $860 to get in the black for the year. And his next challenge was to raise money to get kids back to the center.
In the last five years, he said, $700,000 has been reinvested into the center with upgrades and repairs.
Sixty students now attend the center on a regular basis. There are licensed tutors at the center to help them with their schoolwork.
“My afterschool program is the best there is,” said Carter. “It’s tailored to what the students needs. We have a full-time translator because we have 12 students who knew zero English. Our first agenda item in September was to translate every form into Spanish. This helps our Latino population.”
The center also offers Zumba, water aerobics for adults, youth basketball and a community garden where the kids help with cultivating, planting, growing and harvesting the crops.
“My father taught me to be a producer,” said Carter. “My goal for the children is for them to take responsibility for their own lives.”
Carter shared one of the center’s success stories. Bailey Williams is attending Ohio University on a full scholarship. He was named a Templeton Scholar.
“There’s a lot of kids I’m proud of,” said Carter.
Carter said he has visited 20 community centers around the U.S., bringing ideas back to the local center.
“I’m trying to be creative in what I do,” said Carter.
In addition to being the center’s director, Carter also has his own business and remodels homes. He and his wife have a 15-month-old child.
He said community members using the pool at the center have helped pay for improvements.
“The reason we’re the best center is not one kid pays for anything when they walk in the door,” said Carter. “We’re blessed in Troy that the people have supported it (the center).”
Carter said people understand Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. But he feels King’s letter from the Birmingham jail is also an important read.
“He was fighting for everyone’s civil rights,” said Carter. “He was risking his life at one time or another.”
King, said Carter, fought for civil rights, women’s rights and transgender rights. King remembered that they are all still humans no matter what they believe in.
“He was a most passionate and effective leader,” said Carter. “He never acted in violence.”
Carter said it’s disturbing to see demonstrations that cause property damage.
“My father taught me that the fight has already been fought,” said Carter. “Now we have to act like we have some common sense.
“We must lead with composure and integrity,” said Carter. “But the most important, ultimate thing that we are is a role model. We are setting an example for young people.”
King’s dream, said Carter, still “needs to be instilled today. We need to work actively in believing in his ‘I have a dream’ speech and know that there’s still work that needs to be done.”
Cater’s father lived through segregation. He passed away three years ago after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
“I came home to take care of him,” said Carter. “When Barack Obama was sworn in (as president), he was able to understand that he was elected into office. There were tears as he was sworn in. He could see things had changed dramatically.
“Our ancestors have worked too hard for us to not achieve any dream we have,” said Carter. “If you work hard, you can achieve your dream.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.