Bits & Pieces

Wilberforce Alumni

By Barney Blakeney

The Charleston community is a busy one. In the small pockets across the metropolitan area a lot of activities take place. Here is some of what’s been happening:

  • May 16 Malakiyah Eliyah Eugene Bentovia Kingsly Jenkins, son of Eugene Jenkins, participated in the 14th commencement exercises at Harvest Time International Academy joining some 2,600 CCSD high school graduates in the area who completed high school. The private Harvest Time International Academy is located at Greater Refuge Temple, 230 Huger St. in Charleston.
  • May 31 Rural Missions, Inc. closed after operating about 50 years to promote and administer spiritual, social, educational, medical and housing requirements for the people Charleston’s Sea Islands. Located on Johns Island, it coordinated a headstart program which offered child care and family services to the children of migrant farm workers on Johns, Wadmalaw, Yonges and Edisto islands. And it provided advocacy and counseling services as well as assistance with job placement and negotiations with government agencies and housing referrals.
  • July 13 Charleston said goodbye to North Charleston community advocate Caleb Harper Sr. He was among the movers and shakers who helped bring North Charleston’s Black communities into the fold as the city became a major social and economic factor in the state. Harper’s gas station on Rivers Avenue was a center for strategic political planning among leaders in the Black community.
  • About the same time Charleston said goodbye to one of its most beloved and athletic personalities – Nathaniel ‘Tank’ Nelson. A fixture on ‘The Avenue’ (Ashley Avenue), Nelson spent the summers of his teenage years working as a life guard at Herbert Hassell Swimming Pool. He also was a paper boy and grocery boy in the neighborhood. Tank and Bennie (Benjamin) E. Holmes were inseparable at home, at the pool, on the park, on the corner, and everywhere else. They both swam competitively. Tank played baseball, but football was his real love. Some say the Burke High School quarterback who was much shorter than his protective linemen invented ‘the jump pass’.
  • July 15 Prince Hall Grand Chapter Order of the Eastern Star and Rite of Adoption for the State of S.C. and Jurisdiction held its 110th Annual Communication in Columbia. Grand Worthy Matron Sister Linda Owens Neal welcomed the sisters and brothers to the three-day gathering at the Masonic Lodge located at 2324 Gervais St.
  • July 19 a celebratory retirement worship service was held at Mt. Zion AME Church in Charleston for Rev. John Paul Brown who committed 46 years of service to the ministry. The Burke High School and Charleston Southern University student who holds a degree in Theology from the Interdenominational Seminary in Plymouth, Florida answered the call to minister in 1970 as a deacon and officially retired as a pastor in 2018.
  • About 400 alumni and friends of Wilberforce University converged in Charleston July 18-21. The Charleston Alumni Chapter and President Larry Whaley hosted the confab that included a Friday crab crack at Charles Towne Landing and Saturday Green and Gold Dinner at the North Charleston Coliseum. Wilberforce University, a private, coedliberal arts historically black university (HBCU) located in Wilberforce, Ohio established in 1856, was the first college to be owned and operated by African Americans. When the number of students fell due to the American Civil War and financial losses closed the college in 1863 the AME Church purchased the institution to ensure its survival. Its first president, AME Bishop Daniel A. Payne, was one of the original founders.

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