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African Drummer, Lil Peles Coach Bob Small Succumbs After Battling Cancer
Published:
7/8/2015 2:02:46 PM

By Barney Blakeney

  
Renowned Black culture advocate Robert Lee ‘Bob’ Small Jr. has died. Perhaps best known for his roles as a local African drummer and soccer coach, Small died July 4 at a Georgetown hospital after two battles with cancer. He was 66.
  
Small, a native of Newark, N.J. is the only son of the late Robert Lee Small Sr. and Rosa Lee Dixon Small. He grew up in Newark and attended public schools there. Small attended American University in Washington, D.C. where he obtained a degree in journalism. However, during his lifetime, Small wore many different hats.
  
In quiet unassuming fashion, Small enhanced the cultural richness of Charleston’s African American community. Small was the first executive director of Penn Center in Beaufort and came to Charleston during the mid-1970s immediately immersing himself the area’s Black culture. Small’s afro centric perspective and natural abilities elevated him to a leadership role in promoting the cultural identity of African Americans in the Lowcountry.
  
In 1977 Small was among the initiators of Charleston’s annual Kwanzaa celebration. Small, a master African drummer who taught African drumming to youth through the Charleston County School District, local recreation departments and privately, annually opened the Moja Arts Festival’s Reggae Block Dance with his drumming to call on African ancestors for their blessings.
  
Small was the first to offer Charleston historic tours from an African American perspective and was a founding member of the Charleston Remembrance Committee which annually observes and gives honor to Africans abducted from the African continent who died during the Middle Passage across the Atlantic Ocean.
  
Small also was a coach with the Ebony City Soccer Club and the Lil Peles soccer teams beginning in 1982. Small taught the sport to two generations of Charleston youth. He projected his leadership upon his players and in addition to teaching them the skills of soccer which propelled them to several state championships in various divisions of girls and boys teams, ‘Coach Bob’ taught his players to be proud African Americans. His teams won the league’s annual Sportsmanship Award eight of the first 10 years it was presented.

He was the only original Lil Peles coach still coaching until his first bout with cancer in 2010.

“He put Charleston’s cultural heritage on the map,” said long time friend Osei Chandler. The former Charleston Post and Courier and Charleston Chronicle news reporter never looked for the spotlight and always put his community first, Chandler said.
  
Small is survived by his wife, Marthena Coleman Small of Georgetown, two daughters: Robin Square of Virginia and Aisha Small of Charleston, three sons: Sherrick Small of North Carolina, Akil Small of Virginia and Ankhma Tchaas Small of Arizona and three sisters: Roberta, Karen and Sioban.

The late Robert Lee ‘Bob’ Small Jr.
 

Bob Small (left) on the drums during a Juneteenth celebration
 

(left to right) Founding coaches of Ebony City Soccer Club Robert Small, John Wilson with son Kareem Wilson, Osei Chandler & Jorge Cito Lindsay
 
 

Visitor Comments

Submitted By: Sherry A. Suttles Submitted: 7/8/2015
Barney: you have written yet another sensitive and comprehensive article--this time about a friend. Bob Small was a friend to me and to Gullah Geechee Group as well. In fact, I am practically an aunt to the two sons Akil and Geech (as the youngest is known). We missed his drumming at Juneteenth this year. May Charleston continue in his Afrocentric path.


Submitted By: Thelma Williams Submitted: 7/8/2015
Bob Small was a friend,a mentor ( he taught me to drum) and a stalwart supporter of our African culture.He could always be found working for his people, advancing the awareness of our history and teaching the young.It is said that you write your own obituary while living Bob has a full and beautiful obituary.He is an ancestor now and will continue to be with us.We will listen for his voice because I know he will speak to us.


Submitted By: Thelma Williams Submitted: 7/8/2015
Bob Small was a friend,a mentor ( he taught me to drum) and a stalwart supporter of our African culture.He could always be found working for his people, advancing the awareness of our history and teaching the young.It is said that you write your own obituary while living Bob has a full and beautiful obituary.He is an ancestor now and will continue to be with us.We will listen for his voice because I know he will speak to us.


Submitted By: Brenda, Syrita, & Javan Frinks Submitted: 7/9/2015
Another Gentle Guardian has joined the Ancestral realm! Our condolences and prayers to his family and the community. Peaceful Blessings. I also remember Bob as an actor with CATS-Charleston Actors Theatre. CATS, was the first African American acting company to perform at the Dock Street Theatre. Bob was also an excellent a tour guide, promoting Gullah GeeChee before there was a commission. Bob traveled to Jacksonville, FL and performed at the World of Nations Celebration in the African Village as drummer and the Mocko Jumbie. He was among the Charlestonians who introduced Kwanzaa to my family. Coach Bob was excellent ... As a widow it was important to have strong male role models for my family. He helped provide support for my son Javan through Lil Pele's. He supported my family with guidance, counseling and Afrocentric activities without any compensation or benefits. Thank you Coach Bob for your tireless service to my family and our universe. Your name will be called loudly among the Ancestors. ASE


Submitted By: Marthena Small Submitted: 7/12/2015
Thanks Barney!! Great job!!


 
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