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"Coach Bob" Small Remembered in a Joyous Homegoing Celebration
7/15/2015 1:27:58 PM

Brother Thomas E. “Buster” Mosley of Columbia plays the shekere as member of the select African drumming and dance performers from throughout the state who gathered to perform in celebration of “Coach Bob” Small’s life at the Nichols Chapel AME Church on Saturday, July 11, 2015. photo by Hakim Abdul-Ali

Ms. Arielle Small, 15, granddaugther of master African drummer, “Coach Bob” Small, affectionately samples one of her grandfather’s drums after the funeral services for her grandfather. Photo by Hakim Abdul-Ali

Some of the sisters in attendance pose joyfully for a photo prior to the beginning of the “Homecoming” services for The Chronicle writer and journalist Robert Lee “Bob” Small. Photo by Hakim Abdul-Ali

(l-r) Imam Rahim Karriem of Masjid Al Jami Ar-Rasheed, Nichols Chapel AME Church Minister the Reverend Randolph Miller and Attorney McFarland pose for a photo after Bob Small's “Homegoing” services. Photo by Hakim Abdul-Ali
By Hakim Abdul-Ali

Longtime "Charleston Chronicle" writer, reporter, athletic coach and musician Robert Lee Small, Jr., had a rousing "Homegoing" service on this past Saturday, July 11, 2015, at the Nichols Chapel AME Church. He died on July 4 and the service was proficiently officiated by the Reverend Randolph Miller.

Mr. Small was affectionately known as "Coach Bob" because of his storied association with the Ebony City Soccer Club of Charleston. Known locally and nationally as "The Li'l Peles," "Coach Bob" was one of the soccer club's original founders, and he had a tremendous impact on the team, its players and the Lowcountry's youth in general because of his outgoing and easy to get along with mannerisms in dealing with people.

A skilled journalist by profession, Bob Small was a seasoned reporter for "The Post and Courier" and also for South Carolina's largest African-American newspaper, "The Charleston Chronicle." Forever active in the local community, he was instrumental in bringing awareness of the Kwanzaa Observances to the Lowcountry, besides also advocating the cultural importance of studying African-American History among his endless lists of involvements.

"Coach Bob" was the father of five children, three sons and two daughters, along with four step children and twelve grandchildren. Robert Lee Small, Jr., was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1948, where he grew up in his early Christian AME religious tradition. He later relocated to the Lowcountry in the late 1970s.

The "Home-going" service for "Coach Bob" was something to behold as the service took on a truly exuberant African-American centered church feeling, with echoes of the Motherland hovering in the air, complete with an outstanding ensemble of African influenced drummers and dancers highlighting the almost two hour occasion with jubilant and infectious sound. "They were something to hear and see" is about the best that I can describe it for you if you weren't there to observe what was happening.

Nichols Chapel AME Church became irresistibly alive with the contagious sounds of spirited traditional African rhythms, literally rocking and lifting the people seated in the church in spirited and thoughtful remembrance of "Coach Bob." He was a Nichols Chapel church member, but he was also a recognized master drummer and teacher of African rhythms himself, teaching scores of students the art of African drumming.

The outstanding assemblage of various African drumming and dancers of South Carolina, who gathered for "Coach Bob's" funeral, came from diverse locations in the state like Columbia, Georgetown, Goose Creek, Charleston and other sectors of the Lowcountry. They made their presence felt as they put on a highly dignified and respectful show of love for their former drumming partner, teacher and performer.

It was a special, infectious function as this stellar grouping, magnificently coordinated by Queen Atterbury, literally raised the musical roof off Nichols Chapel AME Church with its infectious unquestioned 5 star scintillating Afro-drumming presentation. If African-spirited sacred music, somehow, meant for people to come together in love and harmony, then the drums of Mother Africa, in remembrance of brother Bob Smalls on last Saturday, definitely brought a ray of Afro-unity to the hearts and mind-sets of those in attendance at the church.

Just to be in Nichols Chapel AME Church on last Saturday, witnessing what was taking place, lets you know that Bob Small was an honored and respected brother. You had to be there to observe how sound, thoughts and words elevated this special little religious sanctuary called Nichols Chapel to the status of a sacred happening place to be in memory of such a gentle and admired soul.

In fact, the church's acclaimed pastor, Reverend Miller, all but let the proverbial cat out of the bag when he announced mid way through the processional services, that there was going to be "some noise" raised in the church that day. And that it was, because Mr. Small's funeral was not a sad and solemn event, but rather one where joy and happiness met each other soulfully and triumphantly in the church that day while celebrating what Robert Lee Small, Jr., was all about.

Starting with Mrs. Jacquelyn Bright's riveting rendition of "Nobody Greater" and followed by thoughtful reflective sentiments from family and friends, this celebratory occasion was more full of life than sadness. Additional remarks were fondly offered by Lowcountry notables including retired collegiate administrator Dr. Elise Davis-McFarland, journalist Herb Frazier and especially from "Coach Bob's" dear and devoted friend, popular educational administrator and reggae broadcasting legend, Osei Chandler.

Reverend Miller, who is no amateur when it comes to singing, lifted the spirit of the church attendees with his heady and soulful vocal interpretations of two of his spiritual themed songs of the day. He also gave stirring, contemplative and poignant words of encouragement to the Small Family and others in his Words of Comfort address entitled "Remembering Bob." The minister's messages were uncomplicated, yet quite impactful, because he made everyone aware of life's fragile moments in time as he thought spiritually of Bob Small's life and presence in his church.

Like I said in the beginning, this was more a celebration of the life of a truly respected brother and an equally courteous, loving and caring "hue-man" being named Bob Small. He will forever be missed here at "The Charleston Chronicle," just as I'm sure the greater African-American community-at-large will miss his presence.

People like "Coach Bob" don't come around everyday in the African-American communities like the way they used to do. Bob Small was distinctive as a man of color because he had such a noteworthy persona about himself in loving and respecting everyone who came in contact with him.

To the Small Family, we here at "The Chronicle" offer our continued and heartfelt prayers to you all. Bob Small was a husband to his wife, Martena Coleman-Small, a father and step dad, a coach, a beloved friend to many and he was most of all, a God lovingly peaceful and trustful being, who lit the world around him with positive vibrations. "Coach Bob" will be missed, but never forgotten.


Visitor Comments

Submitted By: Nneka Isaac Moses Submitted: 7/16/2015
Very well written. May he find eternal rest in the Lord.

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