Shine, Washington, shine

Published 4:34 pm Monday, October 9, 2023

You could almost hear the smiles on people’s faces Saturday in

downtown Washington.  There was so much joy, goodwill and such a warm and welcoming spirit all around. It is phenomenal what we can do as a city when we all work and share our gifts together. There is a joy that comes when people work together to make things happen and the resulting fruit benefits and delights everyone.

My Saturday morning began downtown listening to the wonderful songs and music from the Beaufort County Traditional Music Association. They were playing and singing in Crab Park, across the street from the Underground Railroad Museum. The songs they were singing brought back loving memories of the hymns and songs I learned as child. It was wonderful to watch people walking down the street singing along with the BCTMA as they pushed baby strollers, walked their dogs or jogged by. Thank you BCTMA, you are such a blessing.

Then it was off to the Turnage Theater to meet my friend Dr. Maria Esther Hammack, an Assistant Professor at Ohio State University who did an outstanding lecture on Mexico and its contributions to the underground railroad.

Dr. María Esther Hammack is a Mexican scholar and public historian whose work bridges the histories of liberation and abolition that shaped the US, Mexico, and Canada. Her first book, Channels of Liberation: Freedom Fighters in the Age of Abolition reexamines the Underground Railroad to reconsider & broaden the actors, timelines, and geographies of Black Liberation in North America through the experiences of Black Americans, principally women, who left the United States to claim freedom in Mexican spaces. She shared with a standing room only crowd who enjoyed every second of her lecture and wanted more. She hopes to return to Washington soon.

After the lecture it was on to the Hispanic Heritage Festival. What a grand and glorious time everyone had. There was so much to do and enjoy. The Mariachi Band, Raices Mexicanas, the very talented Aurora, the games, food, goodies, vendors, local organizations and more helped everyone to the joy and excitement of the day. Children as well as adults danced, sang and had a great time.

Thank you Public Safety-Community Outreach (Abigail Cabrera, Sarah Godley, Stacy Drakeford and staff,) The City of Washington, The Turnage Theater-Arts of the Pamlico, ECU Health, the Washington Police Department, Washington Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, the Underground Railroad Museum, Mayor Sadler, volunteers, vendors, local organizations and so many others for making this day such an outstanding one from start to finish, and for working together to make Washington shine.

I wanted to share the picture of Dr. Hammack with her name on the marquee at the historic Turnage Theater. She says she will share with her Ohio St. University staff and students as well as her family in Mexico. It’s a picture which she says she will never forget. And neither will she forget the Proclamation proclaiming Hispanic Heritage Month given to her by Mayor Pro-Tem Richard Brooks. She says she will hang the proclamation in her office.

Washington, you showed up Saturday and showed out. Thank you!

Leesa Jones is a Washington native and the co-curator of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.