Membership Drive – Share the Love

Director’s Letter:

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As the McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School celebrates its 80th Anniversary this year we would like to invite our community, our friends, our artists, and our students to Share The Love, by raising $2,000 in membership donations that will help support our scholarship and event programs. This new annual Membership Drive will start February 1, and will run through March 8, 2020 with a goal of 100 new members. You can even purchase a membership in memory or in honor of someone special in your life.

Benefits of members will include early access to information through newsletters, member names listed on the McKinney Center website and in certain printed publications throughout the year and an invitation to a Members Only event in January of 2021.

As we started planning this Membership Drive, I began to reflect on all the wonderful people who have made an impact on this building over the past 80 years.  From the people who laid the bricks, to the original teachers likes Ms. Brown and Mrs. Silvers, the principles like Connie Kiser, Ben Buford, and Earnest McKinney, all the students that walked through doors, the community members and Town staff that worked diligently to restore the building, Jim Martin and Sonia King who were the original benefactors of the Art Program, and our many volunteers and students.  Over the eight decades of this building’s history, all who walk through its doors have one thing in common, to Share The Love of learning.

“My kids were always excited about coming to class and what they created.”

Every semester I have the opportunity to read comments from our student surveys.  When I came across the comment above, I began to reflect on its meaning.  One of my favorite stories from the Alumni of Booker T. Washington School is one of Ms. Brown and how she would make the children do a final performance every spring at the end of the school year.  Students could dance, sing, recite poetry, play an instrument or share another talent.  And I think about how the students at Booker T. Washington must have loved this building, this place, and the teachers because their teachers Shared the Love of learning.

From downtown Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town, established in 1779, you cannot see this simple brick building which now houses Jonesborough’s Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts.  The building, now known as the McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School is out of view from the bustling businesses and stores and when you learn the history of the structure you wonder if this hidden gem of a building was meant to be tucked away out of site when originally conceived and built.  The Booker T. Washington School was originally built in 1940 and served African-American students, K-8th grade, until 1965.  The building withered away over the decades until noticed by community members and the Town Administration.  Such a building with historical significance should be saved.  Hearts and minds came together and shared dreams and ideas to rebuild this building that once was a place of segregation.  A place that once was hidden from view now shows its presence not only in Jonesborough but through the region as a haven for all people to come together through the visual and performing arts, rekindling the legacy of the past educators.  And in my heart, I know that this building is more than bricks and mortar.  It has a heartbeat that can be felt past the historic zone lines of the Town in which it sits.

The McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School still carries on its original intent which was to educate.  We have over 400 students, young and old, walk through these doors all year round to learn new skills.  We offered over 110 classes and workshops in 2019.  Over the years we have collected and preserved stories from seniors, diverse members of our community, veterans, and youth. This is a building that brings people together.  When you walk into this building you feel it hug you like it had arms to do so.  I like to think that if these walls could talk, they would tell us they are proud of the legacies that we are carrying forward and the new traditions that we have embarked upon.

Why should you make a membership donation?    I ask you to think about that teacher, coach, church member or family member, or friend that inspired you.  That person in your life that made you feel special for the first time.  That person or place that gave you confidence and inspiration to push past your doubt and nervousness to put yourself out there.  The people that Share the Love.  We ask for your help raising donations so that we continue to inspire and create. In return, we promise to pass it on. 

Thank you!

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