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Circling the wagons around Little Africa

By Larry McDermott

Life on the farm

 

“…inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

I remember the first time I drove past the official roadside sign for Little Africa. I recalled the places I had lived in my life. They had signs for Little Mexico, Greektown, Koreatown, Chinatown, Little Italy and, naturally, Irish pubs everywhere.

You have to know there is an abundance of pride when there is a sign touting ethnicity.

Since I first discovered Little Africa several years ago, I have driven through it countless times, always on the way to somewhere else but never failing to have the same thought: their bravery and pride is admirable.

Then I learned this week that someone had spray-painted a swastika over the Little Africa sign and vulgar racist words on highway infrastructure near it.

The swastika is the official emblem of the Nazi party and the Third Reich. It was adopted by Adolf Hitler as his symbol. In today’s marketing driven world, it would be considered a logo. It is a symbol of hate adopted by white supremacists, many of whom wear a swastika tattoo.

Little Africa, a community consisting primarily of African-Americans, is located in Chesnee, S.C. just over the North Carolina line and about 5 miles from our farm. It is one of many such communities established in the South after the Civil War by freed slaves. It is a farming community steeped in history five generations later.

Sundra Proctor Smith, an educator, was born and raised in Little Africa. Her family’s roots there date back to the late 1800s when they were farmers and sharecroppers. She and her husband, Tyrone Smith, have two children, Carlie, 10, and C.J., 15.

Little Africa is a close-knit community. Like Sundra’s family, it is home to the Wardells, Fosters, Burgesses, Tanners, Joneses, Millers, Jacksons, Landrums, Vernons and more. The families have raised children in their village who later became doctors, lawyers, educators, ministers, skilled tradesmen and various professionals.

When word of the vandalism swept through social media, a groundswell of support spread through the region. Carol Parker, a Tryon equestrian who rides a horse as fearlessly as Martha Jane Cannary, AKA “Calamity Jane,” began organizing a rally to show regional support for Little Africa.

Parker said she was horrified by the attack and told her friends, “We need to show them (Little Africa) that they are wanted here. Show them that the love outweighs the hate.”

Sunday’s gathering at 4:00 p.m. at 1832 Little Africa Road in Chesnee, S.C. will send a message. Community bonds are stronger and more powerful than a coward with a can of spray paint used to express the same hatred and racism that a Confederate flag-waving white supremacist Dylan Roof exhibited when he murdered nine African-Americans in their Charleston church five years ago.

A large reward has been offered. Authorities are investigating. Someone in South Carolina or North Carolina knows (the miscreants might have shot and shared video of their acts) who did this just prior to Juneteenth, the annual celebration of the end of slavery.

Meanwhile, if there are any copycats waiting to repeat the acts, they should know that not only is the greater community watching but your desire to create fear won’t work.

Their ancestors were brave enough to name their community Little Africa more than 200 years ago. Their courage today is even greater.

Larry McDermott, a retired journalist, owns a 40-acre organic farm in Rutherfordton, where he grows blueberries, keeps bees and raises horses, dairy goats, and chickens. Email: hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com or see farm happenings at www.facebook.com/hardscrabblehollowfarmllc