Message: Work on for progress

August 13, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - After Saturday's parade for the African American Cultural & Heritage Festival, grand marshal Nanshanta B. Davis urged the black community to continue the work of past generations.

"Their actions and accomplishments have changed laws," said Davis, 26, a captain in the U.S. Army. "We should feel obligated to continue that."

Davis' remarks garnered hearty applause from dozens of festival-goers who gathered in downtown Charles Town for the 14th annual celebration and festivities.

Davis, a Jefferson County native, returned home for the event, and was recognized as the first black female from the community to be a commissioned officer.


"Do not be complacent with what people have already done for us," said Davis, who is stationed at Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Ga. Her husband, John, is deployed in Iraq.

"This is a proud moment for me," said Davis' mother, Linda Bradford of Kearneysville, W.Va.

Beaming with pride, Bradford said an ROTC scholarship allowed her only daughter to attend Hampton University.

In her remarks, Davis noted the disproportionate population of blacks in prison versus overall population in several states, a fact she said was limiting the voice of the community at the ballot box.

"You waste the work of so many people that have come before you," said Davis, noting the festival's focus on heritage and preservation.

Sponsored by the NAACP, the festival included a dedication ceremony honoring the late Nathaniel F. Downing Sr., a founding member of the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society.

Society President James L. Taylor and West Virginia NAACP President James Tolbert credited Downing's project to catalog and photograph at least 20 of Jefferson County's black churches.

The houses of worship were part of an exhibit on display for the first time in Charles Town. The exhibit was displayed last year in Charleston, W.Va., at the West Virginia Cultural Center.

"It is an honor for us to dedicate this exhibit in honor of Nathaniel Downing," Taylor said before a photograph with a biography beneath it was unveiled.

Downing's wife, Julia, said her husband, who died in 2004, was not one to take credit for his efforts to preserve history.

"He was very dedicated to his work. Never once did he say, 'I did this,'" said Downing, who was made an honorary member of the society.

"It is just a great honor," she said of the dedication.

Downing's son, Don, said his father was a hardworking and dedicated father.

"This means a lot more to us than what you can imagine," Don W. Downing said.

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