Make what you need

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 20, 2005

For me, “Take what you have and make what you need” is a guiding principle of life.

I didn’t create it or steal it.

I got it from my Mama.

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With her seventh grade education, she was so wise.

Recently, I spoke at a Black Belt Summit for School Foundations.

Twelve school foundations, through the assistance of Alabama Power, were established 12 or 13 years ago in the Alabama Black Belt.

However, only one is currently operating effectively.

The Black Belt Community Foundation, whose motto is “Take What You Have and Make What We Need,” has teamed up with the Demopolis School Foundation and Alabama Power Company to help revive these foundations.

Over 100 education, community and other leaders participated in this Summit, commencing the process.

School foundations can help to: (1) provide additional funds for education; (2) pilot education programs; (3) promote excellence in education; (4) build community support; (5) provide a flexible avenue for tax exempt giving; and etc.

These school foundations were already in existence.

In other words, we in the Black Belt already “had them.”

As we revive and enhance them, we are taking what we have and making what we need.

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at the opening ceremony of Black Belt Treasures (Treasures) in Wilcox County.

A wide array of art created in the Black Belt – paintings, sculptures, quilts, carvings, books, etc. – had been collected and placed under one roof in a beautifully decorated building.

Then the world was beckoned to come.

Those that cannot come can still buy via the Internet.

In my remarks, I said that the art was already here.

We “had it.”

We are just taking what we have to make what we need.

Wilcox County is truly off the beaten path.

No interstate.

No four-lane U.S. highway.

Yet Treasures will help draw well-heeled tourists, giving the local economy and the entire Black Belt a lift.

In sharing the vast array of creativity, the image of the Black Belt will be realigned with the reality we know.

So many leaders came together to make Treasures happen – the chief being John Clyde Riggs.

So many entities came together – Alabama Tombigbee Regional Planning Commission led by John Clyde; the University of Alabama; the State of Alabama in the form of ADECA; the federal government through the Delta Regional Authority; the Black Belt Action Commission through its Marketing and Tourism Committee; and others.

Of course we must not forget the many gifted artists. Each – the artists, the leaders, the entities – took what they had and collectively made what we need.

A couple of months ago I spoke at an event honoring those that made the Black Belt Roots Festival in Greene County a reality.

For many years, the Roots Festival has annually drawn together powerful examples of taking what we have to make what we need.

I talked about how our people took scraps of leftover cloth and made beautiful quilts.

They took blocks of wood, sliced it into thin strips and made beautiful baskets.

They took the leftovers from the hog – feet, tails, head and guts – and made delicacies such as south meat and chitterlings.

They took leftover bread and rice and made puddings.

And so on.

They did not stop with material things but took their pains and sufferings, mixed in some hurt, hope and romantic love and grafted it on powerful voices as the “blues,” forging a way to make it through another day.

Others took the same pains and sufferings, mixed in some faith and love of God, grafted it on vibrant voices to create spirituals and gospels to help them through another week.

They took what they had and made what they needed.

So does the Black Belt Folk Roots Festival.

The Voting Rights Struggle in the Alabama Black Belt is yet another example of taking what we have to make what we need.

On one side of this monumental struggle was an endless array of power: all the law; all the law enforcement; money; local and state media; jobs; businesses; local and state government, etc.