Guy comes to Maine and expands the ‘lasso of love’

We write about Guy’s week-long visit to the Marshwood School District in South Berwick and Eliot, Maine in May.

By Guy Trammell Jr.

The mission was to present African-American history to five South Berwick schools in five days, and with an incredible out-pouring of effort, planning and resources, it actually took place. I can only say, Wow!

This was my second time in Maine, and the only familiar territory was the wonderful Great Works School. I was able to surf through the week on wave after wave of support from wonderful and enthusiastic Marshwood teachers and staff. We waded kindergarten to 12th grade children through a variety of history.

They heard about the Mvskoke Creek Nation’s negotiations with the newly established Continental U.S. government. They learned of Polly Coppinger’s trek to Florida from Tuskegee to raise her son Osceola, the great Seminole War Chief. They learned of Lewis Adams, a former slave, who brought Booker T. Washington to Tuskegee with help from a former slave owner, George Washington Campbell. They learned how Booker T. Washington started building the Village of Greenwood within two months of his arrival, and how Tuskegee’s Greenwood became the Black Capitol of the United States.

Students heard about Sammy Leamon Younge, Jr.’s fight against Jim Crow, and acted out how the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League integrated the Tuskegee City Pool. They showed how student protests were conducted with strategy and detailed planning. They had fun demonstrating how the Tuskegee Airmen protected the American bombers and were able to never lose a bomber under their care. They learned of Benjamin O. Davis, Mildred Hemmings, Chappie James, Halle Dillon Tanner and more.

The students seemed to actually pay attention and their responses supported this conclusion. They had a background in some of the subject matter and made connections between what they heard and what they already knew. I had great discussions with the teachers and school staff and gleaned many good ideas for relating history and for possible future Sister City projects.

This visit yielded many more people to love and treasure. And so to all the wonderful Marshwood children, the incredible teachers and staff, the great parents and grandparents, the people I met, and the deeply loved and cherished Common Ground Sister City crew, for all the handshakes, warm hugs, high fives, “thank you’s,” gracious gifts, great discussions, mouth-watering meals and snacks, history tours, overnight stays, and so many other expressions of love, I want to say a tremendous “terima kasi” (Bahasa Indonesian for Thank You)! I miss you all already!

By Amy Miller

I used to think it was political talk, or sentimental schmaltz, when people spoke of wanting to leave a better world for their children. Now that I have children on the threshold of adulthood, I understand more deeply that sentiment. I desperately want them to live out their lives with fewer, not more, obstacles than I have faced.

My community has decided we want the world to be more comfortable and accepting of difference by the time our children grow up. So that is why South Berwick initiated the Tuskegee-South Berwick sister city relationship and why Guy Trammell came here from Tuskegee this month. It is why the Marshwood Education Foundation funded Mr. Trammell’s five-day trip to the five schools in the district, and why teachers and principals for children from pre-school through high school put time and energy into making the week so meaningful.

I saw only one hour of Mr. Trammell’s presentation. I did not get to see him reading books about Washington Carver or Booker T. Washington to first and second graders. I did not get to hear him describe to older students the achievements of Halle Dillon, the African American woman who was Alabama’s first female doctor. Nor did I participate in the rich discussions he had with teachers during lunch breaks.

What I did see, during a presentation about the Tuskegee Airmen of World War 2, was a six-foot eight-inch African American man standing in a room with dozens of white fourth graders and a handful of white teachers and administrators giving a history that is so personal to him, but not always front and center – and often far from it – in our communities.

And more importantly, I watched from afar as hundreds of children and dozens of adults interacted with a man with a gentle soul, limitless curiosity, a rich knowledge of African American history and a deep well of love for humanity. Who also happens to be black.

People in our town and in Tuskegee, including both municipal governments, have decided we will do what we can to make this country a better place, for black people, for white people, for all of us who live in this nation of largely immigrants.

About a dozen South Berwick residents have traveled to Tuskegee since the first visit by the sister city committee in 2017. As Mr. Trammell told adults at a community meeting mid-week, there has been a lot of love shared between our two communities. Now our goal is to enlarge what he called “the lasso of love.” His week with our students and educators was by all accounts a good next step.

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