In the summer of 1976, we moved from New Rochelle, New York to Dover, Delaware and it was definitely a life altering experience to say the least.
You see, my Uncle Ernest Midget was a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force and was ready to retire, and Dover was his last tour of duty.
His lifelong dream was to move his mother and father out of an apartment in New York and into a house and this is exactly what he did.
However, along with his mother came 2 nieces, my sister, Gloria and myself, the daughters of his twin sister, Ernestine, who were being raised by her.
So moving from New York, a very liberal state to a racist one was not only eye opening, it was also very sad for me, as I was entering my 1st year of high school.
I have several memories that I can share but the one that stands out the most was not being able to attend a movie theater, something that we once had enjoyed every Saturday in New York, where on Main Street we would spend all day watching movies especially if it was a Bruce Lee flick.
There was however, a movie theater in downtown Dover, the Capital Movie Theater where according to Dr. Donald Blakey, DSC, Class of ‘58, during his teenage years, black Americans were not allowed to enter the front door nor were they allowed to sit in the floor seats. They had to enter from the back and sit in the balcony, where the heat and noise was so overpowering that they could hardly hear the film due to the sounds coming from the Projection Room behind them nor enjoy the movie due to the excessive heat.
Listening to him tell this story at the Schwartz Center for the Arts Revitalization program and then thinking back to my years in high school in the the mid-70’s, brought back the tears of anger and sadness but were then replaced with tears of pride and joy…why?
The Capital Theater closed in 1982, a year before I graduated from Delaware State College (University) and remained dark until civic leaders initiated efforts to restore it in 1994. The building was purchased from Muriel Schwartz by the Friends of Capitol Theater, with Schwartz donating a large percentage of the property’s value to the effort. The Schwartz Center for the Arts opened on October 19, 2001.
As part of Delaware State University’s recent acquisition of Wesley College, Delaware State took over a complete ownership stake in The Schwartz Center, yes, the place that once did not allow black americans in the front door is now owned by an historically black college/university – the best HBCU!
Last month I, as Recording Secretary of DSUAA and DSUAA President Leah Willams were invited to attend this event at the Schwartz Center for the Arts and it was historic walking through the front door!
Together we enjoyed sampling appetizers on the 2nd floor, then touring the 3rd floor with Miss. DSU, while listening to sounds of jazz being performed by Student Jazz Ensemble, all of which filled my heart with pride and joy.
The Mistress of Ceremony was fellow alum, class of 1992, Cathleen O. Trigg-Jones, and we enjoyed excerpts from the Nutcracker performed by members of the Ballet Theater of Dover; a scene from Delaware State University’s original Movie Musical, “Romeo & Juliet”; greetings from President Tony Allen, and a Fireside Chat with Dr. Wilma Mishoe and Senator Tom Carper.
It was a beautiful program, and looking up towards the balcony, I could only imagine the pride our ancestors were feeling as they never had an opportunity to experience the revitalization at the Schwartz Center for the Arts but paved the way for us to be there today!
To learn more, head over to https://www.desu.edu/schwartzcenter and check out my Instagram/TikTok page to see more pictures and videos.