Archive for May 2012
The third session of the Greenbelt 75th Anniversary Symposium is titled “Towards Inclusion: Diversity in Greenbelt.” The moderator is Dan Hamlin, pastor of the Greenbelt Community Church, who has long been active in interfaith efforts in Greenbelt. Christal Batey and Karen Haseley from the City of Greenbelt talk about city initiatives for seniors and citizens with disabilities, and Frank DeBernardo speaks about GrenBeLT Pride, a LGBT group.
Moderator Dan Hamlin has been pastor at the Greenbelt Community Church for 28 years. He starts with religious quotas which were in place when the government selected Greenbelt’s first residents. The quotas were based on the District of Columbia census of 1920, the most recent available then, and were intended to ensure that the same percentages of Catholics, Protestants, and Jews lived in Greenbelt as in Washington, D.C. A worship center was planned with four sanctuaries in the same building, for Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Mormons respectively, but it was never built. An interfaith group was founded in June 1939–Hamlin marvels at its name during a time of global conflict and great uncertainty–“Permanent Conference of Religious Life in Greenbelt.” The organization is now Greenbelt Interfaith Leadership Association in which Hamlin has played a large role. He talks about people of all faiths helped to build Mishkan Torah Synagogue, and the synagogue, as a token of appreciation, gave a lectern to the Community Church with a plaque that says: “Dedicated to the glory of God and the human brotherhood.” He theorizes that spiritual connections were strong in Greenbelt because people came from all parts of the country and had to build brand new social support networks. In the other two green towns, there were existing ties. He recounts two events that he took part in: an organized effort to prevent a cross burning by the K.K.K. and a community commemoration of 9/11. The 9/11 commemoration took place by Greenbelt Lake. Hamlin recalls the priest at St. Hugh Catholic Church came with a large bag of candles and Rabbi Jonathan Cohen of Mishkan Torah Synagogue, then a Canadian citizen, holding an American flag and standing together with Muslim imams.
Every year in the spring the Greenbelt Nursery School organizes a Tortoise and Hare 5-kilometer race that is also a fundraiser for the school. Runners start and finish in front of the tennis courts by Greenbelt Youth Center and complete two laps around Greenbelt Lake. They then gather at the Nursery School for post-race awards and snacks. This year there is also a 1K Family Fun Run.
This is a USATF certified flat loop course that begins and ends at the tennis courts by the Youth Center. Runners then run around Greenbelt Lake clockwise twice, and there is a water station at Buddy Attick Park. The advance registration fee for the 5K race is $25, and race day registration is $30. The 1K Family Fun Run costs $5.
On Mother’s Day, the Mishkan Torah Synagogue in Old Greenbelt presented an afternoon concert titled “Generations United.” It featured fourteen classically trained performers who have all been involved with the synagogue, and the program included performances by a mother and daughter, two fathers and sons, and a father, mother, and son combination. The following is a selection, with biographical information from the program booklet.
Pianist Don Anderson plays Etude-Tableau, Opus 39, No. 1 by Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “fifth of May”) commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely triumph over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The date is celebrated in America as a de facto Mexican heritage day, with festivals and parties, many held at bars and Mexican restaurants. In Greenbelt, each year on May 5, Chevys Fresh Mex Restaurant in Greenway Center hosts a Cinco de Mayo celebration with food and drink specials, outdoor dining, and DJ music. The party usually takes place after work but this year, because May 5 is a Saturday, children’s activities were added.
Banner at Greenbelt Chevys celebrating the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo. It shows a blindfolded, mustached man wearing a broad-brimmed Mexican hat breaking a pinata.
Greenbelt’s 50th anniversary celebration in 1987 included many projects, and two of them have had long lasting impact. One is a history book titled “Greenbelt: History of a New Town: 1937-1987” edited by Mary Lou Williamson which was updated in 1997 at the 60th anniversary celebration and is still the authoritative history of Greenbelt today. The other is the creation of the Greenbelt Museum. In December 1986, the city purchased an original two-bedroom, cinderblock townhouse from GHI at 10B Crescent Road, and Friends of the Greenbelt Museum led a fund raising drive. The museum was dedicated on October 10, 1987 and this year it celebrates its 25th anniversary. This second session of the Greenbelt 75th Anniversary Symposium features people who were or are involved with the museum and is titled “The Greenbelt Museum at 25.”
Sandra Lange is the moderator of this session. She opens by saying that 25 years ago she chaired the city’s 50th Anniversary Committee: “We had a lot of projects. The most important and the crown jewel of all our projects was the establishment of the city’s Greenbelt Museum.” She tells that it was Dorothy Sucher who in 1972 wrote a letter to the Greenbelt News Review proposing a museum. When the city’s 50th anniversary approached, Sucher called the establishment of a museum “the Possible Dream”: “The original objective was to preserve for the benefit of the public Greenbelt’s unique heritage as one of America’s earliest planned towns. Built during the thirties as an expression of the philosophy of the New Deal, the cooperative movement, and as an experiment in community living, the museum will celebrate the founding of the city and display objects of historical and artistic interest related to that period in a manner that will provide visitors with cultural and educational enrichment. Involvement of the community on an on-going basis will be an integral part of the museum.”
The Greenbelt Federal Credit Union was established in 1937 shortly after the first residents moved into Greenbelt and is the first cooperative in the city. Housed in Roosevelt Center, the Credit Union today has 3,400 members and an asset over $19 million. Each year it organizes two shredding events for its members and members of the community in the Roosevelt Center parking lot.
The advertisement in the Greenbelt News Review reads: “The Greenbelt Federal Credit Union will be shredding your documents in the parking lot behind the Roosevelt Center at 112 Centerway. Only 5 file boxes/bags per person. Must be present for shredding. Personal records only (no business). No contaminants accepted. Abandoned boxes/bags will be put in the regular trash.”
When Greenbelt celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1987, an academic conference was held and it was titled “The Greenbelt Conference on New Towns.” This year the city is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and a highlight of this year’s celebration is a multi-disciplinary symposium titled “Sustaining Greenbelt’s Legacy.” The conference took place on Friday April 27 and Saturday April 28 in the Greenbelt Community Center, and the following is an account of the first of five sessions—“A Living Community: Greenbelt’s Enduring Legacies.”
The conference takes place in the art deco Greenbelt Community Center. This building was built in 1937 when the first residents moved into Greenbelt as the Greenbelt Center School, and it has also served as a community gathering place ever since. When a new elementary school was built in 1991 at the north end of the town, the building is converted to the Greenbelt Community Center. The building now houses a gym, offices, artist studios, multipurpose rooms and hosts an array of meetings and recreational activities daily.
On April 17, two Greenbelt residents and University of Maryland professors spoke at the Friends of the Greenbelt Museum lecture. Isabelle Gournay lives in GHI and is an associate professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and Mary Corbin Sies lives in the Lakeside Drive neighborhood and is an associate professor of American Studies. The title of the lecture is “Housing in Greenbelt: Beyond the New Deal Legacy,” and the two professors spoke about the city’s “residential landscape” beyond the original townhouses and garden apartments.
The lecture is held in the Greenbelt Community Center and about fifty people are in attendance. This event is on the Greenbelt 75th Anniversary Committee’s official calendar and is a teaser for the two-day 75th Anniversary Symposium that is chaired by Isabelle Gournay and will be held on April 27 and 28.