Greenbelt 75th Anniversary Symposium: Session 3
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.
Karen Haseley is Therapeutic Recreation Supervisor in the Recreation Department and has worked for the city for 24 years. “She is the only full time Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) hired by a municipality in suburban Maryland.” She talks about therapeutic recreation program for seniors and individuals with disabilities which was started in 1988. For seniors ages 60 and over, there are a wide range of classes, bus trips, shopping trips, swim sessions, monthly movies, Wii bowling tournaments, and special events. The Golden Age Club meets every Wednesday with speakers and potluck luncheons. For people with disabilities, therapeutic assessments are made and they are followed by treatment plans, implementation, and evaluation. Individuals with disabilities have successfully participated in many of the city’s recreation programs including camps, classes and exercise programs.
Christal Batey is Greenbelt’s Community Resource Advocate and she talks about the GAIL (Greenbelt Assistance in Living) program. Established in 2001, GAIL is Greenbelt’s aging in place program and its goal is to “provide information and support to enable seniors to remain in their homes.” The program started with information referral and now includes office visits, internet-based assistance, phone consultations, group consultations, and most importantly, home visits to address the needs of seniors and people with disabilities. In addition to two full-time paid staff members, the program employs on average 17 interns each year from various disciplines including social work, public health, and nursing, and doctors from Georgetown Medical School and the Family Science Department of the University of Maryland. She mentions the GAIL guide (quarterly newsletter), cable show Ask the Expert, suicide awareness and mental health screening day, memory screening day, free flu clinic, and free produce distribution in partner with Capital Food Bank.
Frank DeBernardo is Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, “a national organization which strives to build bridges between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church.” He lives in GHI and has served on several GHI committees. He has also served on Greenbelt’s Labor Day Committee and is on the city’s 75th Anniversary Committee. He talks about activities associated with GreenBeLT Pride, a group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) residents.
DeBernardo recounts moving into Greenbelt in 2004 and, as a gay man, looked for other LGBT people. He could not find them but noticed bumper stickers supporting gay rights. In May 2005 he called for a meeting to plan activities for Pride month in June; he expected 3 people to show up and was surprised when 15 came. It was at that first meeting when the name GreenBeLT Pride was adopted, and “You can’t spell Greenbelt without GBLT” became the group’s motto. 75 people attended that year’s celebration at the New Deal Café, and Ellen Siegel, then general manager of the café created a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with guacamole to go with the LGBT name. Since then GreenBeLT Pride has participated in a full range of city events including Labor Day parade, New Year celebration at the Youth Center (with a pizza stand), Valentine’s Day craft activities, and Utopia Film Festival (with LGBT themed movies). The city has long recognized domestic partnership for city employees and GHI changed the word marriage to partnership in its membership documents. There were also challenges, DeBernardo says. A member when she moved into her house was told by her neighbor: “Well, you know, this is a family neighborhood.” And on occasions, at Labor Day parade, parents pull their children away when GreenBeLT Pride members walk along handing out candies. But overall, DeBernardo has found a “welcoming and progressive” spirit in Greenbelt. The community spirit and cultural offerings are attractive to LGBT people, he says, and even the smaller homes are preferred by people who do not have large families. DeBernardo concludes by recounting what he calls “the finest hour” that GreenBeLT Pride has had in its eight-year existence. Last year words spread that a group called “Protect Marriage Maryland” was going to march in the Labor Day Parade against the marriage equality bill being considered in Maryland legislature. GreenBeLT Pride members believed that they need to have a presence in support of all families. Normally 8 or 9 people march in their group at the parade but last year, as they marched down Crescent Road, dozens joined them and many other cheered them on. By the time they reached the reviewing stand, the GreenBeLT Pride contingent was about 150 people strong. DeBernardo concludes: “That was the moment where the name GreenBeLT Pride really rang truest that it was a moment to be proud to be LGBT people and to be proud that we live in Greenbelt.”
This session’s respondent is Lois Rosado, retired dean of the State University of New York/Brooklyn Educational Opportunity Center and a member of Greenbelt 75th Anniversary Committee. She selects three words, “acceptance, caring, and progressive,” to describe Greenbelt. She says that she comes from Brooklyn and if one falls down the stairs there, one gets some help but not as much as here; also in Brooklyn she volunteered a lot but not in the standard of Greenbelt. Rosado quotes the population figures in Greenbelt, “47 percent African American, 26 percent White, 14 percent Latino, 10 percent Asian, and 3.3 percent multi racial,” and urges those in attendance to look around room (which is predominantly white) and continue to work to engage others.
Brenda Cooley asks about GIVES.
Karen Haseley answers that GIVES stands for Greenbelt Intergenerational Volunteer Exchange Service. When a person joins GIVES, he or she is given 4 hours of credit and can collect more by providing services to others in the program such as driving them to the doctor’s, doing yard work, and making lunch. He or she then receives credit and can use it for services provided to him or her.
An audience member asks how CARES fits into this arrangement of services.
Christal Batey says that the GAIL program is not a department on its own but operates under CARES, the city’s youth and family services bureau. GAIL expands CARES’s services which include counseling, crisis intervention, GED classes, and anger management groups.
Michaels Hartman asks how straight allies can support the work GreenBeLT Pride is doing.
Frank DeBernardo answers that GreenBeLT Pride is open to everyone, gay or straight. He urges people to vote in the referendum this November to support marriage equality.
An audience member says that he is not a Greenbelt resident but is interested in the talk that was canceled due to speaker unavailability. It is “New Deal Policy and the All-white Suburb,” originally scheduled to be given by David Freund, Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. He asks whether anybody in the audience can talk about this issue.
Jim Giese was Greenbelt’s City Manager from 1962 to 1991. He recounts several events in Greenbelt’s past related to race relations. He says that it was a federal policy that Greenbelt was for whites only and it was no unusual at the time. The government did build places such as Langston Terrace for blacks. In the 60s there was an attempt to integrate the swimming pool. He was tipped off that someone was going to bring people of color to the pool and was ready for it. The party came and left without any problem. During the Poor People’s March, “mule trains” (which were buses) came to Greenbelt on their way to Washington and the demonstrators ate meals at the Catholic Church and Community Church. Again he was ready but everything went smoothly. He says that Fair Housing Act requiring equal housing opportunities did a lot to integrate Greenbelt.
Pastor Hamlin says that he is now known around town as the father-in-law of Pam Hamlin who is the lead teacher at Greenbelt Nursery School and is African American and Native American in background. He says that his daughter-in-law tells him that when she goes to Richmond to visit her extended family or when she goes up to the Hamlin family’s hometown in New York, she does not feel entirely comfortable with white people; but she feels very comfortable in Greenbelt as a member of the community.
Brenda Cooley talks about school integration. She says that children who lived at Boxwood Village including her daughter were bused in 1972 to a school in Landover Hills. It was done in the middle of the year and was confusing for the children. There was a lot of resentment among people in Greenbelt but this was happening all over the county. She says the ironic thing is that the only African American child in Greenbelt was living in Boxwood Village and he was bused as well.
Carol Malveaux is a co-chair of the 75th Anniversary Committee. She says that she moved from Chicago to Massachusetts and then to Greenbelt 27 years ago. When she first moved in she looked for the ghetto but could not find it. She says that she believes that the motto of the 75th Anniversary Committee “Community, Culture, and Cooperation” describes Greenbelt well.
John Henry Jones tells his children were bused and people have often asked him why he allowed that to happen. He says that they wanted to go where their friends were going. Jones has lived in Greenbelt since 1971, “I’ve seen a lot, and learned a lot, and I like it a lot!”
The next session, the last session of the day, is titled “Greenbelters on the Move: Public Transportation for a Pedestrian City.” It will start at 3:45 p.m.