City honors two residents, one community at dedication
Hope VI site, Lord Nickens Street celebrated as milestones for Frederick
Frederick residents gathered earlier this week to dedicate two new landmarks that have long represented one goal: Community.
The city celebrated the dedication of the first building and the first street named for two black residents on Tuesday, two highly anticipated projects that residents as well as past, present and future city leaders praised as propellants for Frederick's communal evolution.
More than 100 people gathered at the celebration at 7th and Market streets, for the grand opening of the Bernard W. Brown Community Center, named after a lifelong resident and community activist, and the dedication of Lord Nickens Street, named after a lifelong civil rights activist from Frederick.
"There's a reason you have a street and a building named after these two ... because I don't care what color you are, if you've been around Frederick, you know who they are," Mayor W. Jeff Holtzinger (R) told the two men, who were both in attendance.
The 10,900 square-foot center, seven years in the making, will be the anchor of Frederick's HOPE VI project sites. The Hope VI projects are a collaboration of the city and the Housing Authority of Frederick to decentralize poverty. The city has pledged $4. 2 million to the project.
Since September, the center has been providing everything from counseling to cookies as its tenants include Moxie, a bakery operated by the nonprofit Cakes for Cause; a Frederick County Head Start center; the Frederick Community Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center; offices for Community Agency School Services; and the UNESCO Center for Peace. It also houses a computer lab and a multipurpose community room.
"It's not just a building. I'm pleased with the type of activities going on in it," Brown said Tuesday. "All of these programs are programs that are needed, and I'm really, really pleased that they're housed in a building with my name on it."
Twenty-seven public housing units and 16 rental units will adjoin the center and 55 market-rate homes are also being constructed nearby, 12 of which the Housing Authority of the City of Frederick will help make affordable by carrying a second mortgage on them.
As Kevin Lollar, director of development for Frederick's Housing Authority, stood Tuesday on the site where the homes will be constructed, he spoke of how the continuing efforts for the HOPE VI project will foster community.
"No longer will we take neglected people and concentrate them in one area and leave them alone," Lollar said. "We are a community. Today we honor two individuals who have shown that throughout their lives, they understand that philosophy."
The homes will adjoin Lord Nickens Street., named after the 96-year-old Frederick resident who served for 20 years as president of the local NAACP. Nickens addressed the crowd Tuesday, offering appreciation and a story about himself as a 6-year-old, assaulted in Frederick for venturing into a white bathroom. The incident spurred his call to civil rights, he said.
"It gave me the idea, the notion that if I wanted freedom ... I had to fight for it and in fighting that battle for myself, I had to include the entire population," he said. "It's been a hard, tough, nasty journey.
"I guess I'll have to change my mind about what could happen in Frederick," he added.
Others in attendance also said that the dedication of both projects named for black residents could help continue to change minds about Frederick as a community.
Former mayors Jennifer P. Dougherty and Ron Young who both oversaw plans for the HOPE VI sites during their administrations said the projects, as well as the men they're named after, can exemplify what's best about Frederick. "This is proof that the community and government can work together to do something good," Dougherty said.
Guy Djoken, president of Frederick's chapter of the NAACP, said that the dedications were also momentous. "For those who care about community, this is a milestone," he said.
Many other agreed. "It's a wonderful, momentous occasion," said Rose Chaney, a member of the board of directors for African American Resources Cultural Heritage in Frederick. "I never thought I'd see a street and a building named after African Americans. It gives hope for better days that everyone will become a part of Frederick."
E-mail Erica L. Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.