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A husband and wife PhD. team headlined the Bedford Branch NAACP’s annual Freedom Fund banquet, which filled the Forest Recreation Center late last month.
Dr. Joanne Gabbin is a professor of English at James Madison University (JMU) and is director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center there. She is featured in the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. She also owns the 150 Franklin Street Gallery in Harrisonburg. Her husband, Dr. Alexander Gabbin, is a professor of accounting at JMU.
Dr. Joanne Gabbin was originally the sole keynote speaker, and began with a humorous poem called “Mama’s Sayings.” It fit with the banquet’s theme “Our Village Needs a Mentor.” Her mother was a mentor and example for her.
“I want to talk for a moment about my mother’s sayings,” Dr. Gabbin said, after reading the poem.
Her mother, Jessica Veal, a domestic worker, brought home books for her daughter.
“She taught me how to read,” Dr. Gabbin said.
And urged her daughter on.
“She had just a fourth grade education,” Dr. Gabbin said. “She said, ‘You have to go farther.”
She also inspired her daughter in other ways. She started saving money — Dr. Gabbin’s father was a cement mason — and bid on a house in the neighborhood at an auction with a winning bid of $15,000. She converted it to apartments and brought in families with children.
“The children have to live somewhere,” her mother would say.
She ended up buying other houses and, although she had a limited formal education, she taught herself economics.
Then, Dr. Gabbin introduced her husband of 46 years. The two initially met when they were in seventh grade.
Dr. Alexander Gabbin noted in many ways life can be like going up the down escalator. In the first place, you have to make an effort. In the second place, the effort you make to go up must be greater than the force going down. Finally, you can’t stop until you reach the top. If you stop before you get to the top, you will end up right back where you started.
Dr. Gabbin mentioned a lady in his church when he was a child, referring to her as “Mrs. Harvey.” He recalled looking at her face as she worshipped.
“You couldn’t tell me she wasn’t seeing God,” Dr. Gabbin said.
He said Mrs. Harvey had a positive influence on him because she actively showed that she cared about him and she prayed for him.
“Mrs. Harvey prayed for me,” he said. “I’m so glad she prayed for me.”
Both of the Gabbins grew up in Baltimore, Md. Dr. Alexander Gabbin earned his bachelor’s degree in math and was enrolled in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at the University of Chicago when an accounting course that was part of the program changed his direction.
“The guy I took it from was awesome,” he said.
Dr. Gabbin said he loves the logic in accounting. He said he loves the fact that accounting has definite right answers.
He went on to earn his PhD. in accounting.
Dr. Joanne Gabbin earned her PhD. in English from the University of Chicago. She was the first black woman to receive a PhD. from that school.
Taking a stand against bullying
During the banquet, Town Councilman Robert Carson, who is vice president of the Bedford Branch, announced the Branch’s initiative against bullying. He urged parents to find out what’s going on in their children’s lives. “It’s got to begin at home,” he said. “You are going to have to take a stand against it at home.”
Ronnie Miller, the Branch’s president announced a membership drive. “We want to reach out into more of the county,” he said.
Membership costs $30 a year and people who are interested in joining may call Miller at (540) 425-4120 or Clarence Brown at (540)588-2228.