By Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Jill Howell
For anyone who has ever been to the Franklinton Center at Bricks, it’s likely you were greeted with a “Welcome home!” from Vivian Lucas. I’ve only met Vivian in person a handful of times, but she is the type of person you feel as though you have known forever. Her passion for and commitment to Franklinton Center at Bricks — both the work that the organization does today, as well as the history in that space and land — is truly remarkable.
Clay (Barber, Sound Rivers’ environmental projects coordinator) and I came to know Vivian through the construction of a Sound Rivers’ camping platform. The FCAB property sits on Fishing Creek, a tributary of the Tar River, and with permission of FCAB, we constructed camping platform on the banks of Fishing Creek in 2019. FCAB is also home to the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network’s annual EJ Convening — 20 of the 21 summits have been held there, and I attended in 2019.
After serving as executive director of the Franklinton Center at Bricks for more than 12 years, she retired in 2021. On Saturday, March 26, more than 50 people gathered over Zoom (many more if you count those who pre-recorded video messages) for a virtual celebration of Vivian that was filled with many offering words and stories of love and gratitude for Vivian’s energy, vision, dedication, leadership and commitment to the FCAB. All wished that her days beyond the Franklinton Center are filled with as much joy as she has brought to those she met each day there and those in her community.
The Franklinton Center at Bricks sits on former plantation land that was transformed into one of the first accredited schools for African Americans in the South. Today, it is a conference, retreat, and educational facility focusing on justice advocacy and leadership development.
Taken directly from their website:
Once part of a plantation, the FCAB’s site history and its buildings are part of the history of education for African-Americans beginning in 1895. The oldest usable building on campus is the Auditorium which was originally built in 1895. There is an area of remembrance on campus (Magnolia Tree and Whipping Post), this area serves as a reminder of that part of the land’s history. Also, an additional acre of land in driving distance of the campus is a cemetery that includes antebellum burials of those who were enslaved. This cemetery is still in use today.
“The mission of Franklinton Center at Bricks is to provide a nurturing home to local, national and global programs and organizations seeking liberation. Our vision is to manifest a world where systemic oppression does not exist; the whole divinity of a person is realized; the memory, contribution and resilience of our ancestors is embraced; and the environment is healed. This world embodies the gifts of learning, outdoor play, teaching, health, safety, love, and connection to beloved community.”