African American Cross-Cultural Works (AACW) is a non-profit, community-based group that recognizes cultural heritage and celebrates
cultural diversity by organizing, promoting and hosting events such as the annual Blues
Fest, the annual celebration of Kwaanza, and other cultural and cross-cultural events throughout the year in and around Yellow Springs.
According to Diane Chiddister, Editor of the Yellow Springs News, in her November, 2002 newspaper article about long-time village resident Faith Patterson, Faith:
...began her association with AACW—then
African-American Cultural Week [in 1991]when an Antioch College student, John
Simms, organized a week of activities honoring African-American culture.
Because her daughter Karen, a cellist who then lived in Portland, Ore.,
was asked to participate, Patterson got involved, too. |
The next year, when Simms left Yellow Springs, he turned over the responsibilities
to Bill Chappelle [late father of Dave Chappelle], Patterson and several other local residentsand the group has been going strong ever since, fueled by the energies
of Patterson, Chappelles widow, Joan, and many others.
It takes a lot of work to organize a successful blues festival, and the
remnants of that work can be found on the cluttered dining room table
of Pattersons South College Street home, which she shares with her
son, musician Nerak Roth Patterson, and his children, Erika and Nerak
Jr. Its a busy lifeher son and his children moved in soon
after the death of Pattersons husband four years ago, and she happily
helps care for her grandchildrenbut Faith Patterson seems to thrive
"Im busier than Ive ever been," she said. "Im
so excited about life. I believe were here to serve, and once you
find where your passion lies, you move forward and try to find ways to
make a difference."
Living in a multigenerational household brings back good memories for
Patterson, who grew up in Petersburg, Va., where she and her mother lived
with her grandparents after her parents divorced when she was very young.
Having divorced parents was unusual then, Patterson said, but she never
felt a stigma, only love from her grandparents and her mother, who worked
as a teacher.
"I adored her," said Patterson of her mother. "She was
a patient woman, with deep spiritual beliefs, a woman who cared for all
human beings. Everybody loved her. She was my best friend."
But the daily life of an African-American child in a segregated world
involved some frustration, and Patterson remembers the local movie theater,
where she and her friends had to sit in the balcony, as well as local
restaurants that were closed to blacks.
"A great part of all that was painful," she said. "But
you just have to let it go."
Patterson found an example of letting go in her grandfather, who told
her that before going to sleep each night she should "say a prayer
and let go of any resentments. He said we need to start each day fresh
because each day is a blessing."
While she learned about forgiveness from her grandfather, Patterson learned
spunkiness from her mother, who set an example of an independent woman.
Patterson exhibited some of that independence when, as a high school student,
she refused to take the required home economics classes and, instead,
became the first girl in her school to take industrial arts.
"I already knew how to cook and bake and sew," she said with
a smile. "I wanted to learn how to hammer."
Inspired by her mother, Pattersons lifelong goal was to teach kindergarten,
and she went on to study education at Bennett College in North Carolina.
The autumn of her senior year, Patterson attended a lecture at the home
of her aunt, and that day her life changed. The lecturer was a handsome,
articulate man called "Pat" Patterson, an Air Force officer.
Although she was already engaged to be married, she felt drawn to Patterson,
and when he called the next day to ask her out, she said yes. Soon her
engagement was off, and she and her handsome lecturer planned to wed.
Her marriage to Patterson the following spring began a gypsy life, with
the couple stationed in Maryland, Germany, Japan and Virginia, among other
places. But every place they lived, Patterson found a job teaching, and
before long she gave birth to her children, Karen, Eric and Nerak Roth.
In 1969, Pat Patterson was transferred to Wright Patterson Air Force Base.
Soon, Faith Patterson said, people she met told her, "you have to
see Yellow Springsits you."
Yellow Springs was her, and the family moved to a house on Omar Circle
in 1969. But Patterson didnt quite fit inyet. As an officers
wife, she was used to being "dressed to the nines," always wearing
a skirt or dress, with gloves, hat and stockings. But in the village,
she realized, women favored more informal dress.
At one luncheon Patterson attended, local architect Louise Odiorne showed
up in surprising attire.
"She was wearing jeans," said Patterson. "After that I
took off my stockings. I became free."
Pattersons happiness with her new home in Yellow Springs expanded
when she began teaching kindergarten at the Antioch School, where she
found like-minded educators who also didnt think it was a good idea
to force children to sit at desks. When her association with the Antioch
School came to an end, Patterson began a preschool, Faiths Place,
in her home, partly in order to help care for her husband.
Patterson spent many years caring for her invalid husband, who died four
years ago, and whom, she said, she misses every day. When he was on his
death bed, someone asked if he didnt get tired of his wife after
so many years. His response, said Patterson, was one that she clearly
shares"Oh no," he said. "There was never enough
While she clearly misses her husband, Faith Patterson continues to find
much joy in life. She keeps busy with her family, with the AACW, as a
member of the village Human Relations Commission and with her church,
Christ Episcopal Church in Xenia.
At an age when many are slowing down, Faith Patterson shows no signs of
"Time is running out," she said. "Ive got a lot to
do in the days ahead."