Doomsday or Dumas Day?

by Mary E. Campagna

The 30th of June will be piping hot with activity in honor of the historic Dumas Hotel, an African American icon in this town since the 1930s; a place where a host of greats such as Ella Fitzgerald and Fats Domino performed. The week-end will kick off with two revival services: at 7pm June 28 at St. Paul’s United Methodist in Gainsboro and another at 7:00 p.m., June 29 at a church to be designated later this week. (Check the Dumas Legacy Facebook page).

Then on Saturday, June 30 a 5-K race for adults, children and pets will start in Washington Park at 8:45 a.m. Walkers and runners need to arrive early. That evening Henry Street vendors will begin arriving at 4pm with gates opening at 5pm.

The Second Annual Dumas Legacy Concert will be held again on Henry Street in front of the old Dumas hotel starting at 7:00 p.m. This year’s concert features the incredible Adrian Crutchfield and his guest, Adina Howard. Bring your appetite and your lawn chairs. There will be a party in the street worthy of Roanoke’s finest night owls.

Some people say doomsday may come any day now in America and some swear it came the day two Black families (the Laws and the Lashes) lost the Dumas to the City in 1988. In 1990, Total Action for Progress (TAP) received it as a gift from the housing authority, which had purchased it for 25 K. Today the Dumas Hotel Legacy, Inc., a grassroots group made up primarily of Black Roanoke citizens, is working diligently to buy the Dumas back for the community;\ not just for the African American community, but for entire community.

The Legacy’s mission statement reads: “Our main goal is to provide a resource for those who are interested in the performing arts industry and to increase community support for the arts while preserving the history of a landmark…”

If the purchase goes through, the building will be used for education in business and the arts as well as to provide meeting places and an entertainment venue for its diverse patrons. However, after several renovations, the price of the Dumas has risen dramatically; some say far too dramatically for a small group of middle class Roanokers to have a chance in hell of coming up with the cash needed to buy and maintain the property. But one thing the Legacy group has is determination. And what they are asking is that other Roanokers, whether native to the area or adopted citizens who migrated here due to a love for the captivating mountains, join Legacy in claiming the dream.

Naturally, we all dream of world peace but peace begins with small steps – like participating in a prayer, a race, a concert, a party with people you may not have known before in your own town.

Big dreams always start with small steps. We’ve all witnessed miracles. We can tell you that there will be prayers on the 28th and 29th and the party begins on the 30th. Will you show up? The choice is yours.

Please call the A. Byron Smith office for all Dumas week-end tickets at 540-343-2721. The Dumas box office will also be open June 28-29 from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. for concert tickets.

More information is located on the Dumas Legacy page on Facebook. Mary E. Campagna is a writer and new member of the Dumas Hotel Legacy, Inc. Steering Committee.