Robeson County is throwing a party on Thursday — and you are invited.
From 4 to 7 p.m. at the Department of Social Services on N.C. 711, just west of Lumberton, residents can join the bicenquasquigenary celebration, where there will be free food, fun and entertainment, as well as historical information about Robeson County’s first 225 years. A time capsule will be buried that will probably be unearthed in 2037, when Robeson County celebrates its bicenquinquagenary.
We will pause quickly with this quibble: If we had been asked, we would not have picked the DSS for this party because it is a symbol of something that is not worthy of celebrating, which is an increasing dependency on welfare by this county. But county officials say the DSS building, which is abundantly grand, has plenty of parking and space, and is conveniently located to all four of the county’s corners, so there you go.
Robeson County was established in 1887, 11 years after this country declared its independence from Great Britain, and four years after that victory was achieved. A 949-square-mile section was carved out of Bladen County, and Robeson then became the largest county in the state, named for Col. Thomas Robeson, a Revolutionary War hero and a key figure in our history.
This county was immediately unique, made so because of its blend of blacks, mostly slaves, whites who were immigrants from Europe, many of Scottish descent, and American Indians, who were here first. That mix makes us not only one of the most diverse counties in North Carolina, but across this country.
The journey from then to now has not been easy, especially for a tri-racial community. We have survived this nation’s bloody war on American Indians that pushed a race of people to the brink of extinction, the divisive Civil War, and the Jim Crow South, with people today of all colors studying, working, and playing together with remarkable ease. It is a lesson others, including our elected leaders, would do well to learn.
The past two decades have brought troubled waters for Robeson County, as tobacco and manufacturing jobs evaporated, forcing people out of work and shoving crime upward, meaning the bad news has been delivered in larger doses than the good news.
But we Robesonians are a tough lot, a God-fearing people who possess in large quantities a genuine concern for our neighbors. We know of nowhere where a higher value is placed on charity, and where people are quicker to rally to the aid of a friend or stranger.
On Thursday, let’s put our worries on the shelf, and celebrate our history and look forward to making some more. And since the DSS building will stand as sentinel for the event, let it inspire us to reclaim our resiliency, and to trust ourselves — and not the government — to meet each’s day challenges.
Only when that happens can there be better times.