Rosenwald News by Nicola Karesh
Submitted to and published in The Transylvania Times on March 7, 2022
We start off this week with a little trek down memory lane and the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center. From the January 21st edition of The Transylvania Times in 1971, you could have read, “Since day care has been discontinued, the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center has been used for full day recreation for all ages with the help of community workers: Mrs. Selena Robinson, Lida Raynowska, Boyce Baker and Norris Ducket. Recreation is held at least three nights a week. The center is also used for other activities by different groups for band practice, dances, plays, movies, teas, art, photography and baton lessons.”
To continue our look at the past, thank you to Mary Sherwood for her recent letter, “I always look for your articles in the newspaper and this week I was especially pleased to read that the Jenkins Community Center is going up. I remember helping out there many years ago when it opened its doors to the Boys and Girls Club which was just starting in the county. Several of us were volunteers from the Quilt Club helping the children learn how to use sewing machines and make small projects. Needless to say, it was challenging to find a quiet place to do this in that busy building. Some of those students now are college graduates. But I am really writing you mainly to praise you for the excellent columns that you provide for us in the newspaper. You educate as well as entertain us and we appreciate it. I hope you can continue to do so for a long time.” Thank you so much for that! For those of you out there that have memories and connections with the Center, please send those in. It will be nice to collect and record those for MCJCC. Mary’s letter is especially timely as our opening approaches. There is an open invitation for community members to let us know how you would like to be involved. Maybe you have a talent, a skill, or a passion to share? Perhaps you will have time to volunteer and want to know how to do so? Some of the areas where you might be able to put your energies for starters relate to health and wellness, art and music, history and culture, youth and recreation.
Locally and present time, Joe Greene recently gave a comedy show performance with another scheduled for the end of this month. “For the past 15 or 16 years, I have been the organizer and promoter of the Funny “r” Us comedy shows.” Recently renamed Funny “R” Us Awareness since the diagnosis of cancer entered his life. “I have always felt that laughter is the key to happiness. I still believe in that. The shows get people out and brings laughter to their lives.”
Joe calls himself an ambassador, “the black spokesman for Colonoscopy early testing” at the age of 40. Reportedly, insurance didn’t used to cover the needed testing until age 50. Over the last few years, “it has dropped to age 45 especially with actor Chad Boseman’s death to colon cancer at the age of 43. When he was filming Black Panther, people didn’t even know that he had cancer and he was going through chemotherapy. You want to catch it early, because if you let it go so far, you’re not coming back from it. As a black man growing up, it was stuck in my mind that I need to have this test done at age 40. When I look back, I was seeing signs. You know, not using the restroom, blood in my stool. I just never thought I was on that level.” Greene was scheduled to have his colonoscopy test when he was 39. “It was my 40th birthday week, so I put it off. February came. I kept putting it off. As men, we don’t want anyone touching us in this area, so I keep putting it off. March was booked up and then in April, my Mama told me that I needed to get it done. I did. April 17th, I woke up to the news from the doctor that I had cancer. I said, “Damn. What’s my next move? I have kids.” April 20th, Joe saw a specialist who told him that he didn’t participate in the usual things that trigger most people (eating a lot of red meat, smoking) and so they were going to “go with the flow and get this out of me.” April 27th, he was scheduled for emergency surgery. “I was still not really grasping it. I posted on social media about having cancer and about my surgery. When I woke up from it, I was told that I had stage 3 cancer. There are only 4 stages. They cut a mass out of me, the size of a tennis ball. Something that big was growing in me and I didn’t even know.”
He was scheduled for 5 to 7 days in the hospital. Joe shared that he went home after 2 ½ days. His mindset was, “I can’t dwell on this. It is what it is. I have kids.” In a three-way conversation with Greene and Brevard resident, Cindy Benjamin, it was clear that Greene understood what he was now facing. Far from denial and sticking his head in the sand, he was taking the bull by the horns and finding his own way to move forward in a positive manner.
“Even before my diagnosis, I recognised that laughter is a stress reliever. Comedy shows… it’s needed. We don’t usually go to Brevard. There was no connection really.” Transylvania locals would attend the shows in Asheville and with several connections made with locals here, “We seen the vibe and it felt like a good thing to bring it to Papa L.E.W’s venue where we had the last show. As the spokesman for this movement, I tell people what goes on, especially as a black man. I talk about the prep drink before the test, the procedure, what happens after you wake up, the 12 rounds of chemo that I had. I call this ESSL, or Early Screening Saves Lives. What I share makes you aware, comfortable and that it’s cool to accept it and talk about it. Put some initiative into your life. You know, you can look good on the outside and you never know what’s happening on the inside.” We talked about lifestyle changes, planting seeds and tapping in to bring awareness through conversation with black men 40 plus and age 40 and below as his main reach.
As a self-employed individual, Project X was the avenue that Joe and his mother pursued to cover his testing as he was uninsured. “Let’s find out what’s in Transylvania County or in the area. We can find out the steps together.”
Cindy Benjamin shared, “I am trying to help him get the word out. His major thing is to get a group together and speak. I was listening to him at the last comedy show in Brevard and I was thinking that in this area, you don’t have many black men willing to come forward and talk about health issues. His being forward and out was amazing to me. It’s a start to something.
The comedy show was great, every comedian did an outstanding job keeping the crowd laughing! Much respect to Joe Greene for having the courage to get on stage and talk about his fight with battling cancer. I commend him for being so open to talk about something that most would consider to be so private! I am looking forward to supporting and attending any upcoming Awareness events that will be held in the months to come!”
Other Transylvania County attendees reactions….
Terelle Norman shared, “Joe did an amazing job with the comedy show. I have been to numerous shows and he went above and beyond, as always, to make sure that everyone enjoys themselves. It was something very different for Brevard and something that we absolutely needed. I am looking forward for the next show. Laughter is good for the soul and we all need that. I have also followed his journey over the past year while he has dealt with cancer and he is an amazing and strong human. He is definitely a great advocate for men to get tested early.”
From Melba Avery, “I had an absolute ball at the comedy show. It did my soul some good to be able to socialise, laugh and be in the presence of good company. This town really needed it. I will most definitely support the effort and I will remain down for the cause. I know Joe went above and beyond putting this show together. It was awesome. Can’t wait until the next one.”
Kelly A. McDuffie, “It was nice to be able to experience a comedy show with my daughter. I also liked the way they talked about real issues in our communities but did it in a way that we could laugh and enjoy ourselves. Shout out to Joe Greene for overcoming cancer. I would definitely recommend attending their show and would love to catch the next one. Also, shout out to Ursula Wynn and staff for good service and good food.”
Lastly from Danyel Rabb, “I had a great experience at the comedy show Friday, March 18th. It was my first comedy show that I have attended and was definitely worth it. I had many laughs with some delicious food and a good time with my people and other people in my community. I’m glad I had the advantage of listening to Joe Greene tell his story about having and beating cancer, as well as how big of a problem it is in the black community. It is something that should be more talked about.”
Closing it out, Joe’s desire to reach out to the community, “If it grabs someone, that’s important. My experience, the shows, activism, all the things in my life I’ve done have led up to this platform to share this subject that’s not talked about in the black community and as men. Let’s see where it goes!”
Incidentally, Mr. Greene’s last colonoscopy was on Wednesday, March 23rd of this year. He was cancer-free! The next comedy show will be on Friday, April 29th at 36 E. Main Street in Brevard (Papa LEW’s) with doors opening at 7 pm and the show starting at 8 pm.
Newsworthy items for submission for Rosenwald Community News are welcomed from community members, churches, clubs and groups. If you have an idea for a story or interview for me to capture, please let me know.
Nicola Karesh (firstname.lastname@example.org) or 828-421-8615