Speak now or forever hold your peace. Sort of.
The first part of that adage is what 1st District Councilman Chris Ford is hoping we all will do regarding the future of the Charles Young Community Center on East Third Street.
The second part is pretty much what will happen if we don't.
Ford is the chairman of the Charles Young Center task force that has been charged with exploring ways to better use the building named for the third African-American to graduate from West Point, the first to attain the rank of colonel, and the highest-ranking black officer in the military at the time of his death in 1922.
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The group has been looking at the costs of renovating the structure built in the 1930s as the first indoor center for African-Americans. The group is also trying to determine how the center would best serve the community.
To ensure as many people as possible will have input into that, Ford has created an email account for people to send him ideas. Those who send their visions or questions by email will receive an automatic reply, Ford said, along with a list of the 12 task force members. In addition, you can use his traditional mailing address and council phone number.
There are five possible uses that have come out of the meetings so far: as a recreational facility, a community center, an area for youth and teen activities, a senior citizens center and a workforce and jobs center. Any non-profits wanting space in the building must offer services along those lines.
"We imagine there will be multiple uses," Ford said, "but not everything can be accommodated at the center. Those five were from a listing of many ideas."
That's why the task force wants your comments. Which agency goes in and what services come out depends on what the community needs.
Ford and the task force have set up a brief period during which we can send our visions by email or the U.S. mail.
The written comment period began earlier this month and continues through 11:30 p.m. Sept. 14. At the final community forum scheduled at the center for Sept. 7, the written comments received by that time will be published and presented in a tentative final draft of the task force's report. A final report will be presented to the council by the end of October.
Written comments will also be accepted by the William Wells Brown Neighborhood Association at the third annual East End Reunion this Saturday.
Some 1,500 people enjoyed food, fun and fellowship at the reunion last year, proving the revitalization of the area, as well as the center, is warranted, said Carl White, a task force member and coordinator of the reunion.
"We decided to bring back some of the old people from around the city who had gone to the center," White said of the reunion's beginnings. "We wanted to show how it was not being developed like other parks in the city."
The reunion is from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday at the center, which has been closed since the community center at William Wells Brown Elementary School opened in 2008.
At one time, the center had been included in a planned mixed-use development in the East End of downtown. But, White said, that wasn't what residents wanted. Plus, the programs offered at the William Wells Brown aren't all the same as the ones once offered at Young, he said.
"People don't feel comfortable using the school as a park," he said. "We want to put the spotlight back on Charles Young, one of only two parks that blacks could attend at one time."
The center and park were named for Col. Charles Young, who was born in Mays Lick in 1864. He was a teacher before being accepted into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1884.
He commanded Buffalo Soldiers in California and troops in battle in Mexico, and he served as an attaché in Haiti and Liberia. He retired in 1917 but requested a return to active duty. In 1919, the state department sent him back to Liberia, and he died of kidney failure while visiting Lagos, Nigeria, in 1922.
Residents believe that's why the center, with all the memories it holds, is worth saving.