resident Faith Patterson, who is head of the AACW, says were
here to serve and to make a difference.
behind AACWs big party
If Faith Patterson had her way, shed give a big party each year
in Yellow Springs so that everyone regardless of race, age, social
class or political persuasion could get together and have a good
In fact, Patterson does give a big party each year its called
the AACW Blues Fest and at this years packed event in September,
she delighted in seeing people from all sides of recent local controversies
The festival brought joy to my heart, to see people dancing together
who I knew had been on different sides, she said in a recent interview.
I just try to take my little piece of the world and make a difference.
Patterson has been making a difference in her little piece of the world
so well and so long that she was honored with a day in her honor, Faith
Patterson Day, Sept. 7, which, according to the proclamation from the
Village, honors Patterson for her role in promoting an appreciation
ofcultural diversity and because by her actions she has shown
us how everybody counts.
This summer, Patterson also brought home an award from the Dayton-based
Culture Brings Communities, which recognized her volunteer efforts in
promoting cultural diversity.
Her efforts to bring people together center on one theme, Patterson said.
Its all about celebrating each other, she said. Thats
all I want to do.
Currently, the African American Cross-Cultural Works (AACW) celebrates
Yellow Springs diversity by organizing events such as the popular Blues
Fest, the Dec. 26 celebration of Kwaanza and Guess Whos Coming
to Dinner, during which local residents open their homes to have
dinner with those they dont know. Having the opportunity to learn
and honor those different from ourselves can only enrich us all, Patterson
We were made by the creator one and all, she said. When
we celebrate each other it makes us all bigger and better.
Patterson began her association with AACW then African-American
Cultural Week 11 years ago, 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, Patterson and several other local residents
and 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 life her son and his children moved in soon
after the death of Pattersons husband four years ago, and she happily
helps care for her grandchildren but 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 Springs its you.
Yellow Springs was her, and the family moved to a house on Omar Circle
in 1969. But Patterson didnt quite fit in yet. 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.