Letter: Building Bridges owes debt to Greenlee

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The June 12 Mountain Xpress had a wonderful article about the 30 years that Building Bridges has held at least two sessions every year, bringing whites and Blacks together to talk about race [“Asheville’s Anti-racism Connection: Building Bridges Marks 30 Years of Equity Education”].

None of that could have happened without Tyrone Greenlee. Tyrone was the administrative assistant at New Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church where Building Bridges began. He and the senior pastor, the Rev. O.T. Tomes, were always there, setting up and often leading our planning meetings. They fielded all sorts of phone calls about the sessions from all the people wanting to attend. Tyrone and O.T. held us down to Earth: O.T. would roll his eyes at some of our ideas, and Tyrone would forever crack a joke as they both helped us be realistic about logistics as well as the essence of what we were trying to do. Tyrone was the glue.

The beginning meetings were exciting and so very fulfilling, but honestly, those were the “glory” days. Keeping Building Bridges going for 30 years with new curriculum; recruiting new participants; applying for and getting nonprofit status; finding new locations and new speakers — that is where the real credit must be paid. That is thanks in part to the commitment of Tyrone (along with many, many others) over all these 30 years.

Yes, everyone knows Tyrone; a less-known fact about Tyrone is that he’s a magnet for kids. He works at Francine Delany New School for Children with kids. I go to Circle of Mercy worship with Tyrone every Sunday evening, and kids climb all over him! Tyrone has helped not only Buncombe County through his facilitating of the practical and visionary aspects of Building Bridges, but he has also helped an awful lot of kids who might not have “made it” were it not for Tyrone Greenlee.

— Susan Presson


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