York Town Square

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Leader urges the telling of York County’s black history stories. Bring them on, Brother John

johnJohn Jamison and his wife, Carmen, posed in Brother John Grocery Store some years ago as part of recognition of a York, Pa., small business that does it right. The Jamison family operated the 564 N. Pershing Ave. store, now known as Lee’s Food Market, from 1973-1997. Also of interest: Black history on display throughout York County.

Brother John – John Jamison – has a vision for young men and women York County’s black community.

They must learn about their past. They must know about fathers and mothers who came before them, often from the South.

John’s family was one of those who came North to seek work. Whatever they could find was better than offered in Bamberg, S.C., and its region, where John’s family and so many other York countians came from.

John, himself, played an important part in York County’s story. He operated Brother John Grocery Store for more than two decades. He did that while working a full-time position at Caterpillar.

He built something special.

Like many neighborhood stores, Brother John served as a community meeting place. There, folks came together to trade news, catch up and tell stories.

The business grew despite the absence of lottery tickets, cigarettes and other tobacco products on the store’s shelves. Brother John did not carry those items in keeping with his Muslim faith.

“God blessed me to have the most successful neighborhood store in the city at that time,” he said in a recent visit, with our mutual friend Claire Sexton, to the York Daily Record/Sunday News’ office.

There, he expressed his concern that the community’s story be told and retold for the younger generations.

He held up a copy of my “Almost Forgotten,” my book about black history in York County. He noted that storytelling about black history must continue where that 2002  book left off.

I told him about my York Town Square website is doing just that. I’ve written more than 300 stories that, in full or in part, tell the community’s story.

You know, like the considerable reunion efforts by former Codorus Street neighbors, and possible plans by former Freys Avenue neighbors to join with that reunion.

Brother John pressed on. He has five children with businesses in York County.

The stories of the past successes and struggles in the black community must be told to help his children and grandchildren navigate the present and plan for the future.

So he asked: How about if he collects stories and photos from the black community and gets them to me? Would I make them available to our many readers?

Yes, I said, and we worked out the hand off.

Brother John’s story here today is No. 1.

Bring them on, Brother John.

 Also of interest

York’s West Princess Street in 1950s: ‘I knew there was something special about that area’