Pride and discovery in Ellicott City


February 21, 2000|By Sally Voris | Sally Voris,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

HOW DOES a child learn history -- not textbook history, but the bone-deep family stories that frame young lives?

Aaron Maybin, 11, is a sixth-grader at Patapsco Middle School who reads books and listens to the speeches of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on tape. He entered a watercolor in the African American Youth Art Exhibition held at the Baltimore Convention Center on Feb. 12 and placed third.

His entry, "Past Meets Future," portrayed a young, anonymous hero emerging from a group of black leaders -- King, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Kweisi Mfume and Nelson Mandela.

"You never know who could be the next leader," Aaron said.

Front and center, Aaron painted Earth in blue and green. On either side of Earth, a giant fist holds a piece of broken chain.

In the background, slaves in a line stand chained together.

"From what I know," Aaron said, "my family was a slave family who took their family name from their white masters."

His grandmother Flossie Maybin told him stories as they took long trips in the car together, Aaron said, but she was "very prideful" and would never have told him stories about slavery. Her stories were about a make-believe rabbit.

Br'er Rabbit, to be exact, says his father, Mike Maybin.

Ellicott City resident Mike Maybin grew up in Baltimore, one of 10 sons and three daughters. His mother was a strong presence for her children; his father, a good wage-earner.

"She couldn't afford to appear weak with 10 sons," Maybin said. "She only allowed us to see her vulnerability when we could handle it."

Maybin, 38, wanted to learn more about his family history. He traced his family back to his father's grandfather in Spartanburg, S.C. And last year, his wife, Violette, found six Mike Maybins on the Internet.

Maybin was fascinated that six men whom he didn't know had his name.

He sent each one a letter introducing himself as an African-American "curious to see if we were relatives," he said.

Two of the men called him. One was a distant cousin, whom he had heard of; the other, a descendant of the family that had owned his forbears as slaves.

That call came in August. Violette picked up the phone.

"I'm Michael Maybin," the voice said in a Southern drawl. "I'm the white Michael Maybin."

The Southerner was descended from a branch of the family that had remained in South Carolina when family members headed to Texas to strike it rich in oil. He had researched Maybins in America -- black and white.

"He had little voids of information," Maybin said. "We had little voids of information, and when we came together, we started to fill in the missing pieces. I was talking with someone who could take me back to the boat. He knew black and white, where we [all] were. It was a rush!"

While he and Violette were on the phone with the other Michael Maybin, Maybin called his father, James, who added and confirmed bits of the family's history -- cousins in New Jersey, a cousin in Louisville, a cousin named John.

Maybin, an associate minister at First United Church of Jesus Christ in Baltimore and a spokesman for the Baltimore Fire Department, says he has chosen to let go of anger about the past.

"Most every African-American has a place where anger lives, and I choose not to live there," Maybin said. "Based on my faith and my beliefs, whoever his people were, they did what was common to the custom of the day.

"I reached out, and he reached back, and that's what was really important to me," he continued. "I thought the guy took a real chance. It was really a leap of courage for him to call me."

Aaron was shocked and amused by his parents' discoveries.

"It was a little bit wild that there were six of them," he said. "I would have liked to know more about that."

Until the family moved in 1995, Aaron lived in Baltimore, where he played baseball, basketball and football, but art was always fun for him.

"He was interested in art since the day he was born," his father said.

"That and TV keeps me calmed down," Aaron said. Now he has begun to take his art more seriously, taking advanced classes, including workshops with Baltimore artist Larry Poncho Brown. Brown lived across the street from Maybin's cousin in Baltimore when they were growing up.

Maybin described how his son met Charles Bibbs -- a man he calls a "history-maker" and one of the best African-American artists in the country -- at a dinner held in conjunction with the African American Youth Art Exhibition.

Aaron sat next to Bibbs at the dinner table, cracking jokes.

It's academic

Mount Hebron's "It's Academic" team -- Sondra Hellstrom, Danny Weinstein and Cathy Kunkel -- won its initial TV competition and will take its playoff round March 4 against Catoctin and Archbishop Spalding high schools.

The show will air April 29.

Science fair

Elkridge Landing Middle School held its Science Fair 2000 on Feb. 8.

First-place winners in 10 categories were Amy Vannurden, Rachel Templar, Divya Venkatachari, Dennis Hancock, Shannon Rigney, Ashley Miller, Timisha Gomez, Mason Pfau, Ben Zamzow, Kevin Sullivan, Sam Lauber, Sterling Pack and Meghan Sullivan.

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