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‘Son’ unveiled at Kershaw County Library

Posted: November 12, 2013 4:46 p.m.
Updated: November 13, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The little girl at the Kershaw County Library has a new companion with whom to read books -- and a cat for her little Boykin Spaniel to chase, too.

Friday night, about 100 people gathered at the library to enjoy the unveiling of “Son,” a new bronze sculpture created by Maria J. Kirby-Smith, of a young African-American boy reading a book of poetry by Langston Hughes. Huhges (1902-1967) is often referred to as the leader, or father, of the Harlem Renaissance, an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright and newspaper columnist.

The boy depicted in Kirby-Smith’s sculpture sits on a chair reading a book of Hughes’ poetry, opened to “Mother to Son.” His pet cat slinks down some steps behind him, past an apple he has nearby. The sculpture sits on a bronze base atop a pedestal, the base ringed on its sides by the alphabet; numerals and the boy’s favorite playthings line the base’s top.

Friday’s ceremony began with Pastor Constance Barnes of Saint Matthew United Methodist Church leading the group in a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.”

Following the sing-along, Katherine Hill of the Kershaw County Library Board, recounted that the Friends of the Library had asked Kirby-Smith a number of years ago to create a statue for the main branch, resulting in the one of the little girl.

“As almost all of you know, Maria is a nationally-known sculptor,” Hill said. “She had the good sense to settle in Camden. She has sculptures on display libraries; public buildings; parks; at the World War II memorial in Bristol (Va.); and she made, in my opinion -- perhaps not unbiased -- a masterpiece for the Camden Library. Many of you are familiar with the little girl with her Boykin Spaniel, a huge part of our library.”

Hill mentioned that the little girl in the first sculpture has her own fan club, and children who come to speak with her.

“The time came that we decided she needed a companion. We didn’t know how it would ever happen, but every once in a while, wishes are granted, prayers are answered and a generous donor stepped forward and, with the help of the Friends of the Library, made our dream come true,” Hill said.

She described the donor as “a very modest lady who does care for public recognition,” and expressed the board and Friends’ “deep gratitude” to Sandy DuBose accompanied by a round of applause.

“Now, these two statues together, we hope, will, ultimately, demonstrate the values we believe the library holds: enlightenment, beauty, reading (and) education,” Hill said. “So, on behalf of the board of trustees of the Kershaw County Library, with great gratitude, we accept this generous gift from Maria, Sandy and the Friends of the Library.”

Hill then introduced Mayor Tony Scully who said a few words.

“On behalf of the city of Camden, I am honored and thrilled that we have this unveiling tonight,” Scully said. “Someone once said ‘Man does not live by bread alone,’ and I would say, or add to that, that the city of Camden does not live by its economy alone nor by the beauty of its parts alone. Artists are our glory; this is a city of artists and we have here our greatest artist.”

Scully also thanked Kirby-Smith’s partner, Lynda Solansky; and Kershaw County Library Director Amy Schofield.

“With our art,” Scully continued, “we have the soul made visible. Our artists are indeed our channellers, and in so many ways they’re never given credit, for they are our spiritual leaders. It’s not just beauty, it’s of the spirit.

“And 500 years from now, when people speak of Camden -- with all due respect to everybody else, the 99 percent of us -- it will be that the smile on that little girl petting her Boykin Spaniel, and it will be Mary Boykin Chesnut. These are our artists, our voices and, as I said, our souls made visible and I am proud to be a part of this in a small way.”

The ceremony concluded with Barnes reading “Mother to Son”:

Well, son I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tracks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor--

Bare.

But all the time

I’se been a climbin’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s,

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light,

So boy, don’t you turn back.

Don’t you set down on the steps

‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now--

For I’se still goin’, honey,

I’se still climbin’,

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

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