For Wareham Cape Verdeans, one step closer to a cultural home

By Rishi Sidhu | Mar 05, 2012
Photo by: Andrew Griffith A cake congratulating the Oak Grove School Alumni and the Super Raffle winners at the Oak Grove Cape Verdean Cultural Center Dinner and Dance on March 2 at the Dudley L. Brown VFW at 4 Gibbs Ball Park Road in Onset.

Community members from all walks of life came out to support the Oak Grove Cape Verdean Cultural Center's Spring Fling Dinner and Dance on March 2 at the Dudley L. Brown VFW in Onset.

"The whole community came out, and I'm not talking about just the Cape Verdean community, the [whole] town community," said Donna Barros, treasurer for the Cultural Center.

The dance was a fundraiser for the Oak Grove Cape Verdean Cultural Center. The "Cultural Center" is both the name of the future educational and historical facility that is to be built next to the former Oak Grove elementary school on Onset Avenue, as well as the name of the organization that is raising money to build it.

The Oak Grove school was built in 1913, according to the Cultural Center's president Anthony "Tiny" Lopes, and served the Cape Verdean community that made Onset home.

The town built the school, but the intent was to keep "Cape Verdean students in their community, in Onset, and not integrated with the Wareham Public Schools," said Lopes.

There were a few Caucasian students, however, who lived close by and attended Oak Grove, Lopes said.

Though a symbol of segregation, the Oak Grove school is a part of the lives of many Cape Verdeans from Onset and Wareham.

"My dad went there," Lopes said, "[it was] a love affair [for him]; [he soften said], 'that was my school.'"

Now, the Cape Verdean community would like to build a facility next to it where members of the community can reconnect with each other and learn about Cape Verdean culture and history.

The organization plans for the Center to hold adult education classes, genealogy classes, and community meetings, not just for Cape Verdeans but for the whole town of Wareham.

The organization also hopes to house cultural artifacts, many of which are in the homes of Onset residents, in a museum at the facility.

"It'll bring in a lot of information for this generation, for the coming generations," said Marian Rose, a member of the Cultural Center and co-chairman of the Spring Fling Dance Committee along with her 97 year old mother, Mary Vieira Rose.

Over 200 people came to the dance from the areas of Brockton, Falmouth, Plymouth, Wood's Hole and beyond in addition to Wareham.

There was the music of DJ Don Don Gomes of Wareham, as well as a culinary "marriage of American and Cape Verdean culture," according to Rose, including such classical dishes as meatballs and green beans on the American side, and munchoopa (a stew) and jagacida (or "jag" - a rice dish) on the Cape Verdean side.

The fundraising numbers did not come in by the time Wareham Week went to press, but a vast majority of the costs, including food and music, were donated by businesses and individuals in the Wareham community.

The event also featured a super raffle where the top prize was a round trip ticket to Cape Verde through TAVC Cape Verdean Islands. Second prize was $500 cash, and third prize was two Bruins tickets.

The dance was not only to fundraise for the Center, but also to honor Oak Grove School Alumni who came from afar to celebrate with old friends.

The last Alumni celebration occurred in 2003, Rose said.

According to Barros, there was plenty reason to come. "[They say] it takes a community to raise a child; Onset is that, it has been for years," she said.

Attendees grab a bite to eat while others start to dance the night away. (Photo by: Andrew Griffith)
Attendees dance at the Oak Grove Cape Verdean Cultural Center Dinner and Dance. (Photo by: Andrew Griffith)
91 year old Catherine Lopes stands in front of brightly decorated Cape Verdean flag. (Photo by: Andrew Griffith)
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