Edgar Dove, 88, is a lifelong resident of Scotland, a community founded by African Americans after the Civil War in Montgomery County, Md. The community is the centerpiece of Juneteenth celebrations this year in the county. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)
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For a long time, Scotland — a Montgomery County community founded in the 1880s by African Americans — was a living symbol of how good our country can be at looking the other way.

As recently as the early-1960s, many of Scotland’s Black residents lived in condemned homes without running water — their neighborhood accessible only by a rocky, unpaved road — as the land around them became an affluent enclave for White commuters. Scotland could easily have disappeared, the way so many Black communities that became prime spots for redevelopment did.

But it didn’t, and on a very hot afternoon last week, LaTisha Gasaway-Paul stood amid the modern townhouses of Scotland and promised, “The goal is to keep the ball rolling.”

And what a ball it will be. Gasaway-Paul was among residents, community leaders and county politicians who gathered Friday to announce their ambitious plans for the Scotland Juneteenth Heritage Festival. The celebration will include music, a children’s carnival, a car show, a 5K race, a film festival, a baseball game and more activities from June 17 to 19, in Scotland and across the county.

Why did Scotland survive when so many similar communities didn’t? One reason was the collaboration between two remarkable women: Joyce Siegel and Geneva Mason. Mason was a Black Scotland resident who knew only too well the deprivation her neighbors experienced. Siegel is a White Bethesdan who became aware of Scotland’s plight and was determined to do something about it.

Mason told Siegel she didn’t want charity. She wanted help. And that’s what Siegel provided. Together, the women spearheaded an ambitious effort: raising awareness, raising funds and setting in motion a plan that culminated in 1968 with the removal of Scotland’s failing homes and the construction of 100 townhouses, made possible by an innovative amalgam of HUD programs.

You could say that Scotland survived hell only to be laid low by high water. In the summer of 2019, a flash flood roared through the Scotland AME Zion Church, which sits across Seven Locks Road from Scotland’s townhouses. Flooding had been a recurring problem there ever since the road was relocated and widened to accommodate increased traffic.

Six miles from the church sits a secular place of worship also affected by that flooding: Glenstone, the modern art museum founded by billionaire Mitchell Rales. When Rales learned of the damage to the church, he offered to help.

“We had just finished our construction project,” Francisca Moraga Lopez, community engagement manager at Glenstone, said on Friday. “This is down the street. This is our neighborhood.”

Simply waterproofing the church wouldn’t be enough. Boosters envisioned a regraded site, serious stabilization of the original 1924 sanctuary and the addition of a more modern worship space just behind it. Ground was broken last year.

The work is estimated to cost $9 million. Rales donated $3 million and volunteered the expertise of Glenstone’s staff. A shade under $3 million has come from the county and state, from grants and from generous donors. That leaves $3 million.

Couldn’t Rales find that in his couch cushions?

“It can’t be just one person,” Moraga Lopez said. She said it’s important for buy-in to come from across the community. (You can find information on the church — and the 2nd Century Project to rehabilitate it — at scotlandamezion.org.)

Organizers sketched what they promise will be the biggest Juneteenth festival in the county, with a night of soul music at Bethesda Blues and Jazz, a history and art pavilion at Cabin John Village mall, a film festival at AFI Silver in Silver Spring, a concert by Tarrus Riley at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds and a baseball game at Shirley Povich Field. (More info is at www.juneteenthscotland.org.)

On Friday, Bruce Adams from the Bethesda Big Train baseball organization walked up to Edgar E. Dove and asked what size baseball jersey he wore. Dove, 88, once played for the Scotland Eagles baseball team. On June 19, Big Train players will wear Eagles jerseys in the Clarence “Pint” Isreal Juneteenth Classic at Povich Field. The game will honor a Negro League player who lived in Rockville.

Dove told me a little about his baseball days, then reminisced about missing the first day of high school in September 1951. He was set to start at the brand-new Carver Senior High, the first Montgomery County school named for an African American. But the amateur golf tournament Dove had been caddying for at Bethesda Country Club that week had ended in a tie, necessitating another round.

Dove had to choose: go to school or caddie. Caddying paid $1.50. And so he walked two miles to carry a bag in the Marvin “Bubby” Worsham Memorial Tournament. He was assigned to caddie for the blond 21-year-old who won the tiebreaker: Arnold Palmer.

Dove is hoping someone might have a photo from that day of him with the future golfing great.

“I’d like to see what I looked like back then,” Dove said. He looks pretty good right now. So does Scotland. It will look even better this June.

See you soon

I’m taking some time off. I’ll be back in this space next week.