Reflections on Rita Wilson from Makeba Robinson, the first recipient of the Rita Wilson Memorial Scholarship.
“Say the word “trailblazer” anywhere here in Staunton, Va and inevitably, Rita Wilson’s name and legacy will be evoked. And for good reason. Moving to Staunton in 2001, I quickly learned about the difference makers in the African American community. Still front and center, after what I would learn to be decades of activism, was the spirited, energetic, and passionate, Rita Wilson. By the time I had arrived, Wilson had already had a lasting impact on the Staunton Community. Serving for 16 years, she was the first African American member of the Staunton City Council. During that time she advocated for equality in all walks of African American life including recreation and education.
After my initial introduction to her, it was obvious how she was able to accomplish so much. She was serious and direct and deliberate in her intentions and actions. Yet, she was genuine and personable, so people naturally gravitated to her. Watching her tell her story in a documentary about Montgomery Hall Park gave me chills. Her brutally honest accounts of the struggle and how she faced them head on made me proud to be a part of this community. She was a fireball.
When the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge announced a continuing education scholarship in her honor, I knew that I would apply. I submitted my application and waited. Upon hearing that I had been selected to receive the very first Rita Wilson scholarship, I had to literally pause to allow the gravity of the distinction to settle through me. Now the torch was in my hand. Inspired by her legacy, I hope to continue her charge of building the African American community of Staunton, VA. I look forward to ensuring that the torch will not only stay lit, but that it may be the spark for feature torches!”