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A Historical Celebration

Scotland honors Black History as eyes turn towards the future of the Scotland Community Center.

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The community of Scotland has seen a lot since its inception in 1880 and on Friday night the community was treated to a retelling of its history.

“I want to give you all some idea of how Scotland got to where it is today,” said Bette Thompson. “We’ve come a long ways.”

Thompson spoke at the community’s annual Black History Month celebration in the Scotland Community Center. Thompson was born and raised in Scotland and has lived there for nearly all of her 71 years.

The evening featured readings and poems by the children and adults of the community, as well as performances by the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Step Team and first-ever performance by the Scotland Step Team.

Thompson capped the night’s ceremonies by retelling the history of Scotland, from its inception in 1880 when former slaves bought the property at a public auction, through its modernization in the mid-1960s, and on to today.

In its most dire hour, the struggle to modernize Scotland was also a fight just to preserve it, Thompson said. Developers wanted to get rid of the residents and build new homes, while Maryland National Capital Parks & Planning Commission wanted to make Scotland park land and put horse stables on it, Thompson said.

“People didn’t want us to live here in Potomac,” Thompson said. Thompson and many others led the fight that ultimately resulted in the construction of new homes for Scotland’s residents.

“You see we got houses, that’s all I can say … but it was hard,” Thompson said. The victory was a landmark, Thompson said. After living without running water and electricity decades after most of the rest of Montgomery County’s residents had such things, Thompson said that at last Scotland had the same things.

“We had anything that anybody else had.”

IN ADDITION to the achievements of African Americans throughout the country, and on the history of Scotland in particular, Friday’s event focused attention on the Scotland Community Center. Thompson said that the community would like to see the center either fully renovated or completely rebuilt; she said that the center is too small and can host only one event at a time.

“It’s Montgomery County that makes this possible, and hopefully it will be Montgomery County that makes it better,” said County Council member Roger Berliner (D-15) of the center in his opening remarks.

“I’m hoping we will turn this community center into something that you are proud of,” said Berliner.

Gabriel Albornoz, the director of the Montgomery County Department of Recreation, said after the event that he was working with members of the Scotland community to find out what they wanted in a community center. Albornoz said that building a new center was something that he was eager to see happen.

Albornoz said that along with the new director of the Scotland Community Center, Elizabeth Ortega, the process of gathering input from the community was already underway through a series of meetings that have been held at the center to gather public input. The next meeting, Ortega said, is scheduled for March 21.