As a founding member of the New Frontier of Bartow County Inc., Arthur L. Carter was on the front lines of local civil rights efforts, helping transform his segregated hometown into an integrated community. “At the particular time, there were no real organized groups to address issues that concerned black people in Cartersville,” Carter said about the early 1960s. “… Mr. [William] Roberson was the brain behind the organization. He was the one that said, ‘We need to get organized.’ So he invited nine of us to his house and we organized from there. We had lots of issues in the community. You had school issues, integration issues, police brutality, housing issues. You had things that just wasn’t what they should have been.

“So there was a real need. It was just a matter of getting the right people in place to address these issues. After we were organized I remember the first time that we had a meeting with mayor Mr. Cowan. I went and asked him to set us up an appointment. They put it in the newspaper the next day that this black group was having an appointment with the mayor. He was real cordial and never did show no signs of ill will. So we went from there to the county commissioner, to the police chief to the school board, school superintendent.”

Now featuring about 26 active members, the New Frontier is preparing to mark its 50th anniversary with a public celebration Sept. 22. Along with the community it serves, the men’s civic organization also has evolved, expanding its philanthropic efforts to include annual events — pre-Thanksgiving dinner and the Teen Summit — and the distribution of college scholarships.

“We were founded during the Civil Rights Movement and during the turmoil and upheaval of everything during integration,” said New Frontier President Bryan Canty, who joined the organization about seven years ago. “New Frontier was established [to help] ease our community into integration while maintaining our identity. A lot of our history was lost during the integration process. The textbooks didn’t reflect the significant contribution on the part of the black race so we took it upon ourselves to make sure that there were resources adequately available that would allow people to research our history and the contributions that we made to society.

“Initially, there was a lot of fear and trepidation on the part of the members in terms of assembling people of color because … people thought they were up to no good. They secretly met at other members’ houses and then began to meet at the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church that’s located on Burnt Hickory Road. That served as the first official clubhouse of the organization. [Now our focus has] broadened. We’re there to assist anyone at this time. We do not segregate or discriminate based on the basis of color or sex or religion or ethnicity. We’re about helping the community, about making sure that quality standards are held in the education process and also the election of the most qualified candidates.”

Feed the Community

Implemented in 2001, the organization’s annual pre-Thanksgiving gathering is its largest outreach project.

After serving 300 plates in the event’s first year, its popularity resulted in the New Frontier relocating the offering from the nonprofit’s headquarters on Firetower Road to the Cartersville Civic Center, which accommodated more diners and allowed the addition of free on-site services.

Due to the passing of one of the organization’s former presidents last year, the event was renamed The New Frontier Feed the Community Dinner in Honor of Michael Dean. In 2011, the New Frontier’s event treated about 2,000 people to a free meal and on-site services, including barber and beautician stations, dispersal of school supplies and a health fair that featured diabetes analysis and blood pressure, hearing and cholesterol checks.

“Primarily the dinner was set up to provide a meal for senior citizens, veterans, low-income families and youth,” Michael Dean told The Daily Tribune News in 2007. “However, we encourage everyone to come and take advantage of the dinner and services, regardless of race, age, gender or socioeconomic status. Our intent is to provide a meal to anyone in Bartow County.

“What is most special to me about the event is the camaraderie that you see on that day. People from all aspects of life come together to help someone else and to express love and compassion for their fellow citizens.”

Fostering youth

Along with awarding annual college scholarships, the New Frontier continues to nurture the lives of hundreds of youth through programs like its Teen Summit event.

“My passion really is education. I was fortunate as a middle-schooler back in Pittsburgh where I grew up to have an opportunity to leave public school, which was a challenging educational moment for me, and attend a small private school that actually is a nationally ranked school outside of Pittsburgh,” said New Frontier President-Elect Tony Suber, regarding the importance of assisting students’ in their academic pursuits. “And that experience, those six years of education, changed my life and given that experience, I know what education can do for a person.”

Geared toward males 12 to 18, the Teen Summit is a free offering to help participants reach their full potential.

While past summits have focused on small group workshops, last year’s program — held at the Georgia Highlands College’s Cartersville Campus — offered more interactive activities, such as team-building exercises for middle school students and college-related programs for high-schoolers.

“Changing times and changing people changed the organization,” said Carter, adding the group’s initial members named the organization after President John F. Kennedy’s references to the new frontier. “At the beginning, the main incentive was [integration] but that’s not necessary now. So you go from the things that [were] important at that particular time to what’s important now. Sometimes people will lose their focus.

“They’ll start thinking that everything is accomplished, that everything’s all right but you have to continually remind people that you still got to go vote, you still got to go to school, you still got to stay out of jail, you still got to do all the necessary things to keep moving forward. … [We] try to emphasize to students don’t be the class clown when in school, get your lessons, stay there and [then] get out of school and go to work, don’t be a bum. So the things we try to emphasize now are just as important, maybe more so, but it’s just different than it was 50 years ago.”

50th anniversary celebration

To celebrate its achievements over the past five decades, the New Frontier will hold a 50th anniversary gathering Sept. 22, 6 p.m., at the Clarence Brown Conference Center, 5450 State Route 20 in Cartersville. Open to the public, the event will feature a catered dinner, live entertainment and a keynote address from Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund.

“I want to extend, first, a warm welcome to the community to come and join and celebrate with us for our 50th anniversary,” Suber said. “It’s not going to be an event to sit back but an event to sit up and learn about who we are, if you don’t know who we are, and what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished over these 50 years.

“It’s a fantastic legacy. And then the second thing, as a philanthropist myself, we want to create opportunities for others in the community to give back and if that means using us as a vehicle to do that, we welcome you to do that.”

To purchase tickets, which are $50 each, to the event, individuals need to contact Suber at 404-825-9529 or by Sept. 14.