- Associated Press - Sunday, June 4, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) - The historic Liberty Theatre and Cultural Center has launched a new academy named after its longtime champion.

The Robert Lamar Anderson Academy of Excellence: Arts Immersion Program will serve about 60 black and Hispanic at-risk males entering eighth grade, according to a news release issued by the organization. It will provide an art-based program to include fine and performing arts training, individualized academic support, male mentoring, counseling, leadership training and ongoing exposure to cultural activities.

Shae Anderson, the theater’s executive director and Anderson’s daughter, said the program will begin in August with eighth-graders from Baker Middle School. Administrators will begin accepting applications in mid-June, as well as recommendations from the school, she said. Participants will attend the program Monday through Thursday, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., and sometimes on weekends. Many of the activities will be held at Holsey Chapel CME Church on Eighth Street. Dinner and a snack will be provided each day.

“The vision for the program has kind of been floating around for a couple of years and I finally decided to go for it, particularly with all of the crime and the issues that we’re having here in our community,” said Shae Anderson. “There are a lot of awesome mentoring programs out there, but I just felt led to put something together that will serve the students several times a week. Students that aren’t necessarily in any extracurricular activities, they have some behavioral issues, some discipline challenges - those are really the young men that we would like to work with.”

Shae Anderson said the academy is named after her father because of his commitment to the theater and other organizations such as the Columbus United Methodist and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He served as chair of the theatre for 12 years, and is now chair emeritus, she said.

“I just thought it would be great because he’s kind of the epitome of servant leadership - building and maintaining good relationships, being committed to whatever he takes on, and that’s evident through his work at the church, through his work at the fraternity, and just generally being a good citizen,” she said. “And so, in thinking about addressing crime and issues in the city, I thought, you know, men like that are a good example of what we want these young men to become - not necessarily expecting that they will become actors and professional musicians, which would be awesome if some of them have those gifts and talents - but just to see that you could go to work every day and be a good father and good citizen by doing things the right way and staying out of trouble.”

Anderson, a former Muscogee County School Board member, is a Spencer High School graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree from Fort Valley State University and a master’s in education from Georgia State University. He spent two years as a high school science teacher before entering the banking industry. He retired from CB&T; as the Senior VP of Governmental Affairs after 36 years of service. He then spent two years working as the regional president of Citizens Trust Bank in Columbus.

In addition to his work at the theater, Anderson has been an active member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity for 54 years. He also is a member of South Columbus United Methodist Church, where he is a certified lay leader. He also serves as district lay leader for the Northwest District of the South Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He’s been married for 35 years and has four daughters and two grandchildren.

In an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer, Anderson said he grew up around the Liberty Theatre as a resident of Warren Williams Apartments.

“The Liberty was right down the street from us, and every Saturday I would walk down to the theater,” he said. “So it’s always been in my DNA. I’m just happy to be a part of it in some useful way.”

Anderson said he has been a part of the theater, on and off, for about 30 years as an adult. And he’s touched by his daughter’s decision to launch the academy in his name.

“… I’m not necessarily embarrassed, but I’m certainly proud that she would think enough of me to think that I have the kind of reputation that the school deserves, and that they would name it after me,” he said. “That’s significant for me, and I’m overwhelmed with pride in my family.”

Shae Anderson said the academy is a partnership between the theater, Holsey Chapel and Davis Broadcasting Company, which will provide some broadcasting shadowing opportunities. The Advisory Board will be chaired by Cedric Hill, funeral director at Hill Watson Peoples Funeral Service and immediate past chair of Greater Columbus Chamber Board of Directors. Other members of the Advisory Board will be announced in June. The organization is looking for volunteers and donors to contribute to the project.

The academy is based on Molefi Asante’s 2009 framework: The Asante Principles for the Afrocentric Curriculum and Toward the Centered School in Urban Areas. The program will begin each day with Asante’s Afrocentric Creed:

“I have faith in myself. I have faith in my teachers. I will accept my duties and responsibilities. I respect others and seek their respect. I have self-respect. I have self-control. I can learn if I study hard. I will learn because I will study hard. I love myself, and loving myself, I will be myself and know myself. I am the one who is talking.”

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