Honoring Notable African Americans
By Janice K. Neal-Vincent
New Hope Baptist Church began its Sixth Annual Back in the Day Black History Month Celebration Thursday, February 2.
The theme was New Hope Legacy Night. A space for racial pride was created with marches, speeches, songs and poems that depicted the saga of the African-American race. Presiding officers, Eddie and Marie Johnson, laid the evening’s foundation by portraying African Americans as a strong people. Backing them was Major Frank Branch who pitched the African-American race as descendants of kings and queens from royalty.
Adding to the flavor were youngsters who energized their intellectual and vocal skills. New Hope Youth Choir ushered in Hezekiah Walker’s Every Praise is to our God and the American Negro Spiritual, It’s Me O Lord, Standing in the Need of Prayer. Mikayia Faulkner, an 11th grade student at Murrah High School, rendered a special musical feature.
New Hope Christian School children celebrated the vital role of African Americans in history. During that particular phase, the children presented the subtheme titled I Won’t Give Up; I Can’t Give Up. Historical contributions of the following persons were recognized: prominent scientist and inventor, George Washington Carver; famous basketball player Wilt Chamberlain; first African-American woman evangelist, Amanda Berry Smith; first black Congresswoman and lifelong social activist, Shirley Chisholm; first African-American woman to open a charter bank, Maggie Lena Walker; first African-American President, Barack Obama; and prolific writer, Langston Hughes.
The audience’s heads were then turned with an uplifting dramatic version of Mychal Wynn’s poem I am the Black Child. These key players demonstrated the team spirit needed to command the audience’s attention. Attorney Mike Espy’s introduction of the guest speaker, Retired Major General Augustus L. Collins of Jackson, Miss., put a smile on his lips when he referred to Collins as a commander of men.
One additional note, however, occurred prior to Collins’ podium posture. The Mississippi National Guard rendered an unforgettable Military Salute. The above were the essential tools Collins needed to remind the audience, “We come together to talk about history that we should never forget, to teach people how we came to where we are today. I would not have been able to accomplish the things I’ve accomplished had it not been for the people who’ve gone before me.”
The speaker took the audience to the inscription engraved on the Statue of Liberty by asserting that America has not yet fulfilled its promises to the tired, the poor, and huddled masses. Four legends in their strides to make America a better place to live were mentioned: Frederick Douglass (ex-slave, African American Episcopal Zion [A.M.E.Z.], abolitionist, orator and statesman); the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Baptist minister, activist, orator and nonviolent civil disobedience leader in the Civil Rights Movement who was arrested more than 30 times; Fannie Lou Hamer, American voting rights activist, civil rights leader, philanthropist, and vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party; and President Barack Obama, First African-American president of the United States who fought for an inclusive rather than divided America.
Collins ended his address by appealing to his listeners to make a difference in the lives of others for a better America. “Black history,” he charged, “is American history.”
New Hope Baptist Church will continue its Sixth Annual Back in the Day series February 9, 16, and 23 at 6 p.m. in Family Life Center – gymnasium. This official bicentennial project was made possible by a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council, through support from the Mississippi Development Authority.
For further information contact Flonzie Brown-Wright, coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 937-470-0627.