By Janice K. Neal-Vincent
New Hope Baptist Church, pastored by Rev. Jerry Young, held the grand finale of their 6th Annual Back in the Day-Black History Celebration February 23. The church’s last of a four-part series that reflected struggles, resistance, pride, dignity, accomplishments, responsibility, accountability and respect. “Celebrating Our History & Culture Through Our Music” was the series’ theme.
International recording artist Cynthia Goodloe-Palmer and the legendary Paul Porter brought the house down during the spirit-filled, melodious celebration. Goodloe-Palmer said to the listeners in her hypothetical illustration, “I can imagine what the slaves went through and can imagine what our foreparents went through when they were picking cotton. They sang songs that spoke of trading troubles for transitioning from earth to paradise.”
“This music,” she said, “is all about not lifting up the name of Jesus to you, but through you.” Referencing “the bitter heartaches of living in Mississippi,” Goodloe-Palmer belched the tunes “Prayer Changes Things,” “A Better Day,” and “I’m Going to Heaven.”
Porter shared a near death experience. “Serving the Lord will pay off. I had an aneurism. Physicians gave me up to die. I had three surgeries and I called God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. I’m trying to keep the fire under my shoes,” he said. In the midst of his testimony, the artist gave a soul stirring rendition of “I Know That My Redeemer Lives, and “Saints Hold On.”
Backed by musicians as Goodloe-Palmer was, the songwriter called upon the crowd to praise God with instruments as he cited Psalm 150. He then led New Hope Combined Choirs in a fiery rendition of the song “Two Wings.” Porter maintained that in heaven there would be no black or white; no family problems, no oppression, etc. “You have to keep pushing. You have to keep going. Heaven is on the way. You can’t give up,” he said. On that note, he sang “You Can’t Give Up.”
Harvey Watkins, of the world renown Canton Spirituals sang “Oh Lord, You’ve Been So Good to Me.” Watkins also shared, “I lost my voice. I went to five doctors and they all told me I wouldn’t talk or sing again. I went to Chicago and saw a doctor who said I had a nerve disorder. I went there every three months to take shots. My granddaughter rubbed the bottle of medicine that the doctor prescribed on my head and she said, ‘in the name of Jesus.’ It’s been three years and God has been good to me,” marveled Watkins.
Following the event, program committee coordinator Flonzie Brown-Wright looked back at the various ‘Back in the Day’ events with satisfaction. She remarked, “If your space is no better when you leave it than when you found it, you need to redefine your journey.”
New Hope Baptist Church’s Black History Committee included Ava Lloyd, Beatrice Boykin, Daphne Chamberlain-Wilson, Thea Faulkner, Brenda Patterson, Ethel Gavin Brooks, Sandra G. McCall, Elizabeth Myles, Avis Lloyd, Robert Patterson, George Brooks, Obadiah Myles, Timothy Lloyd, Rev. Wendell Paris, and Flonzie Brown-Wright. New Hope Baptist Church’s official bicentennial project was made possible by a grant from the Humanities Council, through the support from the Mississippi Development Authority.
For inquiries, contact civil rights activist/coordinator, Flonzie Brown-Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 937-470-0627.