Civil Rights legends honored at New Hope Baptist Church’s 12th Annual Back in the Day Black History Celebration

New Hope’s Young Men of SWAG – Studying Word and God

By Janice K. Neal-Vincent, Ph.D.,

Contributing Writer,

The Rev. Dr. Jerry Young reminds listeners of the significance of their right to vote.
PHOTOS BY Janice K. Neal-Vincent

With an entrance too conspicuous to ignore, Young Men of SWAG (Studying Words and God) of New Hope and Forest Hill High School JROTC of Jackson, Miss. held their audience captive in their representations of God and colors of their heritage Thursday, February 9, 2023, at New Hope Baptist Church (1555 Beasley Rd, Jackson, Miss.).

The charge was made for attention for the duration of the 12th annual Back in the Day Black History opening night. Flowing with that charge was Laverne Gentry who called for “all generations to get back on board” by starting anew to act differently from the past. Acting upon the theme: Educate, Liberate, Activate, the “now” generation would gain a heightened sensitivity of pride and dignity.

Charles Gentry (Laverne’s spouse) thanked God during the invocation for persons “who held on and marched” in their challenges of social injustices throughout the years. “Thank you for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Former President Barack Obama, [and] our pastor, the Rev. Dr. Jerry Young, who continues to keep us on the right path,” he claimed. 

“Young people have demonstrated that black lives matter. They participate in voting rights, quality education and health care. We charge everyone to become a voice for the voiceless and for young people to continue the plight of excellence,” said program guide, Sandra McCall.

Legendary civil rights activists Gailya Magee Porter, Senator Hillman Terome Frazier and Annie Bell Robinson Divine (posthumously) were honored. 

Rev. Wendell Howton Paris presents Plaque Of Appreciation to honoree Gailya Magee Porter.

Porter drew the audience’s attention to the 1970 riot that occurred at Jackson State College (now University) where she was a junior. She described the incident as horrific. More than 460 shots were fired by 40 state highway patrolmen who used shotguns from a distance of 30 to 50 feet. The gunfire lasted for 30 seconds. Students Phillip Green and Robert Gibbs lay dead, and 12 were injured. Every window on the narrow side of the Alexander East Hall dormitory was shattered by gunfire. “I remember standing behind the officers when they fired their guns, and I remember going to the Brookhaven hospital to be treated for my injuries,” remarked Porter. She injected that despite the tragedy, she was delighted to share her story and to encourage generational listeners to educate, liberate and activate.

“I’m so glad they prayed. I’m so glad they prayed for me,” noted Frazier – District 27 Representative in Hinds County. The honoree stated that many who had gone before him were committed to the cause of social justice. Frazier charged that day and night, his forefathers, great grandparents, former Jackson State University President John A Peoples, Jr, the Rev. Dr. Jerry Young, and many others prayed for him. “They knew how to get right with God. Because God answered many prayers, I’m here tonight,” said the man in the limelight.

Barbara Divine Reed paid homage to Divine (her mother). “The white power structure created a system of white superiority and [claimed that blacks were second-class citizens]. Harsh structures were used to terrorize blacks and prevent them from voting. The law was struck down, but the structure prevailed. Then in 1963 blacks rose up. Annie Divine, the first person to join the movement, became the mother of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement,” stated Reed.

Sandra Mccall, program guide

Reed added that Divine displayed “great courage” in denouncing the Jim Crow law. From the spring of 1954 to the Fall of 1955, everybody was active. The freedom day voter registration and the freedom day summer were led by Divine. People demanded their right to vote. “The least that would happen to you would be that you would lose your job. The most that would happen would be that you would lose your life,” Reed noted. Reed, in closing, maintained that Divine used influence to elect the first lady commissioner, Flonzie Brown Wright (HDHL), project director.

Wright commented that Saturday’s recognition of black history was to make it known to the “now generation.” Knowledge would make the young and other generations cognizant of the past and would stimulate their minds to move in positive spheres for the good of humanity.

During his closing remarks, the Rev. Dr. Jerry Young, New Hope’s pastor, called for substance “to change what’s happening in this country, particularly in the state of Miss. These people before us tonight…exemplify what we all must do.” Referring to the power structure, Young added, “They’ve taken the chains off our arms and legs, but they’ve put them on our minds. You’ve got to make sure you vote. Voting is your voice. There are over 200,000 African Americans who don’t voted in Miss. Make sure that you register and help others register.”

Songs and music were sprinkled throughout the event. The New Hope Mass Choir, guided by Psalm 150:6, “Let everything that hath breath praise ye the Lord,” sang the Lord’s praises. Directed by Steve Harper, The New Hope orchestra is the latest organized musical ministry. The ministry paid tribute to the Mississippi living/civil rights legends. Master Marcus Stafford, violinist, was the evening’s musical guest.

The New Hope Back in the Day black history committee members are Ethel and George Brooks; Thea T. Faulkner; Ava Lloyd (teen member); Timothy Lloyd; Sandra McCall; the Rev. Wendell Howton Paris; Brenda and Robert Patterson; Daphne Chamberlain-Wilson and Flonzie Brown Wright. In Memoriam are Obadiah and Elizabeth Myles; and Ineva May Pittman, member Emeritus.

New Hope Mass Choir
Musical guest Master Marcus Stafford
Laverne Gentry calling for change
Thea T. Faulkner presents Plaque Of Appreciation To Senator Hillman Terome Frazier, honoree
Flonzie Brown Wright, project director




Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.