This past Saturday accented the need to remember black history with a somewhat smaller crowd compared to years past.
They opened the morning events with “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — originally referred to as the “The Negro National Hymn.”
The song was publicly performed first as a poem and part of a celebration of the “great emancipator” President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday Feb. 12, 1900.
“I’ve been called a lot of things — negro, colored, afro, African-American and black,” speaker Arnita Caise said. “We have had a lot of labels over the years, none of which defines us.”
There were many speakers and performances Saturday morning with hymns dating back to slavery and recently written poems. Several churches including Bethel, First Baptist, Macedonia Baptist and the Gospel Word Missionary were represented and sung gospels.
The morning’s special guest speaker was author and rights activist Yolanthe Harrison-Pace, who spoke to the handful of people in the auditorium to reiterate the point that youth were ignorant of their own heritage.
“I’m very disappointed that a few years ago I asked some young students who were in college, ‘Who was Dr. Martin Luther King?’ and ‘Who was Malcolm X?’ and their response was, ‘Ain’t they some actors?’” Harrison-Pace said, mimicking the students. “We have lost sight of the history of our county, the whole country’s history. The young people today confuse the difference between the civil war and civil rights ... we’ve got work to do.”
She then gave a “creative rendition” of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Before she began, she said it was unfortunate that she had actually met students who had “never even heard the original speech,” and when she was done, she left the stage to a standing ovation.
“The day is very important to me because you look back where we came from, the culture of the slavery, we have come a long way, and it’s very heartbreaking that the young people of the day don’t know who Dr. Martin Luther King is or was… and Malcolm X,” Wilbert Adams said. “They don’t know what the culture is about (or) the reason why (King) was doing this freedom march.”
After two hours of song, prayer and testimonials, Brown ended the morning with a poem called “I’m Not Giving My Black Back,” which summed up the need for the youth to remember American history and to also to take pride in it.
“I won’t deny or forget my ancestors who lay in a wet grave at the bottom of the sea in the Middle Passage from slave trade,” Brown quoted. “And I won’t give up on our youth of today who still need a way made.”