The Boys and Girls Club of East Central Alabama came to the black history celebration at the South Highland Community Center in Anniston Saturday to hear Abrams, a black history speaker, describe how special each of those people was, and in turn why each of the children is as well.
Abrams told them about Benjamin Banneker, who surveyed the borders of our nation’s capital, and about Sojourner Truth, the fearless black woman who spoke out against slavery at a time when do so could mean a quick death.
Each time he spoke he held out something tangible — a telescope, a clock, an almanac — to impress to the children the accomplishments of the historic black figures.
“As you see these people who look like you, go home and pick one to be your role model. Read about them,” Abrams, a retired educator, told the boys and girls.
It was a history lesson, but not all black history celebrations are as such. Each community and organization celebrates differently, putting its own mark on the month meant to honor and remember.
Some, like the one held in Hobson City Saturday, focus more on the lives of blacks in their own communities, and on spirituality.
Inside the FEMA building in Hobson City Saturday the men and women sang gospel songs, heard Scripture readings and told stories of the town’s importance in the black history. Hobson City is the first black incorporated town in Alabama.
The town’s celebration also paid tribute to the five residents who, putting their own lives in jeopardy, took part in the marched from Selma to Montgomery in March of 1965: Maudine Holloway, Veneda Young, Willie James Elston, Ollie Ray and Hobson City Mayor Alberta McCrory.
Jacksonville City Councilwoman Sandra Suddeth, who organizes her city’s annual black history celebration, said the event began as a way to highlight the city’s black residents who contributed back to their community.
“We have exhibits from different families, and people bring in different artifacts,” Suddeth said. “So ours is mostly highlighting the history of Jacksonville.”
Suddeth travels to the other local black history celebrations, most recently to the event held Wednesday by the students of Jacksonville State University’s chapter of the NAACP.
“It more or less highlighted a lot of black entertainers,” Suddeth said. “But they also had trivia questions that they asked students in the audience to see if they knew anything about black history…I thought that was interesting.”
If there is a common thread that ties all the celebrations together, it’s the desire to never forget.
Johnny Byrd, the Boys and Girls Club’s chief executive officer, voiced that sentiment when he asked the children at the start of Saturday’s program why they should celebrate black history.
He answered, “Because it’s ours. If we don’t protect it, if we don’t celebrate it, then nobody else on earth will.”
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.