St. James Baptist enlightens audience on Black History

St. James Baptist enlightens audience on Black History
March 03
00:00 2016
Photo by Timothy Ramsey
Pastor McConnel  gives his account of life during the 1930’s and 40’s during St. James Missionary’s Black History Month celebration on Saturday, February 27

By Timothy Ramsey

For The Chronicle

With Black History Month coming to an end, St. James Missionary Baptist Church located at 3606 Ogburn Ave. held a celebration that highlighted African-American history from the 1920s to now.

Accounts from each decade were given to show the progression of the African-American community. Traditional soul food was served so all could see how those in the past were fed and how those same foods and recipes are used to this day.

“Because it is Black History month, what we are doing is trying to show the members where they come from,” says church first lady Mazarene McConnel. “We asked members to speak about how they lived and what they experienced during that time and how that’s different from what we are doing now to see how blessed we are and how far we have come as a race.”

Mother Charlie Bell Leviner started off the day by recounting stories of her childhood during the 1920s, of how people survived off the land and rarely went to the doctor, but instead relied on home remedies to overcome illnesses such as the common cold.  She also touched on how most blacks were field workers and sharecroppers at that time and how segregation affected the black community.

Pastor Mack H.L. McConnel and others gave their memories of the ‘30s through the ’70s, of the struggle African Americans encountered during World War II, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement.  The education of the youth also became more and more important during that time. First Lady McConnel spoke about the voting rights struggle during the 1950s and ‘60s with the advent of poll and literacy taxes.  Carrie Barswelll, sister of Pastor McConnel, even touched on the time where a cross was burned in their front yard as children.

The 1980s through today’s times were highlighted first by Nicole Parsons, who touched on how the genre of Hip Hop started in New York City and permeated throughout the country and popular culture as well.  During the ‘80s, most of the American states adopted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday. Also during that era, the Cosby Show was the most popular television program on air and showed America what an affluent African-American family looks like. Church member Stuart Eaton explained how ‘90s rap music continued to ascend to higher levels with artists such as Tupac Shakur, Jay-Z, Nas, and the Notorious B.I.G., and how the music reached all demographics, not just blacks.

The Chronicle’s own Shayna Smith spoke about the new millennium and emphasized the diversity she has grown up with in her generation. She addressed how this generation has taken the venom out of the “N” word and how it is somewhat become acceptable use for some outside of our race in certain instances. She also spoke about how we have come together as a race with the “Black Lives Matter” movement and how that has helped us as a people.

To conclude the evening, Minister William Robinson touched on the Willie Lynch letter, which was a step-by-step tutorial in how to make a slave and how that thought process was meant to last for generations, which is why it still affects the black community to this day.  He went on to say we as a people need to address our mentality of dependency and believe that God has instilled in us the power to succeed.

“I remember the impact of the struggle during the ‘60s and the impact of racism on our people during that time,” said Robinson. “It’s a matter of us having the education and the knowledge of where we come from and because this generation does have a sense of entitlement, they are reaping the benefits without knowing the struggle it took to achieve those rights. When are we going to wake up to realize the system was not created to help you, it was created to keep you enslaved?”

“I came from a generation where we felt we had a purpose and we were not like the young people of today. It seems as though they don’t have any direction. We wanted to let them know we had it hard and let them see how far God has brought us,” said First Lady McConnel of why they decided to have this event.

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