|Program highlights accomplishments, traditions, culture|
Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston:
Members of the Living History Guild at Booker T. Washington National Monument present a skit during Saturday’s Black History Month program at Walmart in Rocky Mount.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
A crowd of more than 200 spectators came out Saturday for the ninth annual Black History Month program at the Rocky Mount Walmart.
"We had a really nice crowd this year," said Velma Witcher, an event organizer.
The program, organized by store associates Witcher and Sarah O'Neal, featured performances by numerous gospel groups, messages from several speakers, as well as a skit by Penny Blue and other volunteers from The Living History Guild of Booker T. Washington National Monument.
In June 1865, two months after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, the Union forces issued field orders ending slavery throughout the South, including Franklin County. But those orders had yet to be announced to those enslaved on plantations, like the Burroughs Plantation in Hardy where Booker T. Washington was born.
The skit by the Living History Guild depicted two female slaves on the Burroughs Plantation, sewing in the weave house and whispering excitedly to each other as they awaited the news of their freedom.
Elder Anthony Bonds, pastor of Haven of Rest in Bedford, told of Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist and women's rights activist who was born a slave in New York. He spoke about Truth's illiteracy and how she overcame her handicaps to become a "very powerful speaker."
"She was inspired to speak out on behalf of freedom," said Bonds.
Truth requested a meeting with President Abraham Lincoln, who was so moved by her vision, that he appointed her to the National Freedmen's Relief Association, Bonds said. In that position, she counseled former slaves and continued to appear at suffrage gatherings during the remainder of her life.
Truth also won the battle in a New York court for the freedom of her son, who was also sold into slavery.
"Let us all be inspired by the work of all these great people," said Bonds.
The store was alive with music Saturday as visitors from as far away as North Carolina came to sit in on the program. Shoppers were also seen taking a break to learn about the achievements of black people in history and listen to the performances.
Gospel music was provided by Family Five, The Gospel Tears, The Appointed Messengers of Christ, The Mitchell Family and The Valentine Brothers.
Also, Betty Helms, Sheila Witcher, Andre Taylor and Rachel Reustle.
Miss Pigg River Preteen Tatiyanna Harper was on hand to pass out programs to guests and participate in a performance by the Benjamin Franklin Middle School Eagle Steppers, of which she is a member.
The Mount Olive East Christian Praise Dancers performed a lyrical dance, and Ingra Clements with the Rocky Mount Post Office discussed the availability of new Black Heritage postal stamps.
Ferrum author Shea LeMone addressed the audience about the importance of reading to children at an early age and the need for more black parents to include books in the lives of their children.
Witcher and O'Neal said they were happy with the outcome of the program and the crowd it attracted.
"We would like to thank everyone for participating in the program and for making it a success," they said.