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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

Black History program celebrates women behind the scenes
Saturday’s event drew largest crowd yet
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Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston: Walmart associate Betty Helms took a break from her work to sing for a large crowd Saturday at the 2014 Walmart Black History program.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


The produce section at the Rocky Mount Walmart was about more than just tomatoes and lettuce Saturday afternoon as the 10th annual Walmart Black History program unfolded and gospel music filled the air.

Over 200 spectators turned out this year, making it the largest crowd so far, according to Velma Witcher, an organizer of the event.

The program, organized by store associates Witcher and Sarah O'Neal, featured performances by numerous gospel groups and a message from keynote speaker, Dr. Veronica Gwynn of First Baptist Church in Rocky Mount.

During her talk, Gwynn highlighted five women behind the scenes in the black history struggle.

Dorothy Height, the former president of the National Council of Negro Women, spent her life advocating for civil and women's rights. Height received numerous honors for her work, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

Eleanor Roosevelt, even though she was not black, played an important role in the civil and women's rights movement, Gwynn said.

"Eleanor Roosevelt worked behind the scenes," she said, "often going against her husband."

Gwynn also spoke about three black women inventors who helped shape the current American way of life.

"Alice Parker thought of one of the greatest ideas of all time," said Gwynn. "The heating furnace."

Marie Van Brittan Brown patented closed circuit television security, and Dr. Shirley Jackson invented the touch-tone phone, portable fax and assisted in the inventions of caller ID and call waiting. Jackson was the first black woman to earn a doctorate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in nuclear physics.

The struggle for equality still exists, but "we are moving forward," Gwynn said. "We've come full circle and there's hope. We can keep striving to move forward. We have opportunities our ancestors didn't have, but they paved the way for us."

Gwynn's message was followed by gospel music from local groups, Gospel Five, The Mitchell Family, The Appointed Messengers of Christ, Family Five and the Sandy Hill Choir.

Store associate Betty Helms even took a break from her work to sing a couple of numbers for the crowd.

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.

Refreshments were served after the program.

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