“That Was Then, This Is Now,” the Nix-Stilton Road Community Improvement Organization’s second annual Black History Month celebration, highlighted the progress African-Americans have made in the area of civil rights.
The event was held Feb. 15 at the Nelson C. Nix Educational Center for Excellence.
Pastor Cynthia Mack of State Holy Temple on Coleman Avenue, said she hoped that through the program, those attending would learn and spread an appreciation of each individual and understand that “no one person is more important than anyone else.”
Mack defined civil rights as “opening the doors for everyone to be successful.”
The soundtrack for the evening was provided primarily by the local band, “Averin Tyler and the Cultivating Experience,” which performed gospel-and-jazz-influenced music.
Also performing were a men’s group from Exodus Baptist Church Choir led by Pastor Aubrey Brown; the group “Mended;” rapper Jermaine Edwards; a praise dance team led by Teresa Jenkins and 6-year-old Rodney Spigner of Sheridan Elementary who recited a Bible verse from memory.
The celebration included the youth of Mama Stokes’ Daycare portraying figures from Black history. To tie into the theme, the children were separated into two groups as they gave speeches about the lives of civil rights pioneers.
The first group, “That Was Then,” represented the 1800s through the 1960s and included portrayals of Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. DuBois, Jackie Robinson, Madame C.J. Walker, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr.
The second group, “This Is Now,” represented more recent historical figures including Michael Jackson, James Brown, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Mae Jemison, Michelle Obama and Barack Obama.
The two groups then came together to sing “America the Beautiful,” uniting the past, present and future of Black history in a tribute to the nation.
Another highlight was a stirring performance by Marshall Smith as Martin Luther King Jr. as part of the “That Was Then” segment.
Co-emcees of the program were Dennis Green and Shirley Caldwell. Green portrayed President Barack Obama in the “This Is Now” segment. Rather than recite one of Obama’s actual speeches, Green used the platform to discuss the importance of community involvement. He emphasized that without the help of the community that put him in office, President Obama could not make as significant an impact as he needs to.
“I like people that are activists and are able to articulate whatever message that they have,” Green said when speaking about the inspiration behind his performance.
Ola Stokes, who chaired the program, said, “We want to put positivity in the community” and to “make the children aware of the importance of Black history and knowing something about their own culture.”
David Jones, one of the musicians performing at the event, noted that civil rights is an ongoing movement.
“Everything takes one small step. You can’t ask for too much at one time ... (it’s) a slow process,” he said.
Jones said celebrations like Nix-Stilton’s can help revitalize the city of Orangeburg.
“Without people who care, the town is going to die out,” he said.
Green said he’d like to see more teenage males participate in the Black History Month programs and get them involved in the community.
The Nix-Stilton Road Community Improvement Organization works to make things better for the children of the area, Stokes said. Anyone wishing to join them in the effort can attend the group’s meetings held at 4 p.m. every third Sunday at the Nelson C. Nix Educational Center for Excellence.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.