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April 19, 2024

Black History Celebration held


A Black History Celebration and Banquet, sponsored by the NAACP and Hiddenite Arts and Heritage Center, was held Saturday, February 11, 2023, at the Center. The focus of the evening was truly one of “Celebration.” As guests entered the event center, there was a slideshow highlighting the many outstanding accomplishments of Black Americans from Alexander County.

Mrs. Donna Latham, the Director of the Hiddenite Center, opened the event and welcomed guests, along with Rev. Sterling Howard, President of the Alexander County NAACP. The crowd sang the song “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” in unison and Rev. Paul Sink, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Taylorsville, opened the event in prayer and a blessing for the food.

Each speaker or performer on the program seemed to convey the same message: A remembrance of past struggles, a celebration of present victories, and an attitude of excitement for the future. The “Third Creek Praise Team” from Third Creek Baptist Church in Stony Point shared uplifting praise songs throughout the evening.

Three young ladies shared poetry completely from memory. Sequoia Wilson shared “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou and Paris and Yazmin McLain shared “In and Out of Time.” Janishia, Osheyana, and Heaven Howard shared a dance of praise as well.

Mrs. Priscilla Jenkins, the Founder, President, and CEO of The Bridge Community, Inc., shared about her organization’s efforts to connect the needs of community members and the resources available to them. She began her speech with these words, “I’m Priscilla Jenkins and I AM black history.” She spoke of her initial calling into the service of her community as a layperson in her church. The birth of “The Bridge Community” initially came out of her service endeavors at Third Creek Baptist Church, with the support of her (then) pastor, Rev. Sterling Howard. According to Jenkins, “The Bridge Community is an innovative 501(c)(3) grassroots entity with the mission to improve lives across the diverse communities we serve in Alexander County and beyond. We do this by “bridging the gap” between the needs of families and resources by prioritizing needs of employment, education, counseling services, and health services.” For more information on The Bridge Community, Inc., see next week’s Taylorsville Times.

Minister Joy Jones, of Third Creek Baptist Church, introduced the speaker for the evening, Reverend Elliot Boston, the pastor of Liberty Grove Baptist Church in Taylorsville. Boston is married to Joyce Akins and they have three children: Elijah, Grace, and Jade. He graduated from Alexander Central High School in 1998, where he excelled at football. Rev. Boston attended Johnson & Wales Culinary School in Miami, FL, after high school, and in 2004, he became the executive Nutrition Care Chef at Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory, where he was recognized as their Employee of the Year in 2009. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Boston of Alexander County. In 2021, Boston became the youngest black pastor in Alexander County at the age of 40.

Rev. Boston began his message stating, “Tonight I want to highlight the work of God in the black community through the institution of the church.” He said, “God, you can take anybody and move them anywhere you want.” This was met with hearty “Amens” from the crowd. Boston talked about growing up in Taylorsville in a “church atmosphere.” He said that in those days, if you were black, everybody in the school system that was black was your Mama or your Daddy. He talked about the church being “a family.”

Boston also stated that “As African Americans, we have a rich history of studying God’s Word. Many people still today are benefiting from the work of black churches.” He spoke about the slave Bible that was printed with certain passages omitted so as not to incite rebellion among slaves. He also gave thanks to God for the people who taught slaves to read, even though it was against the law and even though they risked their lives and reputations to do so. (There is a rare copy of the Slave Bible on display now at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC.)

Rev. Boston gave credit to former black pastors who had gone before him to lead their churches and to help black people become “overcomers.” Boston said, “God is our Provider and if God has something for His people, there is nothing anyone can do about it, except stand back and watch it happen.” He talked about how God made provisions for His people through the leaders of black churches throughout history. He spoke of the power of “The Black Pastor” as an organizer, a leader, and a problem solver. He said that the church historically provided a place for “black people to be celebrated and for people to gather to fight against ignorant thoughts.”

Boston also said that “tension comes, not because of God, but because of people. We are all broken people.” He said, “We do not let our past hinder us. We move forward and strive for a better day.”

In closing his message, Rev. Boston said, “there is a foundation set so we can gather together, black, white, different nationalities, in love.”

People young and old, black and white, attended this event. It seemed to serve as a relationship builder in Alexander County. Those who organized the event gave praise for where they have come from and where they are going. It was a family atmosphere of celebration and joy. Melvin and Sandra Teague brought their two grandchildren, Paisley Teague, age 9, and Masiyah Adams, age 11, so that they could “learn about their black culture.”

Families and friends sat together, sang praise songs together, ate together, and reunited together with old friends. There were some Alexander government officials on hand at the event to show their support for relationship building within the county and to celebrate the achievements of the Black citizens of Alexander County.

Rev. Sterling Howard and Helen Parker (Anthony) Chestnut, chief organizer of the event, gave closing remarks. Helen said, “I want to first give Glory and Honor to God for this event and I pray this will be the beginning of better relations in our community.”

In the words of Rev. Elliot Boston, “God has called us specifically for this time.”

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