About 90 Quad-Citians celebrated the lives of two transformative international leaders Sunday during a Black History Month event at Second Baptist Church, Rock Island.
“Black History: In the Struggle, End the Struggle” included readings, dancing, drumming, audio clips and prayers to mark the lives of the American Civil Rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and former South African president and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela.
At the front of the room, each leader was represented by a portrait with his profile and his history. Readers presented facts or writings about each man from his childhood and young adulthood through his adult years in tributes that included audio clips of both King and Mandela.
Participants, many of who were dressed in traditional African clothing, sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” sometimes called “The Black National Anthem.”
James Salter read quotes from King’s memoirs and a letter he wrote in the Birmingham jail that included his experience of finding “your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your 6-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television.”
Ten people reenacted a protest march, carrying signs that read “I am a man!” and “Integrated schools now.” The Second Baptist Church Praise Dancers, as well as percussionist Gary Millsap, also performed. A tribute to former church members the Rev. William Grimes, Clarence Huff, M. L. Lockhart and Gert Walkup was held.
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The program ended with an old-fashioned Southern tea, complete with tea cakes.
Special thanks was given to co-chairpersons Samme Montgomery and Dave Elliott for their participation in this year’s event and in years past.