Churchgoers and elected officials gathered recently to celebrate Black History month and recognize eight members of Pleasant Ridge Missionary Baptist for their service to the community.
“It’s sort of become tradition now that each year during Black History month, we do an education town hall where we look at the history and development of African Americans,” said 7th District Congressman Danny K. Davis, who led the Feb. 22 event.
Recipients of the award, who were honored for providing over 50 years of stewardship, were: Lorene Ammons, Mabel Bailey, Marie Carr, Ardella Hamilton, Dorothy Huston, Melvina Russell, Mattie Stanton and Mary Warfield.
Before awards were passed out, there were presentations recounting the lives and impact of several influential African Americans throughout history.
Those highlighted included Rosa Parks, a woman who refused to give up her seat in the colored section of a bus that led to the Montgomery bus boycott; W.E.B. Du Bois, an author and civil rights activist; and author and poet Maya Angelou.
Events like this are needed most in the community because they show how far African Americans have come, Davis said. It also shows that unity is needed to go even further in society today.
People “knew that if they came together and learned things and did things, that it would improve the quality of life for themselves and for their children,” he said.
Mayoral hopeful Willie Wilson, who two days later fell short of the needed votes to face Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the April 7th runoff, attended the event.
Programs like the Black History Town Hall and Awards paint hope, Wilson said. This hope is present in many of our leaders from the past to present today, he said.
“Doctor King was hope, Malcolm X was hope,” Wilson said. “Your pastor that preaches the gospel is hope, Congressman Danny Davis is hope.”
This same hope is evident in the people of Chicago, specifically in Austin during these tough economic times, Wilson said.
Now what’s needed most is economic development and empowerment within the community, he said. Focus on those objectives will likely impact schools and safety.
Wilson also talked about lessons he’s learned from growing up in the segregated South.
“What I learned even through the tough times down South, my mother taught me to love all people,” Wilson said. “White, black, doesn’t matter what color you are, and that stayed in my mind.”