The Rev. Tony Campbell loves telling people that in the history of African-Americans, they had gone from slaves, to free people, to becoming an community, to most recently having an African-American, Barack Obama, elected president.
Campbell, the minister of the Second Baptist Ministries in Mt. Pleasant, got to tell some of the stories of African-American history to a packed house Saturday, Feb. 9, as the church celebrated its 24th annual African-American Celebration. He said the goal when the celebration was established was to invite the community to come to the church to learn the history of African-Americans. He also said the goal was to make everyone who attends feel the love of Jesus Christ, commenting that he believes God and Jesus had brought the United States to where it is.
“When it began people were afraid we were having this to attack people,” he said. ‘This is not about attacking anyone. It is about embracing each other as people.”
A diverse group of people attended the celebration to eat a meal dominated by comfort foods like gumbo, collard greens and cornbread. The group listened to speaker Paul Dennison talk about the history of African-Americans in the United States. Church member Paul Tinder said he had helped to set up the 85 seats in the church’s fellowship hall.
Tinder, a deacon in the church as well as a member of the church’s gospel group, said he had helped with the event since it began. Over the years he is happy to have seen the event grow and new people attending the event every year. The celebration, he said, is something the entire congregation looks forward to. While it had originally started with about 27 people attending, now has greatly expanded. “This is especially important now,” he said. “American seems to be in turmoil and any time you can bring people to gather to break bread together and to share as a community the world ends up being a better place.”
The event began when congregation member Betty Mullin, a former vocal student at Iowa Wesleyan University, realized that little was being taught in schools regarding African-American history. She hoped to create an event where the community could come to learn more about the history of African -mericans in the United States. During the event, she busied herself with multiple tasks to greet people attending.
“I thought it was very encouraging and enlightening,” she said.
Mullin explained the event was about love. She recalled in school she and the other students had contests where they learned about the history of other races. History became a love of hers and she hoped to bring that interest and love to the community.
She said plans have already begun for next year’s event. With the 25th event coming, she promises the church is going to go out of its way to make the event special.