A joyous day of singing and praising occurred on Sunday morning at the Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church at 7289 U.S. 64.
Church organizers and head Pastor Donald L. Johnson set aside the second Sunday of the month of February to honor African-American pioneers of his church in celebration of Black History Month.
“Obviously we celebrate Black History month and our team realized that ‘Yes,’ we can celebrate the first historians like Martin Luther King Jr, but we should also honor people in our church and community that has also been the first.”
The honoree’s skills and professions were diverse, ranging from the U.S. military to education and different sporting disciplines.
Johnson was among the honorees, recognized for being the first and only chaplain of the Memphis Grizzlies since their arrival to Memphis in 2001.
“It’s an incredible opportunity and responsibility,” Johnson said.
He was appreciative that his congregation has truly welcomed his role with the Grizzlies, specifically the spiritual life of the players.
“My church has embraced it 100 percent. Some of the players come to church and are never bombarded as fans because our members respect them.”
He believes his work for the Lord is a testimony to Memphis youth, and that God will interface with the activities they love while spreading his word.
“God takes the natural things in life and our young people need to know when you become a Christian you can still be you, just incorporate the spiritual side and represent God,” Johnson said.
Another honoree at the service was Stanley Dentley, the church’s public service director. Dentley is also the athletic logistics/facilities equipment coordinator for LeMoyne-Owen.
“I’ve learned so much from working at LOC and take pride in caring for people especially student-athletes,” Dentley said. “It’s so rewarding to see people being helped, not only African Americans but everyone.”
Dentley was also the first black Memphian to be equipment coordinator/ball staff for the Memphis NBA team, a role he held from 2001-2003. “The Grizzlies interviewed (legendary former LOC basketball coach) Jerry Johnson and he said I would be a good fit and I appreciated it,” Dentley said.
“It’s very rewarding for my church to reward me for the services I have done but most of all the Lord has rewarded me for serving the people,” he said. “It means a lot to me because we need our kids to know what brought us this far, it was a great experience for them to see different men and women of life achieve so much from their very own church.”
Johnson also expressed that Black history needs to be taught year-round.
“When we celebrate Black History, we need our people to see that the month is the highlight, but it’s not only February this needs to be done, it needs to a way of life,” he said.
“We need to remember that it’s not only Black history, it’s American history,” said Johnson.
Other honorees included:
Earl Gray, Pastor Joedae Jenkins, Mother Martha Thomas, Mother Wilmer Robinson, Mother Margaret Keaton, Deacon Tony Mitchell, Deaconess Jennifer Mitchell, James Thomas and Deacon Lige Johnson.
Also, Minister Sudie Alston, Deaconess Patrina Winfrey, Deacon James Winfrey, Berlinda Webber, Ron Brooks, Deacon Johnny Smith, Deacon Cedric Anderson, brothers Andrew and Alex Anderson, Larry Poindexter and Thomas.