Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson set the precursor of Black History Month in 1926 with Negro History Week, the second week in February. The celebration was set between the birthdays of legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass and “The Great Emancipator” President Abraham Lincoln.
, Black History Month culminated with a call for youngsters to “return to the ways of former generations” — when uplifting the race was paramount, and education fueled tremendous aspiration and accomplishment in young people.
“Before the time of PlayStations and X-Boxes and everybody having their own room, we lived off of what we could – eating pinto beans everyday and working in a cotton field from sun-up to sundown,” said featured speaker, Pastor Larry S. Lewis of Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding Ministries in Orange Mound.
Tabernacle of Faith in South Memphis, hosted the Saturday afternoon program to highlight the gifts and talents of youth and teens. The program included a haunting rendition of Billie Holliday’s 1939 song, “Strange Fruit” about the widespread practice of lynching:
Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees…
And like so many other Black History observances, an impressive catalogue of African-American personalities and contributions were recited and presented by young people.
Pastor Lewis said the modern African-American race has been “defiled.”
“The things we are seeing today are things we have never seen before,” Lewis said. “We were always obedient to our parents. We honored our elders, and there was not the aggression and criminality, this hatred and violence of our young people against each other and those in their own community.
“We keep trying to address the issues, but the problem is we keep trying to do it without God,” he continued. “Government says the answer is legislation. Schools say its education. Doctors want to medicate. Police want to incarcerate. But all of these solutions have failed.
“Jesus said, ‘Without me, you can do nothing.’ God is the one-step solution for whatever the problem is,” Lewis added. “Addicts don’t need a 12-step program. The Lord can free them from addiction in one single step.”
Tabernacle of Faith pastor Joseph Woodfork Jr. urged young people to keep what they learned and what they heard to apply the “life lessons” being offered by program participants.
The day’s theme was taken from the wealth of wisdom taken from Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches: “The time is always right to do what is right.”
Lewis ended with a quote from presidential candidate and self-help author, Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. … We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”