MT. PLEASANT — Second Baptist Ministries, Inc. in Mt. Pleasant will be hosting its 25th annual African American History program on Saturday, Feb. 15.
As part of the program, various church members and local musical groups will perform before the showing of a film titled “Second Baptist Memoirs.”
Betty Mullen, program coordinator for the church, explained the film will include highlights from some of the early history programs and Black History Month celebrations the ministry held, covering the years from 1996 to about 2004.
“We feel so blessed that we’ve been able to help make the community aware of black history all these years,” Mullen said.
Mullen has been part of the church since 1975. She helped begin the annual African American Celebration with the church after graduating from Iowa Wesleyan and settling in the community. When she and her husband realized there were no programs in the community celebrating black history and the contributions of African Americans to the country, they decided to try to set up a small gathering to celebrate Black History Month.
Mullen said the original intention of the program was to provide an educational experience for students in the area.
“Our main focus at that point was to reach out to students. We have students of a variety of backgrounds from different states like Alabama, Louisiana, Illinois … we wanted to focus on them, grow that population and hopefully reach out and connect and engage our community,” she said.
Mullen explained the celebration was originally hosted at the Historic African American Building, the oldest building in Henry County and the oldest black church west of the Mississippi. The program coordinator said what she remembers most of the early celebrations is an exchange of knowledge between students and church members. The first three years, the church even hosted a College Quiz Bowl.
“We all learned from each other. It was very close-knit, like family,” Mullen said.
Once the program moved to the Senior Citizen Building in 2000, word began to spread and the event grew into a larger community affair. Mullen said the celebration can now easily have over 150 attendees.
For Mullen, the celebration continues to be about making connections. What’s important to her is having the community come together to learn.
“Sometimes to bring back past history, there’s always something that is sad in poetry or music. Even though we’re talking about some of the bad things that have happened, were not holding onto that. But we can’t look forward to the future without understanding the past. We’re not scolding anyone, we just want people to learn,” she said, “People can come and learn and have fun. If someone was able to connect with a person of color or has just one thing they can take away, something they learned. Even if they just say they enjoyed the food — that’s something. It’s all about learning and loving.”
The program will take place at 801 E. Winfield Ave., Mt. Pleasant. A dinner will be served at noon with the program beginning at 1 p.m.