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Annual celebration to honor African-American leaders
Published Friday, February 17, 2017
by Alexis Allston, The Durham VOICE

DURHAM – Beautiful music, elegant poetry, expressive dance and a delicious soul food feast — that’s what attendees can expect at Antioch Baptist Church’s annual African-American History Month celebration on February 26 at 4 p.m. The event is at 1415 Holloway St., and is open to everyone says the Rev. Michael D. Page.

He said the celebration is meant to show reverence for the advancements of African-Americans.

“It’s a time to reflect, a time to appreciate our culture and a time to give thanks for where we are right now in this modern-day society,” Page said.

He said the celebration’s music will include both old slave songs and contemporary to show the transition from historical times to the new generation. North Carolina Central University’s Worship and Praise Inspirational Mass Choir will perform. Ebenezer Baptist Church’s Hymn Choir from Charlotte will also perform as part of the celebration. An expressive dance group made up of youth from the church will accompany the music.

“They really bring to the table a new wave of music,” Page said. “They help people connect with this newer generation.”

Those who attend Antioch’s celebration will surely not go hungry.

“The soul food dinner ranges from every kind of dish we could possibly think of that we shared as a family growing up,” Page continued. “We want to make people feel at home and part of a community. It’s a joyful feast.”

Louise Weeks, a member of Antioch’s congregation, said she’s been attending the celebration practically every year since its inception.

“It’s just wonderful!” Weeks said. “They started the celebration to honor African-Americans in our community, some of whom never had any public recognition. I think it’s a blessing, and it’s been well-attended, and I commend him and his church for doing it every year.”

Page said the honorees are pioneers who have worked hard to make a difference and have their voices heard. “They made significant contributions to society and they should be noted for that,” he said. “A lot of them had to be daredevils.”

Among the honorees this year are Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, Durham’s first African-American female police chief, and H.M. “Mickey” Michaux Jr., the longest serving African-American member of the North Carolina General Assembly for Durham.

Gazing toward photos on his office wall of Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and other black leaders, Page said the purpose of African-American History Month is to identify with yourself, recognize who you are and realize why you should have pride in yourself.

“When you take pride in your heritage, you take pride in yourself and your environment and everything that you do is being done with quality,” he said. “We want to help people move to a different place in their lives.”

Joseph Jordan, director of the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History at UNC-Chapel Hill, said African-American History Month began as a single day celebration that wasn’t broadly recognized. Then it turned into a week.

“As you get to the 1960s era, people began to determine a week was not nearly long enough a period to rediscover, to talk about and to plan programs to celebrate and highlight the accomplishments of African-Americans,” he said. “The important thing to remember is that this was not supposed to be an exclusive period for the celebration, but more like a birthday where you highlight, create and prepare material that can be used throughout the year.”

Antioch’s celebration is not Page’s only effort to enlighten all, especially young people, about Black History Month and how to be involved. His Bible studies throughout February will focus on early African-American history and theology.

“Black history is not told enough,” Page said. “February is not enough time to tell the story, but we have this one month. Black history should be celebrated every single month.”



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Annual celebration to honor African-American leaders

DURHAM – Beautiful music, elegant poetry, expressive dance and a delicious soul food feast