Citizens gathered at the historic courthouse on Saturday afternoon to hear about the March on Washington and the Emancipation Proclamation and were moved by inspirational poems and interpretive dance as a part of a black history celebration.
The city of Covington and Main Street Covington hosted its third annual black history month program, "At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington," where dozens of community members were inspired by black history through dance, song and spoken words.
Guests at the event were greeted by music and a slideshow of prominent black leaders who made a difference during the Civil Rights movement. The Newton High School MCJ-ROTC conducted the presentation of colors as Girl Scouts from Troop 25556 led the audience in the pledge of allegiance. Melissa Cross then sung the Black National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing."
Janet Goodman, one of the event’s organizers, welcomed the audience to the program and reminded everyone that "the Covington that we enjoy today, has not always been this way." Goodman also said the hope for the program was to deliver knowledge about the past.
Dan Walden, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, delivered a prayer for the ceremony and was followed by a group of four young ladies from Mt. Zion Baptist Church who marched across the historic courthouse floor dressed as church goers with fans dancing to gospel singer Donnie McClurkin’s song, "We Come This Far by Faith."
Youngster Chelsea Williams had the audience on their feet in applause after she recited a poem titled, "The Negro Mother," written by poet Langston Hughes.
Williams was followed by Covington City Council member Hawnethia Williams giving a statement of purpose for the celebration and this year’s theme.
"When we learn about ourselves, we are not doomed to repeat history," Williams said.
Williams added that this year marked the 150th anniversary of The Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in states that remained in rebellion during the American Civil War; and also the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where more than 200,000 people marched and listened to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I Have a Dream," speech.
Newton High School students and MCJ-ROTC cadets Christopher Lightsey, Mykal Smith and Sara Birdsong, read essays on what they felt was the purpose of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" speech meant.
"We must stop basing our pride on what was done in the past, but what is being done today," Lightsey said.
Covington natives Richard Johnson, Flemmie Pitts and Forrest Sawyer Jr. shared their personal stories of the changes they have seen in Covington during the Civil Rights movement.
Also during the event, the "New Leaf Workforce Development" program was introduced, which is a program that focuses on preparing people for employment and teaching them the skills to keep their jobs.
Several elected officials also attended the program, which continued with song, spoken word and dance and Newton County Board of Education member Shakila Henderson-Baker presenting the audience with a challenge urging everyone to continue to make things better for everybody and highlighting the importance of an education.