By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
Saturday’s ceremony at Stanford House spotlighted Black History Month and the related key achievements among African-Americans.
Wilma Jackson said the event, presented by St. James C.M.E. Church, also represents a grand nod to black heritage.
“We want to get the kids, the smaller kids, to see where we’ve come from and how far we’ve come,” she said Saturday. “I think it’ll do them a lot of good to see how far we’ve progressed.”
The term “progress,” Jackson said, for her, generally has more to do with culture and education than anything economic.
“They can see the progress from my age, where we can tell them about what happened in my time, up through now,” she said. “And they can see the difference made and now, they can get a better education than we could. It’s all led up to a better thing, where they can get a scholarship. We were growing up kinda hard but now it’s easier.
“If you can apply yourself, you can do it.”
Organizer Karen Manuel said the evening’s program was unique in that it singled out an array of local and national African-American icons for recognition. Several costumed children paraded in front of the audience in character as the icons — which included not only President Barack Obama and activist Rosa Parks but also Gainesville educator Mary Hunter, athlete Jackie Robinson and late musician Whitney Houston. Guest speakers were pastors Sheldon Ballatt and Marcus Greene.
Manuel said the program was another in what has become a long series of annual tributes to the local African-American presence.
“Different organizations though the community have done this as far back as I can remember,” she said, adding that she sees a difference between Black History Month events and other local ceremonies such as the Martin Luther King Jr. parade. “This points out actual people within our community and within our country.”
Tributes of the recent past
Saturday’s event at Stanford House represented the second annual Black History Month presentation sponsored by St. James C.M.E. Church. But the month has an ample local history of celebration. Most recently, North Central Texas College (NCTC) officials sponsored a program called “Living the Legacy” — first in February 2012, and then again during this past Thursday.
Thursday’s keynote speaker was Plano resident Cheryl “Action” Jackson, who offered her own personal story of overcoming obstacles and making a difference. Jackson is said to have gone from “homeless and hungry” to distributing more than a million pounds of food through her charity, Minnie’s Food Pantry. The pantry allows families to walk the red carpet while being served with candles and music in the background.
Jackson became the first winner on the television show “The American Bible Challenge” and won $25,000 for her charity.
She has produced her own television show called “Living On Purpose” and has interviewed celebrities like Magic Johnson, Will Smith, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith and even Winfrey. She authored the book “What in the World Are You Doing?”
— Some content courtesy of North Central Texas College.