Church showcases black history hall

BRACEVILLE — For more than 25 years, members of the Braceville First Baptist Church have recognized the many accomplishments of local residents in varied fields as part of the annual Black History Hall of Fame.

The event included a worship service with a display of awards, newspaper clippings and photos showcasing the achievements in such fields as athletics, education, ministry, military, medical, business and law enforcement.

The event was started by member Arlene Body, who, with help from other church members, sets up the display where people eating dinner can view it. Body serves as event chairperson and Annette Watts as vice chairperson.

Bobbi Smith of Akron, originally from Braceville, said she comes back to Braceville each year for the event.

“I am still amazed and very proud of the accomplishments of so many people from the Braceville area,” she said.

Body said the event continues to grow each year.

“I am always finding out about someone else’s achievement to add to the display. People hear about this and come here each February. We are fortunate to always have marvelous speakers,” she said.

This year’s speakers were the Rev. Georgina Thornton and Pastor Orneil Heller.

Deacon Harvey Smith said different people were asked to speak and share information on the importance of Black History Month.

Speaker Vivian Blackshear discussed the many accomplishments of those in the field of music.

“I have thought a lot of how sad the world would be without music. Music is praise, love and peace, calming, soothing, uplifting and a blessing to so many. Even the slaves sang music with all they did. There is music for every occasion,” Blackshear said.

Smith said everyone has a song in his / her heart that gives joy and puts someone’s spirit in the right direction.

Luona Body, a retired teacher, said there are so many in history whose contributions were part of the fabric of America.

“We helped build America,” said Body.

She said in her home and in her classroom, there were always books but she noted in some books something was missing.

“We hold Black History Month because there was a systematic attempt to erase the contributions of everything that African Americans have done to build this country. … We are everywhere and we are everything. We will not be erased,” Body said.

She said the month highlights contributions of African Americans in many different fields and careers. Body encouraged people to learn as much as they can of where each person came from, their nationality and ancestors.

Byron Robertson, who is in school administration, said it is important to learn from history. Otherwise it will have the tendency to repeat itself.

“Our youth is our future, so educating them is so important for their future and our society,” Robertson said.

He said it is more than just one month to celebrate black history.

“We have history right here in front of us with the stories told by people here,” Robertson said.