Pastor W.J. Smith, president of the Newton County Ministers’ Union, is one of the organizers of the Newton Black History Month program, which takes place on Feb. 22 from 3 to 6 p.m., at Newton High School, 1 Ram Drive in Covington. The program is presented by the NCMU in conjunction with the NAACP and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority’s Chi Tau Omega chapter. (Staff Photo: Karen Rohr)
For the first time ever, a countywide Black History Month celebration will be held in Covington as trailblazers, along with past and present leaders, will all be recognized on Feb. 22, in the auditorium at Newton High School. The celebration will be from 3 to 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
The Newton County Ministers’ Union is sponsoring the event in conjunction with the NAACP and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority’s Chi Tau Omega chapter.
Featuring an afternoon of music, drama, dancing, preaching and reminiscing, the Newton County Black History Month Celebration will focus on the past, present and future of the black community.
“It’s just to bring the younger generation to recognize how they got to where they are and to thank the older generation for their prayers and influence through the years,” according to Pastor W.J. Smith, president of the NCMU. “We’ll have some plays done that day and some dance teams will be there. We’ll have preaching and we’ll be registering people that day to vote …
“The community has never had a black history program countywide. This will be the first one. The other organizations are there helping to do preparations.”
The keynote speaker for the event will be the Rev. Hezekiah Benton, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church and vice president of the NCMU.
“Hezekiah is going to electrify,” Smith said. “He’s a very exciting speaker and he is a ‘today’ pastor. He can deal with things we are at right now. I’m his man behind the scenes.”
Music will also play a big role that day with performances by the MLK Choir and NC3, as well as spirituals sung by soloists.
The NCMU, which includes almost 40 churches, will be joined that day by the NAACP and by Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Chi Tau Omega chapter, the first African-American sorority to charter in the U.S.
“We brought pink and green to the historical landscape of Newton County’s rich black heritage,” Debbie Hillman of Chi Tau Omega said.
“Residents may not be familiar with our Greek name, but they know the ladies in pink and green. We take pride in knowing that because of our efforts, numerous high school students have received scholarships; middle school girls have benefited from membership in our Emerging Young Leaders Program; residents have learned about voting rights, health care and human trafficking and more than 1,200 students have participated in back-to-school events.”
Part of the focus for the day will be to talk about such programs and activities that are designed to help the black community.
“That’s what the ministers’ union does and the other programs do too,” Smith said.
“Whether it be education or improving their way of living or a new program, (we’re here to help). There’s a new program we’ve got that was originally named ‘From the Playground to the Prison.’ It is now ‘Life Steps.’ We’re trying to help our young men and women.”
Smith, who has been in the ministry 35 years and is pastor of Word of Praise Community Church in Covington cited the New Leaf Center, which is another program that involves the NCMU, Newton County, the city of Covington, the housing authority and other entities, that is now working to provide training and life skills counseling to people throughout the community.
“From the past generation, we feel their prayers and their teaching and we got this far,” Smith said. “The present generation is living off those prayers and at some junction of their lives, they’re going to slow down in life and they will become the seniors.
“But this present generation now is just so fast. There’s nothing wrong with it. They’re being educated and trained, and in our culture, we’ve got more in jail than in the churches. But not to forget that there are a lot of young black men and women who are doing some positive things in this generation right now.
“We just had a 12-year-old boy just publish his first book. There are a lot of positive things in this generation, but then there are a lot of negatives. They can’t find jobs. It seems like they have problems getting their education, but we are trying to set up programs that try to help the total man.”
The Black History Month event in Newton County will celebrate the milestones and offer encouragement for the future.
“We invite the entire community to come out and be with us that day,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a very special and exciting day.”
He said there will be special recognition for senior adults, as well as black law enforcement members, business and professionals leaders, civic groups and others.
Newton High School is located at 1 Ram Way in Covington.
Beth Slaughter Sexton is a freelance writer based in Gwinnett County. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.