Friday, February 17, 2006

BHM: African-American History Team

I didn't do a whole lot in my church when I was younger. Usually, I would go to Sunday school before service and then spent service downstairs with other kids in the Good News Club. I performed in Sunday school programs a lot as a kid and for a couple of years I was a Junior Usher, something I hated because I had trouble standing still. However, there was one thing I did in the church that I really enjoyed. That activity was the African-American History Team.

The African-American History Team was the brainchild of a lady by the name of Mrs. Griffin. Before I joined the team, I only knew her as the person who read the "Calendar Call To Christian Service" at Sunday service. The "team" was a group of kids that ranged in age from seven years old to 16 years old. Every Sunday in February, the team would do a presentation about noteworthy African-Americans (or black people in general) during the 11:00 a.m. worship service. The first meeting of the team was usually sometime in mid-to-late January and we would meet every Saturday afternoon to practice.

It was through this team that I learned a lot about African-American history. The first time I remember hearing about Madame C. J. Walker was from a speech that one of the girls on the team. Every year, the team would have a different theme in terms of the presentations. However, two years in particular always stood out to me.

One year, we did a presentation that chronicled the life Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through his speeches. Each person presenting did an excerpt from one of his speeches. I was given one that I remember being named "Then My Living Will Not Be In Vain" as my portion of the presentation. It was one of the final speeches King gave before he was assassinated. However, there was one major flaw in the that sort of annoyed me. The excerpts from King's speeches were presented chronologically. This meant that my speech was one of the last ones. The problem was that my speech came after the well known and much loved "I Have A Dream" speech.

So, as I waited for my turn to do my piece, I hear one of the team members saying the "I Have A Dream" speech. He was older than me and had a deeper voice. His voice boomed through the church and when he got to the familiar parts of the speech, the church was in a frenzy. When he finished, the clapping and "Amen!"s went on for a while. Eventually, it quieted down and I did my piece. The speech I did was not nearly as uplifting as the "I Have A Dream" speech as it had King foretelling his own death. I thought I did good but compared to the previous speech, I didn't get as much applause. Considering that there was a point where the church ate up everything I did, that was certainly an interesting experience.

Another year I always remembered in doing the African-American History Team was the year where we did "Black People Of The Bible." Before that year, it never really occurred to me that there were people of African descent in The Bible. I certainly didn't know that Goliath, the person who I spoke about, was African. While I've forgotten who else we covered during that year, I can honestly say that that was the first and only time I ever learned about Africans in The Bible.

Overall, the African-American History Team was a great experience. Being a member of that group helped me learn skills and tricks about public speaking. In the process, I learned a lot about black history and especially about people apart from the figures that are always covered in school. I wouldn't learn that much more about black history until I took some courses in college.

I haven't been to church in months, so I don't know if the African-American History Team is still in existence. I hope that it is. I hope that the kids of the church will have the opportunity to not only learn about black history but also educate others through their presentations. It certainly helped me during the few years I was a part of it.

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