ATHENS, Ga. — More than 100 students turned out last month to mark a celebration of Black History Month at the University of Georgia’s Catholic Center, which kicked off with hymns sung by the adult choir of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, S.C.
David Hyman, OFM, who assists Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, in directing the Catholic Center, and chairs the Province’s African Ancestry Committee, said this was the fifth annual commemoration of Black History Month since the Franciscans have been directing the center.
“The number has grown each year,” said David. “This year we also did more promotion. The ministry now sees this as just something we do annually.”
Music and History
The 90-minute events of Feb. 19 also included a musical performance by Arvin Scott, a UGA professor. David said that approximately 20 members of the St. Anthony of Padua choir came and sang two opening hymns, “Rough Side” and “We Gonna Have a Good Time.” They closed with the Black National Anthem, more commonly known as “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Lioba Moshi, of the university’s African Studies Department, told a folktale of “The Three Tests.” June Barrow, who works for the local Intercommunity Council, recited a poem from Maya Angelou, “I Rise,” while Deborah Plummer, Ph.D., a nationally recognized psychologist and diversity expert, summarized the life of Sr. Thea Bowman, an African-American Franciscan nun.
Scott, who teaches drumming at the university, brought four students who performed. “He certainly became the centerpiece of the afternoon,” said David.
The events also included a presentation by Lawrence Jackson, from Emory University in Atlanta, discussing and reading from his recently published book, “On The Meaning of My Father’s Name: The Lives of Black Virginians.”
Dramatizations and Speeches
St. Anthony of Padua Parish hosted its second annual Black History Month program on March 4, including music, speeches and dramatizations tracing the experiences of African Americans in history.
Speeches by Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were dramatically delivered by teenagers, according to Patrick Tuttle, OFM, pastor. Other skits, he said, included the story of Mr. Wilberforce, a lawyer who championed the cause of slaves in England, laying the precedent for equal law in the United States. A former slave-ship owner, John Newton, who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace” using all the black keys on the piano — and is the wretch depicted and saved in the song — was also portrayed as he converted to Christ.
Food and music was provided afterward, complete with Patrick’s chocolate chip cookies.
Meanwhile, in Anderson, S.C., Paul Williams, OFM, of St. Joseph Parish, was a leader in a Black History Month program at nearby St. Mary of the Angels Church and coordinated by the Diocese of Charleston’s Office of Black Catholics.
Paul, who is the vicar for Black Catholics in the diocese, helped organize “Black Catholics Day of Reflection” on March 3. The “Faith Engaged” event included a prayer service, results of the National Black Catholic Survey, the first evaluation of its kind to assess the level of religious engagement of African American Catholics. The program also included a youth track, small group activities, and a group youth presentation.
— Wendy Healy, a freelance writer based in Connecticut, is author of Life is Too Short: Stories of Transformation and Renewal after 9/11.