The annual celebration of Black History Month at Zion Temple AME Church isn’t about the past, but the future.
The church in the Mims Community, which dates to the 1800s, has had a Black History Month presentation for more than 30 years in hopes of encouraging youth to follow in the successful steps of their ancestors.
“We want to teach our young people about their history so they can remember and know exactly where we come from and what our history means,” Pastor Mark Jackson said.
Knowing the history of a people can give a person dignity, Jackson said.
“All races of people need to know their history, their background,” the pastor said. “It’s important to know their background so they have self-worth and self-value.”
Clara Johnson has attended the Black History Month presentations for as long as she can remember.
“We do the presentation every year because the founder of the AME church is an African named Richard Allen,” Johnson said. “Every year it gets better and better, and I like it because we involve our young people as well as older generations so we can learn from each other.”
Members of the congregation are very close, and Jackson believes it helps them motivate each other.
“When you are close and work together, you can accomplish more,” Jackson said. “We want to encourage and uplift each other.”
Lenay Johnson, daughter of Clara Johnson, grew up in the Zion Temple church and had a supportive family there.
“As a little girl, all the women and men in the church would motivate me, and now that I’m an adult, they keep up with me very closely,” she said. “A lot of African-American history is not taught in schools, and the only way generations coming after us will know is the descendants and to hear stories that aren’t published.”
Lenay Johnson believes there is a lot of local black history people don’t know about.
“Looking at the Mims Plantation, the Levi Jordan Plantation, as well as the individuals that have made history in this area, you don’t hear as much about it,” she said. “It needs to be captured and that’s why we talk about it.”
Jackson believes young African-Americans knowing their history will help guide them to the future.
“It is so important to not forget,” Jackson said. “If you don’t remember who you are, you can’t know where you’re going.”