Bethel AME program looks beyond black history in Heritage Museum program
Loretta Howell appreciates that Black History Month focuses on the challenges and triumphs of past African Americans. But, Howell, 73, of Harrison said she hopes this year's installment of Bethel AME Church's Black History Program can provide more than a history lesson.
“(The program) is an awareness of our history,” she says of the event, which will run from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Alle-Kiski Valley Hisorical Society's Heritage Museum in Tarentum. “But, I also know, in my heart, it's important that we know where we're going. We're moving past when we were thrown off the boats. We need to move up. We need to give our children the knowledge to succeed and better themselves.”
Past and present will be in full view at the event. Howell, who chairs the program with Joyce Ballard, said the free event will feature musical selections from Alle-Kiski Valley choirs and soloists and will include liturgical dance.
Upper Burrell's Howard Clements will display hand-carved African artifacts, including masks and furniture.
Author Eric Manley, a New Kensington native who wrote the book “12 Shades of Men,” will give the keynote speech titled “Facets of Civil Rights.”
“It's very humbling and surreal,” Manley says about giving his speech. “It makes me think about where it all started for me. I never thought I'd be a published author.”
Manley, who lives in Ohio and is a college-admissions representative, said his talk will focus on those who helped advance the civil-rights cause, but he also hopes to provide young people with inspiration.
“Education is your new money,” he says of the message he wants to convey. “When you enlarge your mind, you enlarge your territory. Education is the best equalizer.
“It gives us an opportunity to do things we might not be able to do. You realize New Kensington's not the only place out there.”
Manley hopes to inspire further action from listeners of his speech. “The things that took place in the '60s, they made more changes in that decade than we've done since,” he says. “Where are we going as a country?
“You have to be willing to serve. How is your character when no one else is watching?”
Dolly Mistrik, the president of the society, says it's important for her group to be a part of an event that celebrates the Alle-Kiski Valley's African-American population.
“It's our society's goal to educate the younger generation of all backgrounds,” Mistrik says. “We love being a part of this event.
“We're more than happy to bring Bethel AME in and have them share their history with us. It's their history, they know it, and they do a wonderful job.”
Mistrik says people might be surprised by the level of racism that was seen in the Alle-Kiski Valley at one time.
“There was a lot of segregation, not as bad as it was in the South, but it was here,” Mistrik says. “A lot of people don't realize it, but it was here.”
Mistrik said segregation was so bad in Brackenridge that African Americans could only live in a certain section of the borough, by the Allegheny Ludlum plant.
Howell said the aim of the event is to educate, but she also hopes to see people build relationships.
“It's fun, the music is great, and the speakers are wonderful,” says Howell, also a member of the Bethel AME choir, which will perform at the event. “But, we're also coming together to learn about each other.
“You don't do that when you run into church and you run out of church and you're gone. You don't have time to be social.”
R.A. Monti is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.