A crowd of around 100 gathered in the auditorium to listen to songs by The Gospel Spirits from Walnut Cove and The Gospel Truths from Winston-Salem. Both groups involved the audience in their performances, encouraging them to get out of their seats, clap their hands and sing along.
Mae Hylton gave two performances during the evening. Her first was an Afro-American folktale called “The Dying Frog.” It told the story of a frog who informed his friends he was dying and asked who would take care of his wife and seven children. She also recited Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech, which was originally delivered in 1851 and called for equal rights for women.
Marie Nicholson performed a traditional African dance. Without the availability of her CD, she turned to a drum machine and the audience to help keep the beat while she danced. She also sang several songs a cappella, inviting the audience to sing along during “We Are Family” and “Victory Is Mine.”
“Be optimistic. Let the rhythm of the drums carry you back to Africa and forward to your future,” she told the audience. “That’s what we’re about here, coming together.”
The Patrick County chapter of the NAACP reenacted Rosa Parks’ bus sit-in, complete with a cut-out of a bus. Participants played the roles of Rosa Parks, the bus driver, the white man who asked her to move and the police officer who arrested her.
Cecelia Hylton, a student in the Patrick County, Va., school system, played “When the Saints Go Marching In” on her clarinet. She was asked by her grandmother to play, and her aunt was participating in the event already.
“I kind of wanted to play,” she said. “Black history is really important, because we can celebrate our heroes.”
Many of the audience members attended the 19th year of the celebration to support and remember African-American culture and history.
“I come every year,” said Shirley Joyce, who drove from Winston-Salem. “It’s about our history, and we love coming out.”
Kenneth Sawyers has also been attending the event for a number of years and brought his two young children out to this year’s performance.
“I brought the kids this year, because they’re a little older. I come for the gospel music. I really love the church music, and they really sing good,” he said.
Brittini Hollingsworth was told about the performance by her mother, and they traveled to the playhouse from Virginia for the event.
“I thought it would be something nice to do,” she said. “I like to watch some cultural events.”
Judy Conrad recently moved to the area and attended the event to hear gospel music. She worked with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s in North and South Carolina as a volunteer with the YWCA to eliminate racism within the organization.
“It changed my life,” she said of her work. “It seems like a wonderful thing to be joyful together.”
“I’ve come several times before, and it’s been excellent. We need to know the history. It’s educational, too,” said Doloris Smith.
Contact Morgan Wall at email@example.com or 719-1929.