Zion Baptist Church presents musical for Black History Month

PARKERSBURG – “Be Still And Know That He Is God,” Psalm 46:10.

This passage is not only a Bible verse to Susan Sylvia but also an inspiration that should be shared with everyone and is the reason she wrote a musical which takes its title from the verse.

Sylvia is the first lady of St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Charleston and a Parkersburg native. She said she originally wrote the musical for her church’s Women’s Day celebration. The Ladies of St. Paul presented it at the Gallipolis, Ohio, annual “Emancipation Proclamation Celebration” in 2012.

Cynthia Brown, a member of Zion Baptist Church in Parkersburg, attended the celebration and saw Sylvia’s musical.

“I knew we had to bring it here,” Brown said of bringing the musical to the Parkersburg church.

With the help of some hope and faith, the women were able to make the journey from Charleston to Parkersburg on a cold, wintry day to present a true inspiration to African Americans all over the world during Black History Month, Sylvia added in a speech to the crowded church on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s important to know where our (African American ancestors) came from,” Sylvia said. “Our youth are kind of losing some of our history and they need to know (the history of slavery and oppression).”

The play consisted of seven scenes starting with enslaved African Americans picking cotton as their ancestors would have been doing many years ago. The third scene included the freedom of the oppressed. After a brief intermission and offering, the women acted out more present-day scenes including a single mother trying to raise her young child in a world where African American women were still being repressed.

The final scene showed how far modern day African Americans, especially women, have come including two of the cast members portraying doctors.

“Would you look at us,” one of the actresses began. “Two doctors, who would have thought.”

The musical was inspired to show how far African Americans have come throughout history and how, especially African American women, can become as powerful and independent as any other nationality in America, a free nation.

Sylvia said she decided to name the play after the Bible verse because it showed the trial and tribulations African Americans went through up until the present day.

“It shows everything’s going to be OK and we’re going to get through everything we’re going through,” she said.

Sylvia said not only was her mother an African American woman growing up in an oppressed nation, she has also been through the loss of a young daughter.

“Psalm 46:10 is a scripture I’d been standing on pretty firm for the last few years because of losing my baby daughter,” Sylvia said.

Following Sunday’s performance, Brown presented a plaque to Sylvia in appreciation for bringing the play to Parkersburg.

The cast included Sharon Banks, Gerva Coleman, JoAnne Ford, the Rev. Carolyn Hairston, Brenda Hardy, Sara Moore, Ruth Nowling, Pam Robinson, Vanessa Robinson, Darlene Stokes, Johniece Sylvia, Jean Wiggins, Evelena Williams, Tierah Williams and Vanessa Williams.

Some other Black History Month programs are still included as the end of February approaches.

In Belpre, the 15th annual Black History Month Celebration luncheon and silent auction will be 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday at Rockland United Methodist Church, 2141 Washington Blvd.

The speaker is C. Michael Gray, a Vietnam War veteran and graduate of West Virginia State College with a bachelor’s in business administration. He has a law degree from the University of Wisconsin. A college professor for 30 years, he is on the faculty of African American Studies at Ohio University and is an adjunct professor at Marietta College.

The cost is $9 and children under 5 are free. Tickets are available at the chapel and from organizer Ray Simmons at rsimmons@live.com or at (614) 316-1553.

Marietta College is also continuing its Black History Month series in Marietta.

* Today, to mark President’s Day, Al Letson will present a program on how identity, primarily for those who consider themselves black, is established at 6 p.m. in the Great Room of Andrews Hall. On his public radio show “State of the Re:Union,” Letson recently followed this phenomenon to Pike County. He has also worked as playwright, actor and slam poetry performer.

* Marietta College will celebrate its 178th Founders Day with a program at 7 p.m. Thursday in the AlmA McDonough Auditorium. It will be free and open to the public.

Eugene Robinson is this year’s Founder’s Day keynote speaker. He is the author of “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America” and provides political commentary on television news programs such as MSNBC’s “Hardball,” “The Rachel Maddow Show” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Robinson is the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for commentary on the 2008 presidential election.

* In the final event of Black History Month, the College Union Board will present a comedian, Preacher Moss, a Muslim African-American, who will perform at 6 p.m. Feb. 28 in the Alma McDonough Auditorium.

A writer for “The Damon Wayans Show” and “Saturday Night Live,” his stand-up routines have been performed around the country, focusing on racism, multiculturalism and civil rights.