BELPRE - Nearly 150 people gathered together to celebrate during the 14th annual Whitman Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church Black History Luncheon on Saturday at Rockland United Methodist Church on Washington Boulevard.
The 148 attendees included all races and religions gathered in the church's meeting hall for music, prayer, food and a silent auction, said organizer Karen Bradley.
"We are working to bring diversity together," said Bradley. "We are all one - the same body - and we are all seeking the same things, so it is important for us to work together."
Francine Childs, professor emerita of African-American Studies at Ohio University, speaks about the importance of being involved with children on Saturday during Whitman Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church’s 14th annual Black History Luncheon at Rockland United Methodist Church in Belpre. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
Bradley added the luncheon is a way for the community to celebrate Black History Month and teach people how important blacks have been throughout history.
The keynote speaker of the event was Francine Childs, professor emerita of African-American Studies at Ohio University in Athens.
"The theme of today is 'embracing the past, building the future,'" Childs said. "I embrace my past and build my future through the younger generations."
Throughout her speech, Childs listed the many names blacks have been called throughout American and world history.
"African-American, black, negro, colored," she said. "We have been called so many names, but who are we?"
She continued that blacks have to tell their story to younger members of their families and friends, to let them know what has been done through history.
"We are brilliant people," Childs said. "We've got to continue to give this knowledge."
The luncheon has typically been organized for the first weekend in March, but was moved to February last year in order to be included in the national Black History Month, according to the Rev. Debbie Marshall, assistant pastor at Whitman Chapel.
The AME Church was founded by the Rev. Richard Allen in Philadelphia in 1816 by the joining of several black Methodist congregations that wanted independence.
The annual Belpre event has morphed and changed throughout its dozen years in existence, Marshall said.
"We used to do it as a breakfast, and we've tried it as a dinner," she said. "But, for some reason, the luncheon seems to be the most popular."
The event, which lasted more than two hours, is the biggest fundraising event for the church. All proceeds from the luncheon go back to the church for projects such as the building of a fellowship hall.
"As our largest fundraiser, what we get here stays in and with the community," Bradley said.
The annual program is not just for black history, but for American history.