Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Community News

Few used the term mentoring in the 1960s, when Dr. Jeremiah Williams transferred from a segregated high school in Newport News to the newly integrated James Blair High School in Williamsburg.

But, a few good mentors would have helped Williams find his way, especially, after a white guidance counselor did not even bother to sift through Williams’ ACT or SAT test scores. Instead, the counselor looked Williams squarely in the eye and suggested he go join the Army.

Today, Williams is a retired clinical psychologist and the president of 100 Black Men-Virginia Peninsula Chapter. Launched to mentor young men of color in 1990 in Newport News, the mentoring organization started with about 10-12 young males, and now serves 82 young men.

“I’m glad I didn’t take his advice,” Williams said referring to his high school guidance counselor. “I did eventually go into the Navy. I think the military did set me on the right course and helped me discover a lot of my capabilities. I think the Navy helped me achieve my potential,” said Williams, who earned a bachelor’s degree at Christopher Newport College, a master’s degree at the Univ. of Pittsburgh, and a doctoral degree at Norfolk State University.

Williams’ experience brings a troubling reality sharply into focus. Black teachers who once served as mentors and role models in segregated public schools are declining. Black teachers, for example, in 1995 made up 16.8 percent of all teachers nationwide compared to a 64.8 percent rate for white teachers, according to the Digest of Education Statistics.

Black teachers, 20 years later, in 2015 made up 15.3 percent of all teachers nationwide, compared to a rate of 49.2 percent for white teachers.

This means what while minority students have become a majority in public schools, the proportion of teachers who are racial minorities has not kept pace. In fact more than 80 percent of teachers are white, according to a 2013 Department of Education report titled, Characteristics of Public and Private Elementary and Secondary School Teachers in the United States.

A glaring example of the minority teacher shortage surfaces in Boston, according to the 2013 report. There is just one Hispanic teacher for every 52 Latino students, one African-American teacher for every 22 African-American students. Meanwhile, there is one white teacher for one to three white students.

The problem is Williams could easily point to several concerned but firm teachers, who were also mentors, before he transferred to the integrated high school in Williamsburg.

“Those days are gone,” he said. “In a segregated society we all lived in cross proximity. So we had role models who were doctors, lawyers, and teachers – people from all walks of life lived near us and went to church with us. Now, we no longer have those same communities. I’m not sure we could ever regain what he had.”

Williams added, “It’s no accident we are doing so poorly in the school system. A lot of teachers have to buy materials out of their own pockets. Their pay is lagging. Meanwhile the family, employment – everything is changing. I think there are so many reasons why we are seeing failure in our public schools. It’s not just one thing. It’s a very complex issue and we have to look at everything. Sometimes we see overcrowded classes, inactive parents, and a government that doesn’t adequately fund the system.”

And as the New Journal and Guide celebrates Black History Month by examining this year’s theme, The Crisis in Black Education, Part 3 examines the impact that an increasing number of mentoring organizations have had on youngsters, as the number of teachers of color has steadily declined.

“We are no longer in a crisis mode,” Williams said, referring to this year’s theme (Crisis in Black Education) which the committee that launched Black History Month chooses annually.

Instead, the crisis is more of “a chronic social problem that has been going on for some time,” Williams explained. “We started with the thought that African-American boys were suffering. We thought it was an inability to learn. But we learned that they are intelligent. Their social behavior sometimes got in the way.”

He said the mentoring organization in Newport News has steadily grown for several reasons. “In 1996, we formed a partnership with the parents. Back then it was mostly all mothers. Today we have fathers, uncles and grandfathers who participate in our program and come in to learn what they can do to be the best parent possible. It has been marvelous.”

Acknowledging that there has been a steady decline in the number of minority teachers nationwide, Williams said, “So our organization operates as a conduit and a resource. We try to make a difference in a child’s life. For example, we work on social skills, provide tutoring, and help our parents maintain contact with the local school system. Each year, we normally award over 10 scholarships for $1,000 a year for four years.”

Williams added, “We know this approach works because we help these students and their families try to achieve whatever it is they say they want and need. We are not doing this program for them but with them. Our group has 52 strongly committed members, men from all walks of life who are committed to making a difference. So we bring to the table not only our commitment but support from our own family members, as well.”

Williams said he cannot add up the hours he donates each month as a volunteer. “Because I’ve never tabulated it,” he said, laughing. “We do what is necessary. I never felt like anybody was looking at the clock when they were helping me in high school. I never felt like they didn’t have time for me. They are the ones who truly helped me.”

The mentoring group will hold its annual gala on April 22 at the Marriot in Newport News at 7 p.m. Tickets are $100 each.

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor
New Journal and Guide

Part Two: Black History Month: Norfolk Church School Defines Its Calling To Educate Children
Part One: Black History Month – Forbidden To Read As Slaves

February 18
Seatack Civic League Will Honor Four For Black History
The Seatack Community Civic League will host its 3rd Annual CITYWIDE BLACK HISTORY PROGRAM on Saturday, February 18, 2017 from noon to 2 p.m.

Four Honorees will receive the “Life Time Achievement Award” to include Presiding Bishop Ted Thomas – National Board of Bishops Church of God In Christ, U.S.A.; Deputy Chief of Police (Retired) John L. Bell, Jr. – first African-American to rise to the level of “Deputy Chief of Police” in the City of Virginia Beach; Ms. Edna Hawkins-Hendrick – Author of the First Black History Book of Princess Anne County / Virginia Beach – Citywide Historian; and Ms. Brenda H. Andrews, “for your many years of service to the citizens of historic Seatack, Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads as the Owner and faithful Publisher of the New Journal and Guide Newspaper.”

The program will place at the Joseph V. Grimstead, Sr. – Seatack Recreation Center, 141 South Birdneck Road in historic Seatack, Virginia Beach.

E. George Minns, NAACP President-Elect Virginia Beach (5th term 2017), is the Presiding Officer of the Seatack Community Civic League Administration.

Navy’s First African American Seal To Be Awarded During Brunch
The Oakmont Community Development Corporation will hold its 1st Brunch on Saturday, February 18, 2017 where it will celebrate the achievements of Retired, U.S. Navy Master Chief William Goines The event will take place at The Murray Taste ‘N’ See, 455 East Brambleton Ave., Norfolk, Virginia 23510.

Master Chief William Goines is officially regarded as the first African-American Navy SEAL member, a feat he achieved in the early 60s.

Goines, a native of Lockland, Ohio, lives in Virginia Beach with his wife, Marie, of 51 years.

On September 24, 2016, two weeks after his 80th birthday, Master Chief William Goines was honored at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture on its opening day. President Barack Obama was a part of that ceremony.

As a youth, Gaines taught himself how to swim at a local creek, a skill that would be crucial when he joined the Navy in 1955.

In 1962, when President John F. Kennedy formed the first two SEAL teams, Goines was one of 40 men selected, the only African-American.

Gaines completed 43 different training schools where he learned such survival skills as Judo, Aikido, and skills for escape and evasion; jungle warfare, skydiving and weapons training; how to capture enemies and how to rescue fellow seamen; and how to escape from plane and helicopter crashes over water. 

In 1976, he was selected to become part of the Chuting Stars, a U.S. Navy Parachute Demonstration Team. He performed 640 jumps during his five years on the team. 

In 1987, Goines retired from the Navy after 32 years of service. After leaving the Navy, he went on to become the chief of police for the school system of Portsmouth, Virginia. He said that job was harder than combat. After 14 years, he retired from Portsmouth school system and began recruiting SEALS for the Navy.

February 19, 26
Black History Film Series Being Shown At Central Library
A three-week film series for Black History Month continues Sunday February 19 and Sunday February 26 at the Central Library auditorium at 3 p.m.

Each film is about one hour in length and will be followed by a panel discussion facilitated by Virginia Beach History Museum staff.

On Feb. 18, African-American Film Series: Freedom Summer, will be shown. It details the 10 memorable weeks in 1964 known as Freedom Summer, when more than 700 student volunteers traveled to Mississippi to challenge racial segregation. Students from around the country joined organizers and local African-Americans in a historic effort to shatter the foundations of white supremacy in what was one of the nation’s most viciously racist, segregated states.

On Feb. 26, African-American Film Series: The Road to Brown, will be shown. The Road to Brown tells the story of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling as the culmination of a brilliant legal assault on segregation that launched the Civil Rights movement. It is also a moving and long overdue tribute to a visionary but little known Black lawyer, Charles Hamilton Houston, “the man who killed Jim Crow.”

The series opened on Sunday, February 12. There is no registration.

February 20
Hampton History Museum To Hold Discussions On Virginia Civil Rights
The Hampton History Museum will host three public conversations on the history of civil rights, beginning Monday Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. The free oral history project will focus on civil rights demonstrations that have occurred statewide.

The conversations will feature three moderators: Hampton author Linda Holmes; Emma Edmonds, who will talk about demonstrations in Danville; and Jerrold Roy, associate dean of the School of Education at Norfolk State University.

“The goal is to have a people learn from the history, and use this as a framework to have a conversation about the legacy of the civil rights movement,” said Luci Cochran, executive director at the Hampton History Museum. “Does it have any meaning for us today? Can it inform things today that we want to deal with? It starts with the history.”

The second monthly civic dialogue will be held on March 20. The third will be held April 23.

“It is a conversation with the community,” Cochran said. “The talks are going to look at the civil rights movement, especially in Hampton, from the perspective of the past, the present and the future. We want people to be involved. It’s really about giving some information and then having a frank, productive, problem-solving conversation.”

The series is made possible by a $6,000 grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

March 4
‘Experience Ghana’ Event To Be Hosted By Norfolk Sister City
“Experience Ghana” will be presented on Saturday, March 4, 2017 from 4-6 p.m. at The Murray Center: Taste N’ See, 455 Brambleton Avenue, Norfolk, VA. It is being hosted by the Tema, Ghana Committee of Norfolk Sister City Association (NSCA).

The evening of family fun will feature a delegation of Ghanaians who will be visiting Norfolk as part of NSCA’s international program.

Samplings of traditional Ghanaian cuisine and culture will be offered. Events include an African Attire Fashion Show, Raffle of African Artifacts, Traditional Music and other entertainment.

Tickets are $10 (for NSCA members) and $15 (non-members). Children 12 and under are $5. Tickets may be purchased at
For more information call (757) 627-0530

Dominion Resources and the Library of Virginia commemorated the leadership and accomplishments of seven outstanding African-Americans during the fifth annual “Strong Men & Women in Virginia History” awards program on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, at the Richmond Marriott.

The program honors prominent African-Americans, past and present, who have made significant contributions to the Commonwealth.

“For the young man or woman who has big dreams of being a writer, a newscaster or a judge, we have great role models to inspire future generations in this year’s honorees,” said Mark Webb, senior vice president, Corporate Affairs and Chief Legal Officer at Dominion. “It’s an honor to recognize these men and women for their strong leadership and accomplishments that have made our communities better for all.”  Dominion Resources is the parent company of Dominion Virginia Power and sponsor of the annual series.

“Each year, the men and women honored through the Strong Men and Women program are individuals of outstanding merit and accomplishment – and the 2017 honorees are no exception,” said Dr. Sandra G. Treadway, Librarian of Virginia.  “The Library of Virginia is proud to partner with Dominion in highlighting the achievements of African-American Virginians, past and present, who serve as inspiration to us all.” 

The following honorees were recognized: William E. Bailey – aviation pioneer and philanthropist, Accomac; Charles Spurgeon Johnson* – sociologist, author and educator, Bristol; The Honorable Benjamin J. Lambert III* – optometrist and legislator, Richmond; The Honorable Mary Bennett Malveaux –  judge –Virginia Court of Appeals, Henrico; Leonard “Doc” Muse – pharmacist and community leader, Arlington, Stephanie T. Rochon-Moten* – news anchor and cancer awareness advocate, Richmond; and Margaret Ellen Mayo Tolbert, Ph.D. – scientist, educator and author, Suffolk. (*Posthumous honor)

Four high school students also were recognized during the ceremony. Each wrote winning essays, selected from nearly 200 entries, about the importance of helping others. 

The winners of the 2017 “Strong Men & Women in Virginia History” student essay writing contest are: Meenakshi Balan – Thomas Jefferson HS for Science and Technology, Fairfax County; Hunter Davis – Gate City High School, Scott County; Indya Gipson – Nansemond River High School, Suffolk County; and Grace Lu – Douglas S. Freeman High School, Henrico County.

Each student received an Apple MacBook Air laptop and $1,000 for their school. Winning essays and program details, as well as photos and videos of the event are posted on

Submitted By Virgal Lowery
Special to the New Journal and Guide

School spirit never dies for the alumni of Norfolk’s Booker T. Washington High School. A relatively new group has taken up the cause of providing support for the students and staff at BTW.

The Concerned Citizens of BTW (CCBTW) over the past two years has committed themselves to being the community arm that supports the students and staff in their charge to remain accredited. CCBTW provides school supplies, after school treats for tutorial and SOL students, funds for incentive programs, classroom supplies for the staff and staff appreciation activities. This is done with the help of our alumni classes who also see the need and provide funding and manpower. We are proud of the 1958 alumni class; they are the oldest group supporting our mission.

On January 30, 2017, CCBTW provided classroom supplies for the staff during their teacher workday. Vivian Monroe-Hester is the Chair of CCBTW and encourages this committed team to continue to support Principal Margie Stallings as she builds a strong educational environment for the next generation of BTW graduates.

As one of the few Historically Black High Schools remaining in Hampton Roads, CCBTW is determined to carry on the strong legacy that has helped build this community. BTW graduates have always been vital members of our Norfolk leadership.

Yvonne Wagner is on the Norfolk School Board and Paul Riddick is on City Council, just to name current leaders. CCBTW is proud of our graduates and will continue to support our beloved Booker T. Washington High School. However, our concerns are for the condition of the building with high levels of mold, and the athletic field so poorly maintained that our students cannot practice at home. Help from the community is needed to provide funds to improve conditions for our students.

We invite all graduates and friends to join us on the second Thursday of each month in the BTW cafeteria at 6 p.m. That BTW Spirit is still alive.

Two presentations at the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island will examine the heroic story of the all-black Pea Island Lifesaving Station and that crew’s important example of positive race relations and diversity.

On February 19, NCARI and the Pea Island Cookhouse Museum will present “Freedmen, Surfmen, Heroes: The Unique Story of the Pea Island U.S. Lifesaving Station,” in observation of Black History Month and the rich and dynamic history of the Outer Banks.

Between 1880 and 1947, the men at Pea Island worked hand in hand with white crews of neighboring stations to save hundreds of lives from the perils of the sea. How did these groups of men set aside their differences and join forces to help save lives? What lessons do their stories continue to teach us?

Descendants of the Pea Island Lifesavers, Joan and Darrell Collins of Roanoke Island, will join costumed historic interpreters James Charlet and Linda Mallory from Hatteras Island to present a glimpse into this fascinating story and explore what it can still teach us today. The program will be followed by a question and answer session to illustrate the importance of these lifesavers’ trailblazing example.

Presentations of “Freedmen, Surfmen, Heroes: The Unique Story of the Pea Island U.S. Lifesaving Station,” will take place February 18 at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in NCARI’s Neptune’s Theater. The presentation is included with regular aquarium admission.

The aquarium is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission: ages 3–12, $8.95; ages 13–61, $10.95; ages 62 +, $9.95. Children 2 and under and North Carolina Aquarium Society members are admitted free of charge. More info at

Mrs. Evelyn Vera Fields Williams, a Norfolk native reared in the Berkley section, was born 100 years ago in 1917. What a blessing to her family and the community!!! Not only is Mrs. Evelyn Williams still glamorous and stately, she is still mobile and as my mother would say “CLOTHED IN HER RIGHT MIND.” A lovely inspirational brunch, in honor of this “spiffy” lady with many of her family, friends and church members in attendance, was held at the Chesapeake Marriott Hotel.

Dr. Catherine Williams, cousin of the honoree, was Mistress of Ceremony for this grand celebration. The Welcome and Invocation were done by Rev. Yvonn M. Hardy, Pastor of Mrs. Williams home Church – New Central Baptist Church. This was followed by a stirring solo sung by granddaughter Rev. Sabrina Williams. Ms. Alisa Hardy, director/choreographer and Mrs. Jada Mackey-Wells, assistant director/choreographer did an outstanding job with the Action Ministry Praise Dancers. This youth group from New Central featured Alana Hardy, Bless Mack, JaCory Page, Italy Taylor, Kasey Turner and Anthony Wells and a little girl who was 2 or 3 years of age performing magnificently. Following the Blessing. A delicious brunch was served. Prior to cutting of the birthday cake, the audience clapped, sang and swayed to Stevie Wonder’s version of “Happy Birthday.” The liveliness and jubilation during the singing set the tone for the remainder of the happy occasion.

Lighthearted tributes and reflections were given by Senator Lionel Spruill, Virginia State Senate/District 5; Chesapeake Mayor Alan Krasnoff who also read a Proclamation from the city of Chesapeake; Mayor Kenneth Alexander of Norfolk; and Dr. William Ward former mayor of Chesapeake. Dr. Rose Ward, family friend; Berkley Community Historian Mrs. Anne Boone; First Lady of New Central Baptist Church, Mrs. Pamela Battle-Hardy; and Dr. Shirley Winstead, life-long friend gave reflections. Other tributes came from Ms. Priscilla Scott-Thomas, President, Norfolk Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Mrs. Joyce Colden, President and Dr. Lucy Wilson, Chesapeake/Virginia Beach Chapter Links, Inc.; Ms. Priscilla Tennyson, President Chesapeake Women’s Club; Mrs. Carmelita Williams, President and Mrs. Perdethia Lowery, The Holidays; Mrs. Evelyn West, President and Mrs. Denise Lipscomb, Chesapeake CHUMS; and the 100 Black Women’s representative and family friend Mrs. June Banks. The Programme Tributes and Reflections ended with remarks from Ms. Carole Jenkins a cousin; and a birthday toast by grandson Elder Anthony Williams. This was followed by beautiful reflective remarks and a glorious tribute by daughter Mrs. Sylvia Butler and a love token presentation by great granddaughter Jordyn Butler.

This Jubilant Celebration was planned by Rev. Yvonn Hardy, Ms. Joyce Colden, Mrs. Carolyn Copeland, Dr. Rose Ward, Mrs. Denise Lipscomb and Mrs. Sylvia Butler. Mrs. Pamela Battle-Hardy was responsible for the beautifully decorated head table; and Mr. Robbie Savage and Mrs. Carolyn Copeland did a splendid decorating job of the gift table. The gorgeous invitations were done by Ms. Junelle Banks. The host and hostesses were as follows: Mrs. Shanta Fields, Chair, Mrs. Colette Springs, Ms. Shannon Harrison, Mr. Keonte Martin, Ms. Sheila Fields, Mr. James Greene, Ms. Lakendra Hunter, Ms. Vestia Simmons and Mr. Larry Martin. Songs played by the D. J., was very appropriate for the age groups present. Mr. Frankie Davis and The Mighty Stars sang songs that had the audience singing along with many of the tunes.

Mrs. Evelyn Vera Fields Williams was extremely gracious in her closing remarks giving thanks to all who came to help celebrate her wonderful life. As stated by Mrs. Williams, “I thank my family and friends, from far and near, for your presence, thoughtfulness, time and generosity. I deeply appreciate all that you did to make my 100th birthday a blessing. I will always cherish and remember this day. God bless all of you.”

Engage Norfolk was held February 12 from 1 – 5 p.m. at the Academy for Discovery at Lakewood and included workshops on how to be a more effective citizen lobbyist. The occasion also offered opportunities to learn about and team up with local organizations whose programs are ongoing in Norfolk.

Before the event, Councilwoman McClellan said, ”This event will provide a means for individuals to channel their energy into making a positive change in Norfolk and beyond.”

Engage Norfolk was also organized by Pilot Media publication and supported by the New Journal and Guide, the YMCA, and Volunteer Hampton Roads.

More than 100 local organizations representing political, social justice, civic activism, community outreach and support, and more were on hand in the school’s gym and its corridors to pass out information and recruit volunteers.

The event was free and open to the public.

The Rev. Dr. Robert G. Murray was impressed with the church-owned school he toured at a denominational meeting in Texas; to the point that he returned home to Norfolk, and launched READY Academy at the historic First Baptist Church-Bute Street.

READY Academy was launched in 2004 with 22 students. It currently has 157 students, an impressive curriculum, and about 100 seasoned volunteers and 100 donors. This means READY Academy brings two facts sharply into focus. Black churches not only taught reading, writing, and arithmetic to newly freed slaves in Sunday school or weekly Bible classes. Black churches now provide upgraded educational services including after-school tutoring programs, computer classes, financial seminars, cancer-survivor classes, and exclusive worship services for youth. In other words, as the nation examines this year’s Black History Month theme: ‘The Crisis in Black Education.’ The historic First Baptist-Bute Street illustrates the impact that these churches have had through the years.

“It was a vision the Lord gave him,” said his wife, Amanda Battle Murray, who heads READY Academy, which serves students ages 3-11. “Pastor Murray went to an American Baptist Conference and went on a tour. He was so impressed with the children he saw in the school in Texas. He noticed how disciplined they were. He returned home and offered to buy a nearby building. But when we applied for the building the owners told us they would never sell.  Soon, they came to us and asked us to buy the building.”

The rest is history. “We have so many skilled, competent, and dedicated volunteers,” Amanda Murray said.

She pointed out how Charles Corprew Jr., a former Norfolk Public Schools principal was chair of the board of directors at READY Academy when it opened. Lisa Anderson is the current board chair of READY Academy, which is operated by the 217- year-old church.

“Our school is full of so many experienced educators,” Amanda Murray added. “For example, we have an experienced security person who turns up first thing in the morning when we open the doors. We have many experienced educators who volunteer. We have experienced clerical workers. We have state-certified volunteers who teach classes in music, Spanish, and even swimming off-site. We have parents who hold professional positions at local universities such as Norfolk State and Old Dominion. They come in and do demonstrations or serve as guest speakers.”

Black churches, in other words, continue to provide educational opportunities, a mission that dates back to slavery when newly freed slaves would learn how to read by reciting Bible verses in Sunday school and weekly Bible classes.  Black Baptist associations by 1900 were supporting about 80 elementary schools and 18 academies and colleges. Meanwhile, African Methodist churches were funding 32 secondary and collegiate institutions; and the smaller AME Zion denomination was supporting eight.

Black churches, these days, are tackling headline-grabbing problems like juvenile delinquency, strengthening families, and improving math and reading skills. For example, from 2002 to 2004, there was a 50 percent increase in the number of faith-based organizations that received state funding to provide juvenile delinquency prevention services in several states including Florida.

Another example is Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington. D.C. It established a Family Life Center to strengthen and nurture families. Meanwhile, 10 churches in Jackson, Tenn. launched a tutoring program for children that live in public housing in Jackson, Tenn. About 350 youngsters travel on a church bus to meet with 250 volunteers who pore over homework with youngsters who want to improve their reading and math skills. Meanwhile in Georgia, the 6th Episcopal District of the AME Church launched an America Reads Challenge project with emphasis on rural areas.

In Norfolk, Amanda Murray said the effort at READY Academy continues to surge. “We opened with 22 students in Pre-K-3 and Pre-K-4,” she said.

“Our goal was to add a grade each year up to third grade. Once we accomplished this goal, I thought we had reached our goal. I told others, I am sure we have already done what the Lord told us to do,” she said, laughing softly.

“Soon, we added the fourth-grade class in 2013. And we started our fifth-grade class in 2014. My assistant is a full-time volunteer. Her name is Rosa Edwards. She is a retired physical education specialist who retired from the Virginia Beach Public Schools system.”

Black churches, in other words, have obviously tackled the crisis in education by providing an increasing number of opportunities.

Lula Rogers, a retired Portsmouth City Schools educator and a lifetime member of the historic First Baptist-Bute Street, paused to consider how things have changed.

“If I compared the educational programs today to the ones that existed in the church when I was a child, I would say first of all that we did not have a lot of people with versatile educational training,” said Rogers, who also serves as the historian at the historic First Baptist-Bute Street.”

Rogers added, “We didn’t have anyone to offer tutoring classes. And although we had an evening service,” she said referring to the recently launched youth-only worship service that meets on Sunday evenings. “When I was growing up, the evening worship service was for adults only. Now we have an evening service that is only for our youth. Now we also have children’s church.”

Rogers continued to compare and contrast the past and the future. “In the past, children had to sit in the pews with their parents. Now, the children participate in our weekly worship service on Sunday. They recite Bible passages they have memorized. The pastor talks to them. Then, they go to a classroom in the back of the church and have their own lesson. We also have started a special group for tots. Before, if you had a baby on your shoulder during service – well, that’s the way things were – sometimes they cried during service. But that has changed. Our pastor said he likes to hear crying babies because it is a sign of growth. Now we have a special program for tots.”


But the new educational opportunities did not come out of thin air, “We did a survey with the congregation about five years ago and found that our congregation wants to offer holistic educational programs,” said Bruce Williams, who heads A. Bruce Williams and Associates, a local public relations firm. He has been a member of First Baptist for over 15 years.

The congregants used the results from the survey to compile a five-year plan. Among other things, the survey showed congregants should develop new programs for those ages 20-35. Soon, the church launched its Youth and Millennials campus in an adjacent building, in addition to providing a weekly alternative worship service that meets each Sunday at 6 p.m. The effort also includes social media instruction, intergenerational interaction opportunities, pizza parties, social events, and streaming video services.

“Teaching the three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic) is still a priority, “Williams explained. “But we’ve expanded so that we now offer educational programs to six generations. For example, we offer prostate cancer seminars, a counseling center, a cancer survivor ministry, exercise classes, and even programs on HIV-AIDs. We also have a financial seminar that started this summer to help people get out of debt.”

Williams pointed to other ongoing efforts, “We also feed the homeless (about 25-200) people very Saturday at noon. We are also offering showers. And we have provided employment for some who were homeless. Every day we grow, change and try to extend our reach and the array of ways we can worship that includes all six generations we strive to serve. It ain’t easy.”
Amanda Murray added, “There are times that we just do what we do because we love the Lord and this is what He told us to do.”

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor

Part One: Black History Month – Forbidden To Read As Slaves
Part Three: Black History Month – Shortage of Black Teachers Leads Men to Mentor Boys

Special to the New Journal and Guide

The ICONs of Chesapeake, a vision implemented by Rev. Glenda P. Murray-Kelly in 2016, exists to acknowledge individuals during Black History month in the city of Chesapeake. While there are many African-Americans who have contributed to the city’s enhancement and development, each year a select number of individuals will be acknowledged. The 2016 ICONs were recognized and acknowledged by the City of Chesapeake, Office of the Mayor.

Last year’s more than 200 people attended the inaugural event in February at Impact Worship Center, Chesapeake, VA, where Rev. Dr. Brennetta Williams is Pastor.  During the service, persons acknowledged were Dr. William P. Ward, Dr. Ella P. Ward, Mrs. Florine R. Clarke and Mr. Lessie Smith.

This year, there will not be formal celebration, due to time and the observance of the Presidential Volunteer Awards MLK Drum Majors for Service which was hosted on January 14, 2017 in honor of the 44th President Barack Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Thirteen individuals were acknowledged while receiving letters from the offices of the governor, senator and mayor for their volunteer services. That event was hosted at New GWC, Chesapeake, VA, where Rev. Dr. Toney D. Saunders is Pastor. Assisting in presenting the awards were Mr. Lessie Smith, President, Chesapeake Democratic Committee and Congressman Robert Bobby C. Scott.

The 2017 ICONs of Chesapeake are Mr. Kenny Easley, most recent selected as 2017 NFL Hall of Famer; Deacon  March Cromwell, former President, Chesapeake, NAACP, member, New Galilee Baptist Church, Chesapeake; Rev. Dr. Dwight S. Riddick, Pastor, Gethsemane Baptist Church, (Transformation Place), Newport News, and President of the Hampton University Ministers Conference; Rev. Dr. Bernnetta Williams, Pastor, Impact Worship Center, Chesapeake and special tribute to the Honorable Congressman Robert Bobby C. Scott. VA, 3RD Congressional District, Washington, D.C.

Recognition and awards to area history makers was a theme at the Norfolk Public Library during its opening weekend events February 4 and 5. On Saturday, February 4, NPL kicked off its month-long recognition of African American history at the Slover Library where Norfolk Mayor Kenneth C. Alexander delivered the keynote speech. That event also acknowledged the recipients of the first Young African American Leaders of Tomorrow Award presented by The New Journal and Guide and NPL.

Persons honored were James Boyd, Arielle Leavell, and Tiffani Gardner.

This year’s national theme is addressing “The Crisis in Black Education” and, with over 30 programs system-wide, NPL is delving into this topic on a local level.

The 3rd Annual African American Trailblazers Honors Program on Sunday, February 5, also at Slover Library, recognized distinguished educators who have worked to break down barriers and stereotypes while also preserving the rich history of African Americans in our community.

This year’s honorees were David Gilbert Jacox, Barbara Johnson Alexander and Dr. E. Curtis Alexander, Dr. Cassandra Newby- Alexander, Aline Black, Becky Livas, Celestine Diggs Porter and Willie Mae Watson. (Family)

More information on African American History Month events at NPL locations is available at All NPL programs are free and open to the public.

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