Ten years ago, Vickie Hampton was concerned that children in her church, Alpha and Omega Church of the Living God, didn’t know Black history. When she approached her pastor, Michael G. Swanson, about having a Black History Month program one week in February, he was on board. In the decade that followed, the program expanded into a full month of events, including displays, skits, movie nights and musical performances.
“I put together a board of Black inventors for children to look at,” Hampton said. “I wanted them to see that we did that stuff back then and we can do it now. We can use our talent to be an electrician or learn how to build houses, anything like that. It’s not just the white man that can do that. There’s nothing that we can’t do that they done.”
Hampton, who works a lot with the children in her church, finds skits online for the children to perform during the programs, including one about Rosa Parks’ defiance on a Birmingham bus. She said she’s seen the children’s perspectives change as a result of the programming.
“A lot of the kids didn’t know there was a time when Blacks couldn’t drink out of the same water fountains, or that people were treated so badly by the police,” Hampton said. “When we showed them the movie ‘The Help,’ they couldn’t believe people were treated that way. So we have to be thankful for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all the people that went before us and paved the way for us right now that we don’t have to live that way.”
Hampton encourages community members to participate in the programs as well, and often invites poets, African dance groups and musicians to the church on Sundays to share their talents and stories with the group. Historically, she said, churches have been a vessel for keeping and sharing family and community history. With Alpha and Omega’s program, Hampton has been able to celebrate the special stories in their own congregation.
This year, the church celebrated member James Macon, who started a community outreach program to help mentor children after leaving the Air Force. His group, Able Blue, also collected clothes and other items for people in need.
Every year, the Black History Month programming closes with a community dinner and a movie night. This year, Hampton plans to show “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” a 2005 film depicting the life and murder of 14-year-old Till. Hampton hopes the programs during February encourages people to learn more about Black history throughout the year.
“It’s so important to me that people know about our history,” Hampton said. “I had never in my life heard about Juneteenth until I started learning more about Black history, and we didn’t hear about Rosa Parks in school, we have to know about our history so we can know what we’re capable of now.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.