ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
February is rapidly approaching, which means it is almost time for Liberal’s annual Black History Month festivities.
Liberal's Black History Month festivities will start with the Gospel Song Festival, which will be at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5 at the Bibleway Church of God In Christ at 410 E. 8th Street, and then the festivities will continue with the Taste Festival, which will be at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12 at the Randall Girls Scout Building at 121 W. 11th Street. The Fashion & Talent Show will be at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19 in the Showcase Theater at Seward County Community College, and then the last event will be the Black History Scholarship Banquet, which will be at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 at SCCC in Room 229 upstairs in the Student Union.
“It's been about two years since we were able to have the gospel songfest, and we worked really hard at putting that all together,” coordinator Christine Hammond said. “We've got a rather large choir and we've also pulled in some people from other parts of town who will be performing, so we're really excited about that and it should be really fun. And there's still room for performers if anyone would like to come and share a song or two. I'm excited about the whole month because we've got some great events that will be going on, and we're all going to pray really hard for good weather the entire month so nothing interferes with what we want to do. My favorite part is seeing all the new people who attend our events, and it's also great seeing all the friends who come back every year and help us celebrate.”
Hammond added she hopes to see many people at this year’s Black History Month activities.
“We present these events to help the community and young people understand some of what has happened in the past,” Hammond said. “We have essays young people write to compete for scholarships, and we give a scholarship every year to a student who writes the winning essay – and no one on the Black History Committee makes that decision, it's an outside group who decides all of that. All of the events are free, but we do take goodwill donations, all of which go to the scholarship fund.”
With the Taste Festival and Fashion & Talent Show in particular, Hammond said she hopes many people sign up to participate.
“With the Taste Festival, if you have a favorite dish you would like to prepare and bring, we would absolutely welcome that, we just ask you be sure to include your name and what the dish is. It's a lot of fun seeing the different foods people bring and seeing people taste everything, and there are always some recipes shared through that event,” Hammond said. “It's a great community event and fully open to the public, and we have some door prizes we give out, so come out to that, try some yummy food and have some fun. If you've never had what we call soul food, our Taste Festival is a great chance to try just that. The Fashion & Talent Show is a lot of fun, and if you've never been to one, you should definitely come out and see what we do. And let your children participate, children love showing off their favorite outfits. For anyone who would want to participate in the Fashion & Talent Show, they can get in touch with Kathleen Alonso at (620) 309-0303, and she'll help get you all set up. The best thing about the Fashion & Talent Show is it's all about having fun, there's no pressure or anything like that, and no one participating is a professional – the entire event is just about fun and celebrating Black History Month and each other in the community.”
Overall, Hammond said, the importance of celebrating Black History Month cannot be overstated.
“Black History Month is a celebration of Black people who have gone through struggles and ultimately paved the way to make life better for everyone. There's a phrase my family has always said, 'If you don't know where you came from, how do you know where you're going?'” Hammond said. “Another big point is to help young people nowadays understand how one of the best things you can do is get an education, and we do our best to help support that with our scholarships, and we do our best to help raise as much money as possible for that to help young people in the community continue their education. For the scholarship, the applicant has to be a high school senior, and the Liberal High School counselor, Pat Atkins, has those applications available in her office.”
For 2023, Hammond said Black History Month should be a good time for everyone who turns out.
“One of my expectations is the weather will be good to us and we'll be able to celebrate everything,” Hammond said with a laugh. “We've worked really hard at putting everything together and have worked with a lot of different people in the community to make sure these events are not only fun, but also somewhat educational. Our mission is 'To ensure positive Black awareness in the community,' and that's what the Black History Month events are all about. Unfortunately in some schools, our history isn't really emphasized that much, so another function of this month is to educate people on some of that history and pass on that knowledge of what has happened in the past. We're really excited about all of our events this year, and we would welcome everyone to come out and participate.”