Blacks’ contributions recognized in program

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 22, 2008

With Black History Month coming to a close, the Mount WadeBaptist Men’s Ministry is making sure senior citizens know why it’simportant to commemorate the contributions of African-Americans totoday’s society.

Organizer Andrew Spiller, who put together a Black History Monthprogram for seniors at Country Brook and Haven Hall nursing homessaid he himself has seen many of the inventions they discussed inthe programs.

“A lot of the inventions that have been contributed to oursociety have benefited both black and white alike,” he said. “Andmany of them have now been put in the history books.”

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Spiller organized the programs with songs and scripturereadings. The keynote speaker both days was Mt. Wade Deacon WillieSmith, who spoke to the group about God’s ability to lead Hispeople out of oppression.

He talked about Moses leading the children of Egypt out ofslavery, as well as Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad. He alsotalked about Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy and ended the talkwith part of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“I talked about how he was inspired to instruct us to hold ourpeace and let God fight the battle for us,” Smith said.

Spiller said another encouragement he wanted to offer throughthe programs was that achievement has no color or economicstatus.

“I want to enlighten the people on the inventions of many peoplewho didn’t have the money to make themselves known in years past,but they’ve still contributed so much to society,” he said.

Smith agreed that some black inventors aren’t as well knownbecause they did not have a way to promote themselves or theirinventions, but that they were important nonetheless.

“It needs to be told that the things that were happening anddone weren’t publicized because we had no outlet to let people knowwhat was going on,” he said.

Smith spoke of Dr. Charles Drew, who revolutionized thepreservation and storage of blood plasma, as well as Eli Whitney,who invented the cotton gin. Smith also spoke of other inventionsby black inventors, such as Garrett Augustus Morgan, who patentedthe traffic light in 1923.

“How important that is for us to get around,” he said.

Another revolution in transportation was L.R. Johnson’s bicycleframe, built in 1899. Smith said the nursing home residents weresurprised by some of the facts he was able to present to them aboutblack inventors.

“Some of them were amazed to know some of the things I wastalking about,” he said. “I asked one man if he knew the frame ofthe bike was invented by a black man and he said, ‘Aw, no, I didn’tknow that!'”

And Smith and Spiller both said the programs weren’t justencouraging to the nursing home residents, but to them as well.

“It’s a blessing, I was really blessed by it,” Smith said.