Gospel choir members laugh as Karen Shepard performs a skit outlining the lives and accomplishments of important figures throughout African-American history during a Black History Month celebration Feb. 25 at Second Baptist Church in Everett. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Gospel choir members laugh as Karen Shepard performs a skit outlining the lives and accomplishments of important figures throughout African-American history during a Black History Month celebration Feb. 25 at Second Baptist Church in Everett. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Everett’s Second Baptist Church celebrates Black History Month

EVERETT — The day began and ended with music at Second Baptist Church’s Black History Month celebration.

On Feb. 25, the church marked the month with an afternoon of history, skits, food and of course, gospel music.

“A lot of the songs we sing as gospel songs, back in the days of slavery, that’s how the slaves would communicate,” said Gregory Jackson, the music minister at the church.

“When they sang, ‘I’m going to lay down my burdens down by the riverside,’ that was the slaves saying, ‘Hey, let’s meet down by the river,’ ” he said. “It was an escape from oppression, even though you were right there in it.”

Second Baptist, in Everett’s Riverside neighborhood, was built in 1901. It was the first African-American church in Snohomish County.

The program began with the choir marching down the aisle, accompanied by Jackson on the keyboards, his sons, Justice, 17, on the bass guitar and Elisha, 12, on the drum kit. Larry Hill, a member of the congregation, improvised on the trumpet. About halfway through the program, one woman in the audience pulled out a tambourine and shook it in time.

Placards in the church paid homage to the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, the Negro Baseball League, President Barack Obama and, near Jackson’s keyboards, a poster from “Ray,” the Ray Charles biographical movie.

The music started with a gospel rendition of the Civil Rights-era folk song “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” which led into “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often called the black national anthem.

Then Jackson sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful,” putting a gospel touch to the traditional anthems.

Karen Shepard, the church’s drama minister, said that African-American history can’t be separated from U.S. history as a whole. She name-checked prominent black Americans, including Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Madam C.J. Walker, Denzel Washington and Barack Obama.

“It’s not just about civil rights. It’s music, it’s literature, fine arts, athletics, business. In every category, we are there,” Shepard said.

Shepard also performed a one-woman skit, taking on the roles of black women through history, from a slave washerwoman to civil rights activists from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

Joy McKenzie, a minister at Integrity Life Church in Federal Way, also delivered a sermon urging people to not become distracted or waylaid by “false narratives.”

“What is our clarion call as African-American people, or as a multicultural nation, who appear to be divided, or united in our division?” McKenzie said. “At the end of the day, we embrace mankind, we embrace truth.”

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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