Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church hosts Juneteenth celebration

Published 9:04 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2024

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By NOAH WORTHAM | Managing Editor 

ALABASTER – Community members gathered together to honor and recognize an important moment in American history and several important figures in Alabaster during a Juneteenth celebration on Wednesday, June 19.

Residents gathered at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist church in Alabaster for the event which focused on remembering the past and celebrating the present.

“We had a great turnout (from) young and old,” said James Taylor, pastor at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church. “We had a lot of festivities and events going on and we also served lunch which went wonderful.”

The event was hosted by Alabaster residents, Oscar Hawkins and Cindy Hawkins who previously worked with the local nonprofit Kids First.

The day consisted of a prayer led by Taylor, a praise dance by Tashira Moody and a song by Kim Harmon with drums by Jeremiah Carter. Evangelist Zina Cartwell delivered a message on hope and India Cohill recited Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise.”

Priscilla Hancock Cooper, executive director emeritus of the Alabama African American Civil Rights Heritage Sites Consortium, served as the event’s guest speaker and shared historical tales of courage, knowledge love and encouraged education. Pelham City Council President Maurice Mercer also attended the event and provided words of encouragement to guests.

Taylor discussed the importance of holding an event celebrating the Juneteenth holiday.

“We need to let the young people know that the elderly who served in that capacity during that time of slavery, kept fires lit so that we could be free today—not only in our minds and spirits—but also with the educational part that we helped build this country,” Taylor said.

During the celebration, those in attendance honored several notable Black members of the community including Alabaster’s first Black councilwoman Mayo Taylor, owner of the longest running Black business in Alabaster Stan Shepard and the oldest living Black community member in Ward 1 Jimmy Edwards. Those recognized were provided a gift bag by youth and volunteers that had a positive message attached.

The Juneteenth celebration ended with families gathering together in prayer over a Community Prayer Board as Taylor delivered words on unity, love, honor, wellness and forgiveness.

Taylor highlighted what Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church’s mission is and what it hopes to accomplish in the area.

“Our church is a community church and we’re there to serve the community, not only just one group of citizens but all citizens (no matter) their creed, background, race, color, ethnic group,” Taylor said. “ We’re there to serve the public. “It’s not about Black and white but it’s about people who are in need.”