CHEER Black History Culture Day grows in magnitude

Dr. Reba Hollingsworth, a 2018 Hall of Fame of Delaware Women inductee who overcame segregation hurdles on her way to a long, impactful career in education and community service, will be honored at CHEER Inc.’s Black History Culture Day Feb. 29 in Georgetown. (Delaware State News file photo)

GEORGETOWN – A celebration of Black History Month will culminate Saturday, Feb. 29 with CHEER Inc.’s Black History Culture Day, highlighting African-American cultural contributions locally and to America.

The free four-hour event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The staging venue is the CHEER Community Center on Sand Hill Road in Georgetown. Previous CHEER salutes to Black History Month were held at several of its smaller activity center sites.

“This year we brought it to the community center because the magnitude is getting bigger,” said Walter Koopman, vice president of CHEER’s board of directors.

Organizers are extending an invitation to individuals or groups wishing to share their black history and culture. Free table space will be provided for displays to those who register.

“We know that there are hidden gems out here that not all of us aware of. It would just be an awesome thing to have individuals who have that information and knowledge to bring that forth and share,” said Sandy Baynard, CHEER’s human resources director.

“There is going to be less vendors and more like a Black History program. We’re going to have speakers, and hopefully we’ll have individuals that will be bringing things to share with exhibits and share stories with their history here in Delaware.”

Among the special tributes will be recognition of:

• Former Milton mayor Bishop Grace Batten – a 1999 Hall of Fame of Delaware Women inductee and the first African-American mayor in Sussex County. Bishop Batten currently serves as CHEER’s board president;

Another honoree, former Milton mayor Bishop Grace Batten, is a 1999 Hall of Fame of Delaware Women inductee and the first African-American mayor in Sussex County. Bishop Batten currently serves as CHEER’s board president. (Submitted photo)

• Dr. Reba Hollingsworth, a 2018 Hall of Fame of Delaware Women inductee who overcame segregation hurdles on her way to a long, impactful career in education and community service; and

• Richard Allen, an important figure in the U.S. abolitionist movement and the founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The historic Richard Allen School in Georgetown bears his name.

African-American contributions to all branches of America’s military will also be showcased, Mr. Koopman said.

Marquee African-American military contributions include the Buffalo Soldiers, Tuskegee Airmen and Doris Miller, a Navy cook/Pearl Harbor hero who posthumously received the Navy Cross and will have a Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier scheduled to be launched in 2028 named in his honor.

Also in CHEER’s display spotlight, Delaware State University’s 1931 all-black football team and the latest African-American female graduates from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“It is going to be quite a display,” said Mr. Koopman. “But we are really looking for people that have history, their rich culture of African history — pottery, photos, books, stories — things they can display on a table with tablecloth that will be free. We are not charging for this. It will be held in the 7,500 square-foot community center..”

On Black History Culture Day, Marilyn’s Catering will prepare black-eyed peas, collard greens and wet cornbread “offered at a reasonable price for those like to nibble on something,” Mr. Koopman said.

Thursday, Feb. 20 is the deadline to register for a display. To register or for more information, contact Sandy Baynard at 302-515-2066 or sbaynard@cheerde.com.

Flyers and cover letters outlining the event with invitations are being sent to churches and schools throughout Sussex County.

“One of the most important things is that this is an opportunity for all races to come together and to share in the historic culture of the black community,” said Ms. Baynard.

“Whereas things are not talked about at school, and things aren’t talked about and shared at home, this will give individuals an opportunity to learn more and broaden their base about race and culture. It will help us unite as Americans.”

The former Richard Allen School in Georgetown, recognized in 2015 with a state historical marker, is now recognized with a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The mission is to celebrate, educate, recognize and give “credit to the individuals who helped create the history and cultural aspect of black history here in Delaware, Sussex County and our country,” Ms. Baynard said.

“I think people for years get the misconception of the black community,” Mr. Koopman said. “So, here is an opportunity for our youth, and hopefully we can make a mark and let the schools know that we are having this. Our children today, if they are not told about this at home, if they are not told about this at school – where they are not – they are the ones that get the misconception of all this.”

“I also think that it is great that we are having this event on a weekend, a Saturday,” Ms. Baynard said. “Bring out family and friends, gather together and be able to look at great historical cultural things that are going to be presented in recognition of African-American citizens and what they have accomplished, and maybe have not received the recognition that they have been deserving of.”

“This is only a small segment,” Mr. Koopman added. “There are so many who have made a mark in life in this country and really got no recognition. We’re going to the best we can with the military and everything else to bring this rich black culture and history out for the public on Feb. 29.”