PATERSON, NJ - Thousands of years of Black history came to life through song, poetry, and on the stage Saturday at Solid Rock Baptist Church. 

With a packed room in front of them a series of performers, children and adults alike, offered powerful reminders that Black history did not start with slavery in America’s south, and let it be known that they are descendants of strong kings and queens. 

Produced by Evangelist Deirdra Hooker, some of the most memorable lines of the production came from Tracy Williams who recited Maya Angelou’s “And Still I Rise” and later took on the role of a teacher leading a lesson for typically disinterested children telling them at one point, “I am attempting to show you who you are and arm you with the level of power that no one can take away from you.”

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Another powerful line came just moments later from a teen performer who, playing a slave girl named Abigail, said “I refuse to lose who I am in the midst of bondage.”

While many of the messages of the day could be easily transferred to struggles faced in today’s urban areas the event was, according to Pastor Bennett Johnson III, an opportunity for the children to learn about history, and for the entire congregation to enjoy the fellowship of togetherness.

Longtime church member Ivory McFadden sat at the front of the room, taking in every performance, at one point motioning for this reporter to come over so she could share her belief that “we need our children to learn their history, to learn something many of them never knew about who they are.”

“If they don’t learn it they won’t be able to tell anybody.”