St. Frederick’s event highlights contributions of famous and local African-Americans

St. Frederick First Baptist Church members Renee Foelsing (left) and Bessie Jackson invite the community to a Black History Month celebration from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, February 22, at the church, 301 Avenue N in Marble Falls. The free event includes tours of the fellowship hall, live music, and lunch. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

St. Frederick First Baptist Church members Renee Foelsing (left) and Bessie Jackson invite the community to a Black History Month celebration from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, February 22, at the church, 301 Avenue N in Marble Falls. The free event includes tours of the fellowship hall, live music, and lunch. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

As February is Black History Month, St. Frederick Baptist Church is highlighting the contributions of African-Americans to the country with a celebration February 22.

Along with the celebration, people can check out a display covered with the names and faces of African-Americans who made contributions in entertainment, sports, academia, literature, and all sorts of careers. The display is in the church’s fellowship hall.

On Saturday, the congregation pulls out all the stops in celebrating Black History Month from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the church, 301 Avenue N in Marble Falls. There is no cost to attend. Event T-shirts will be on sale for $20.

Church leader Bessie Jackson will be giving tours of the fellowship hall and the display.

Caleb Rojas will lead the music celebration, and chef Henry Jackson will prepare the lunch.

To Jackson, not highlighting these contributions is a disservice to members and visitors, especially during February.

“If we keep sitting on it, we won’t know their contributions to making America great,” she said. “There’s a lack of knowledge on contributions. This is what helped make America what it is.”

But the national heroes — past and present — aren’t the only ones on display. She also has newspaper articles and photos of Highland Lakes residents who have achieved, including Bryan Smith, her grandson who played college football and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

There are photos of community leaders in local government and education and of key moments in the congregation’s history.

Jackson said those displays were created on purpose so young people can see there’s no limit to achieving their dreams if they’re willing to work hard toward them.

She is an example of someone who saw a need and addressed it. In the 1990s, Jackson wanted to learn more about how Marble Falls Independent School District worked and have a say in the operations. Her interest and concerns eventually led her to running for school board and serving several terms. She continued her public service by serving on the Granite Shoals City Council as well.

Now, Jackson devotes her time to nonprofit work, particularly Highland Lakes Haven, which is charged with addressing homelessness in the area.

She noted that young people may not believe they can be more or make a difference until they see evidence that someone else, someone who looks like them, has done it. That’s part of the reason behind the display at St. Frederick’s.

“I didn’t realize I could until I experienced it,” Jackson said.

While the display include athletes and entertainers, the members made a point to show other leaders, too, so children can see they can be more than professional ball players or performers. She noted that while people mourn the loss of NBA great Kobe Bryant, who, along with his daughter Gianna, died in a helicopter crash January 26, he was more than a player.

After retirement, Bryant won a 2018 Academy Award for his animated short film “Dear Basketball,” based on a poem he wrote to announce his retirement from the NBA.

To Jackson, Bryant was more of a role model after he retired because he didn’t rest on his basketball career. He kept dreaming and kept working.

“Open up the culture and be free to be who you want to be,” she said. “Yourself is the only holdback. We want to inspire the whole community, everybody.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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