“Tennessee Stakes Pay Tribute to Black History,” Ensign, June 1992, 77
Members and nonmembers alike gathered for a Tennessee tribute to black history during February, National Black History Month. The tribute, hosted by the Nashville and Franklin Tennessee stakes, was an opportunity to show love and appreciation to early and latter-day black Saints and establish new friendships in the community.
“In the sight of God, race, color, and nationality make no difference,” explained Alan G. Perriton, president of the Franklin Tennessee Stake during the February 29 activity. “[God] invites them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness.”
Guest speaker Catherine Stokes, a nurse from Chicago, Illinois, spoke of the lessons she had learned from children who had touched her life. One little French girl had become particularly close to her. The young girl was white but saw no difference between herself and her “Aunt Catherine.” On one particular outing to the movies, the girl remarked, “Aunt Catherine, if you keep taking me out like this, people will think I’m your daughter.”
Sister Stokes assured the girl that this would not happen. “But why?” the child inquired.
“Because I don’t speak French,” Sister Stokes replied. Her answer was accepted without hesitation.
“I believe that women have a special assignment from God,” Sister Stokes stated, commenting on the fact that black women have traditionally been known for their roles as caretakers of children of all races. “If we could open our hearts like children do, we wouldn’t have the problems we have.”
Communication is a major factor in solving problems that face people of different cultures and races, Sister Stokes continued.
Other activities on the program included a musical performance by the First Baptist Church Capitol Hill Choir and a dramatic presentation depicting excerpts from the lives of Jane Manning James and her brother, Isaac Lewis Manning. The two were black Saints who lived with the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Other prominent black historical figures were also featured in the presentation. In addition, a booth dedicated to the memory of Alex Haley was set up to provide information and assistance to those interested in family history.
“There are many ways to bear one’s testimony and proclaim the gospel,” explained President Perriton. “As Latter-day Saints, it is incumbent upon us to reach out into our respective communities to increase understanding, to break down barriers, and overcome misconceptions and distrust. As we foster good will toward the Church among our neighbors, the work of the Lord will go forth with increased success and we will be blessed.”—Elisha Clark and Stacy Dunaway, Franklin Tennessee Stake