Weekend Highlights Black History and Culture
A Sabbath sermon message by Ella Simmons, General Conference vice president, highlighted a three-day celebration of black history and culture held annually at Walla Walla College.
Incorporating the weekend's "Lest We Forget" theme in her sermon, Simmons was one of several featured presenters during Black History Weekend. Simmons was elected to church office last summer, the first woman to serve as a vice president in the Adventist Church.
Black History Weekend drew approximately 75 campus guests from African American churches in the North Pacific Union Conference, primarily from Seattle and Portland.
Also on the weekend schedule was the nationally renowned Pine Forge Academy choir, which presented a Sabbath afternoon concert. The choir hails from the historically black Adventist boarding academy in Pennsylvania. The concert included a performance of "We Shall Overcome" as a tribute to Coretta Scott King, who had died just six days earlier.
"We believe that our community needs to be made more aware of and join in celebrating the contributions made to our church globally by persons of color," said Clinton Valley, WWC academic administration associate vice president and president of WWC's black faculty and staff fellowship, the campus group that organized the events.
Eugene Lewis, Seattle's Emerald City Community Church pastor, led the weekend's main Sabbath School service. Representing a church closer to College Place, WWC theology graduate Abraham Francois, Pasco (Wash.) Ephesus Adventist Church, spoke for the Friday Vespers service.
Inaugurated in 1992, the weekend is held concurrently with national celebrations related to Black History Month. "These services provide an opportunity for our community to participate in a worship experience in the African American tradition," Valley explained.
A newer facet of Black History Weekend is the addition of events targeted to potential students. The enrollment office joined with the black faculty and staff fellowship in 2004 to expand the scope of the weekend. Black History Weekend now coincides with African American College Days. Prospective Northwest African American students are invited to campus to learn more about WWC. Several current African American students enrolled as a result of this initiative.
This year potential students attended a Sunday brunch, enjoyed a campus tour and met with residence hall deans, financial aid counselors, academic advisors and student employment representatives.
According to Valley, building a diverse campus community is a strategic priority of the college.
Walla Walla College also supports the regional efforts of African American church work. Theology majors and members of the black faculty and staff fellowship regularly accept speaking appointments in churches, particularly at the Pasco Ephesus Church, which recently celebrated its formal opening.