BY BEVERLY SMALLS, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Citing Ivan Van Sertima’s They Came Before Columbus, other scholarly works and civil rights notables, Dr. Bertha Todd, local retired educator civil rights icon, inspired the congregation of Mt. Zion AME Sunday.
In recognition of African-American History Month, the 11:00 a.m. worship speaker based her presentation on the needs for celebrations of our Lord, our ancestors, slavery in America, and the overcoming spirit of our ancestors.
“Make a joyful noise,” Todd said, “Celebrate in song and work.”
Captivated by her quoting of the words to the song, “This Little Light of Mine,” Six year old Jayceion Robinson seated in the rear of the church knew the verse and spoke in unison loudly, “I’m ‘gonna’ let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine. Let it shine.”
His grandmother, Vernelle Robinson said, “He learned that song in the church.” Mt. Zion’s youth ushers presided and also listened closely. Their department was also responsible for preparing a special Black History Month meal for attendees, Rev. Jerould Richburg said.
Dr. Bertha Todd’s varied roles in local civil rights and community activism are grounded through years of service as a lay person and official in Chestnut Street Presbyterian Church.
“Let us not become like ugliness. Use God’s guidance for the glory of God,” she said.
Suggesting reflexive thinking as one of the keys in the celebration of Black History, the Christian biblical principles in St. Mark. Chapter 12, Verses 28 through 32 were presented.
The focus on the love of God, and loving one’s neighbor was explained through the need to love one’s self.
Preparing for a trip to accompany a Caucasian friend to a recent Women’s Suffrage one hundred years celebration, the speaker chose to be prepare to invoke information about Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells and other black women who helped build that movement.
She was pleased that her interjection of the African-American suffrage facts were not necessary. The organization had documented and included those names in their prepared research.
Quoting the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Todd said, “We ‘aint’ where we were, we ‘aint’ where we used to be,” as the audience vocally agreed and laughed.
During her professional service as librarian for Williston Senior High, Dr. Todd was a research mentor for many students including a young Joseph McNeil who became one of four N.C. A&T students to initiate the Greensboro Woolworth Sit-In Movement.
“I was told by Mr. William Lowe, who taught government, that we were being investigated,” Dr. Todd said.
Mr. Lowe was described as an exceptional government instructor, and keen in the analysis of the constitution. His students’ research papers had not pleased everyone from the central school board.
As she recalled a special visit by six officials from the school system, Dr. Todd persevered, eventually retiring and aiding the local community in research and development of the Wilmington’s 1898 Memorial.
She stated that thorough research and knowledge of civil rights awarded by the U.S. Constitution likely led McNeil to focus on getting other students to begin the national sit-in movement.
Her presentation ended with a recitation of the Negro National Anthem by poet, James Weldon Johnson.