Ardmore’s annual Black History Celebration is slated for this Sunday, bringing together guest speakers, musicians and students to create a window to the past.
The program, presented by the African-American Cultural Enhancement Committee, will begin at 3 p.m. and conclude around 5 p.m. on February 10 at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Ardmore. This year’s theme is “A New Beginning.” Guest speakers from Langston University will attend as well. Ardmore Middle School teacher Mary Johnson, herself a Langston alum, selects a group of
middle school students to recite Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech.
“For the sixth graders, this is their first time speaking in front of a group, period,” Johnson said. “The biggest thing is convincing them they can do this.”
For more than 20 years, AMS students have participated in the celebration. Johnson said she selects students she knows she can count on to learn the material and understand its significance. She said this is the first time she’s divided the speech into so many segments.
“Each word stands for something,” Johnson said. “Each word has to be said in a certain way, to interpret the feelings people had at that time.”
Johnson rehearses with the students ahead of time, teaching them how to project and enunciate so an audience can hear them. Over the course of the rehearsals, students learn, ask questions, and eventually their delivery of the speech changes to reflect that.
“They can get the feeling of the climate, the environment, the culture, of people who lived during that period,” Johnson said. “This is what happened before their parents were born, maybe even before their grandparents were born. My job is to teach them and instill in them that feeling.”
This year’s program will in part celebrate  Langston University’s nursing program’s expansion to the University Center of Souther Oklahoma in Ardmore. Joshua Busby, Director of Student Affairs at Langston University and a minister at Great Mount Olive Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, will serve as guest speaker and Dean of the School of Nursing Teressa Hunter will speak about the nursing program.