Members and friends of El Dorado’s black community filled the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall while attending the fifth annual Black History Person of the Year and Youth of the Year Dinner on Saturday.
The event is sponsored by Meet Me at the Court and The Bailey Family and recognizes standout members of the black community who’ve made a significant contribution to African-American life in El Dorado.
This year’s honorees included community members Carolyn Dykes, Mary Carter, Shaneil “PJ” Yarbrough and David Taylor.
El Dorado Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer delivered the keynote speech for the event, which began with a reading of scripture by Lamarrio Island and opening prayer by Ward 3 Council Member Willie McGhee.
Audience members sang, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” while listening to solo performances by singer Carmelo Brown and saxophonist Angula Davis. Union County Sports Hall of Fame member and Kidz N Golf instructor Jimmy Howard also recited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
Before speaking, Smith-Creer thanked God.
“Its amazing what he allows us to do,” she said, before thanking her husband and acknowledging his unofficial self-assumed title as the city’s “First Sir.”
Smith-Creer said everyone needs to know how to succeed and revealed five key items she considers necessary for success, with the first being faith.
“You have to have faith, and my faith is in God,” she said. “I don’t believe in luck and coincidence, but that everything is divinely orchestrated by God.”
She said that faith in God was her foundation in referring to the HerStory Movement of her mayoral campaign.
“It wasn’t always easy and it wasn’t’ always popular,” she said.
Next, she said, was to be involved.
“You’ll never get a job if you don’t apply for it, or play a sport if you don’t try out for it,” Smith-Creer said. “You have to be involved. I’m a professional volunteer and want to know what’s going on.”
She also said respect was an important aspect, noting that in order to get respect, people should carry themselves in a way that earns such respect and to treat others in the same way. She then moved to strength.
“I don’t lift weights, but I’m mentally, spiritually and emotionally strong,” she said. “Never think everyone is going to be your friend. I have a joy the world didn’t give me and can’t take away. It doesn’t matter how other people feel about it. Not everybody encouraged, me, supported me, celebrated me, or voted for me in the city of El Dorado, but at the end of the day, I’m everybody’s mayor. It’s OK if I wasn’t your choice — I’m still your mayor.”
Finally, she said, being trustworthy is extremely important to anyone’s success.
“You have to be able to be trusted,” Smith-Creer said. “All of us have things we do well, you have to trust people to do what they are supposed to do.”
Smith-Creer noted that the first letter of each of her elements of success spells out the word “first.” She said that when it comes to black history, she’s not just history, but present and future as well.
“If you want to be successful, you may have to be the first of something. You may have to crack that glass ceiling and go through it. You don’t want to be just the first; you want to be the best. I want to be the best I can be and you be the best you can be, and we will all be successful.”
McGhee, along with Bailey Family representative Veronica Bailey, also presented each honoree and Smith-Creer with a plaque commemorating her significance to El Dorado’s black history.
Winners of Meet Me at the Court’s Black History Poster and Essay Contest also were announced before the dinner wrapped up, with Brown and Howard singing, “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand” as the audience followed likewise.
Terrance Armstard can be reached at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Me at the Court member Carmelo Brown, left, and Deacon Jimmy Howard sing during the fifth annual Black History Person of the Year and Youth of the Year Dinner Saturday at St. Mary's Episcopal Church.