Tonight, the Akron Civic Theatre will become a celebration of history, music and spiritually uplifting entertainment when the Unforgotten Past IV: Black History Musical & Awards Celebration takes place.
The annual event was created by Greater Bethel Baptist Church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Melford J. Elliott, who felt it was important for the community to remember and honor the forebears, both recent and historical, who paved the way or are still opening doors for those in need and helping out the community.
Associate minister Alice Terry, coordinator of the event, said this year’s edition will have a bit more flash, including a “red carpet experience” for the 17 honorees and dignitaries followed by a reception.
“It’s going to be lights, camera, action, limousines out front, trying to honor our recipients,” Terry said.
Among those being feted are Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Warrensville Heights), Ward 3 Councilwoman Margo Sommerville, and Summit County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Teodosio. A special Living Legend honor will be presented to Gertrude Larkins, the 94-year-old “mother” of Greater Bethel. Awards are being presented in a variety of categories including community service, youth service, liturgy, humanitarianism and outstanding service.
Terry said this year’s will be the biggest production ever. In addition to the honorees, there will performances by a diverse community choir from Akron and surrounding areas, short skits and a few words from Fudge. Twelve area pastors (similar to a gender-inclusive version of Jesus’ disciples) will take a few moments each to share their views on the topic of the Cross Work of Jesus Christ. And there will be an Easter-themed theatrical presentation depicting a visit to Jesus’ tomb on the day of his resurrection.
Terry said she is excited about the event and has seen the audience grow beyond just Greater Bethel Baptist parishioners and the friends and family of honorees: “We have other churches around the city that have supported us. This year it seems the level of excitement and ticket sales and everything has increased. All the support we’ve received from the community and other churches is very exciting.”
She added that Unforgotten Past’s reach has gone beyond just regular churchgoers, and she hopes it continues to grow into a community event.
“I’m expecting so much greatness. I’m expecting it to be fun and spiritually uplifting so when people leave they’ll say ‘wow, this was awesome.’ ”