The Greater Community Missionary Baptist Church (GCMBC) in Pacoima, the first African American church in the San Fernando Valley, will present a Black History Month program on Sunday, Feb. 26.
Festivities will feature a tribute to civil rights activist, former Valley NAACP president and first president of the NAACP state conference Jose De Sosa.
“When Rev. [Dr. Dudley] Chatman usually calls it’s for you to do something, and you’re ready to accept what he asks,” Sosa said. “I was very surprised. “It was quite an honor for me to be considered.”
Along with Sosa, singer/songwriter David Whitfield, actress Colleen Fonseca, and author and chef The Queen Mother of Ghana Atura Ahlayah will be honored.
Other tributes are scheduled for renewable energy technologist Dr. G. Avi Melech Arrington, and historian Jollie Harris III.
In addition, Los Angeles Mission College professor John Morales will be honored for outstanding community service.
Former television judge Joe Brown serves as Master of Ceremonies.
The program is free and open to the public.
“This year’s theme is celebrating our leaders and pioneers in culture, humanities, education, health and science from Africa to America,” said program coordinator Dee Chatman.
“Scientifically, whether Christian or Chinese, it can be proven we come from Africa. The seed of mankind is from Africa,” she said.
Rev. Chatman, who has served as pastor here for 31 of the church’s 75 years, said even though GCMBC is an African American church it was served a variety of people as the community demographics changed over time.
“Being here 75 years indicates the direction you know the direction where you are going and you know what you’ doing,” the pastor said. “You get to know people — all faces and colors. I served more other races than African Americans now. Out of 90 some people in the senior center, about eight are African American.”
But it is still important do Black History Month here, Rev. Chatman said. And celebrate Latin holidays. And Muslim and Korean holidays.
“God is for everybody,” he said. “And every culture needs to remember how it got there, and the success and achievements they have made. A lot of times in your community, you really don’t realize what great people you’re around. You see them do what they do, and then later on you realize they were giants.”
He said De Sosa is one such giant.
He speaks more Spanish than the Spanish,” Rev. Chatman said. “He knows the Latin, the black and the white cultures. He was with me during the 1992 LA riots. Jose and I showed Jessie Jackson where the (Rodney King) beatings took place.”
De Sosa also spoke of the importance of continuing educational programs during Black History Month.
“I believe we should continue them,” he said. “It benefits our youngsters coming up and makes them aware of some of the people who made it [progress] possible. One of the greatest achievements in my lifetime was Obama being elected president. Now anyone can say ‘I can be president.’”
The program will be streamed on the church website, gcmbc.org, and also taped for a later rebroadcast.
The broadcast is being directed by Leslie Small, whose television and film credits as a director include the Kevin Hart comedy concert films, “Shaquille O’Neal’s All-Star Comedy Jam,” and “One Christmas.”
“I grew up in this church,” said Small, who also went to Maclay Middle School and Kennedy High School. “I love doing work in the community. Anytime you have an opportunity to celebrate culture, no matter whose culture it is, it always has that spiritual and natural dynamic. In terms of Black History, it’s not something really being taught like it was. Here is a chance to celebrate and give proper recognition to the past.”
Small said Sunday’s program is going to be a celebration.
“I hope people enjoy themselves. In these settings, to realize the people we honor are significant people and we thank them. And the 75th anniversary of church…that is story we are going to try and tell.”
The program starts at 3:30 p.m. and will be held at the church, located at 11066 Norris Ave., in Pacoima. For more information, call (818) 579-0180.