POST SOUTH PHOTO GALLERY: Iberville Parish Museum presents “The African Americans of Iberville”

Candance Edwards
ADMIRING THE PAST ... Local residents get the first glimpse of artifacts in the Iberville Museum African American exhibit on Saturday. Opening ceremonies were held and photos can be found on Page 2A with a feature on the event on Page 9A. (Photo by Candace M.Edwards)

Louisiana can be labeled as a ”Pot of Gumbo”, as its population consists just about every ethnic group that you can imagine. Here, in Iberville Parish, we can honestly say that we are a huge part of that gumbo since we are home to many Italians, Frenchman, Spanish, Germans, Irish, African Americans and of course Native Americans. The Iberville Parish Museum is celebrating the heritage of these different ethnic groups by sponsoring exhibits throughout the year to honor their past as well as the present and the future to come.

In honor of Black History Month, on Saturday, Feb. 7, the museum celebrated the opening of the African American Exhibit. Before being able to view the exhibit, guests were asked to be seated to first enjoy a short program of music and reminiscing of the past. James “Fry” Hymel, chairman of the Iberville Museum Association, and Plaquemine Mayor Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta opened the program.

 “I was born and raised here and I know how many ethnic groups you can find right here in Plaquemine. When I learned about the museum hosting the African American exhibit, I made sure that I would come and be part of such a historical event,” said the mayor.

After the opening of the program, the Rev. Orris Dupuy, president of the Iberville Ministers Conference prayed a powerful prayer on behalf of the African American population as well as the rest of the other ethnic groups that are found in America.

Ethel Edwards, a resident of Plaquemine and member of St. John Baptist Church recalled the hard times that she and other African Americans faced during the Civil Rights Movement and acknowledged how times have indeed changed for better and not for worse for all Americans. She explained how she felt sick to her stomach when she heard “You are under arrest” at the age of 16. That’s a moment that she will never forget as she told Post/ South that she spent nearly a week in the barn and was let out August 28, 1963, the exact day of Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington.

 “My father lost his job at the McCall Sugar Mill because I would not keep my mouth shut and fought for our rights. My mother was paid with flour bags in which I took and learned how to sew and in return, I brought more income in. From there, I sewed clothes for my children and even for other people. We strived for one day having better than what we had and we are blessed to now have that and even more,” she said.

Edwards, after reminiscing, sang Mahalia Jackson’s famous gospel song “In the Upper Room”. Edwards felt that the program was beautiful and gave credit to the entire staff of the museum, especially Pearl Singleton and Rita Lynn Jackson, co-chairmen of the exhibit.

St. Gabriel Mayor George Grace gave the remarks to the approximately 100 guests.

 “I can remember going to school at Bayou Paul Colored School, a one room school house where my mother taught grades one through four at one time with no help. We were like a family there and we all stuck together. If there was one thing that my mother taught me, it was W. E. B. DuBois’ philosophy on education. He believed that education was extremely important and this is one thing that we all focused on. My father taught us Booker T. Washington’s philosophy, to cast down our buckets and use our hands to work hard and get where we were going. From taking the advice of my parents, my siblings and I are all college graduates and thankful for their hard work. I am extremely happy that all ethnic groups are being honored and that we can finally get passed judging people by the color of their skin and now focused on their character instead,” said the mayor.

Also giving the remarks was president of the LA Board of Elementary & Secondary Education, Linda Johnson. Johnson gave a moving speech that had most of the audience members rejoicing on their feet.

“We are people who have overcome so much. We are survivors and will continue to move on. Although we are different shades of color, we are all God’s people- as we all are brothers and sisters in Christ,” Johnson began. “We are survivors and we will continue to move forward. We must overcome many things- especially the raising percentage of children being born in poverty, the increasing usage of drugs and the educational gap. There are no need for these things and it is running our young people today.” Johnson also acknowledged that we, as an untied population, need to “bring good and acceptable things to the table.” She explained that all Americans need to live together in peace. She concluded her speech by saying “We have come a long, long, way…but we still have a long way to go.”

Annette Miller, a White Castle resident and member of the Asbury Methodist Church along with the St. John Baptist Church Mass Choir of Dorseyville beautifully sang the well known gospel song: “Coming up the left side of the mountain” which practically had people in tears. The St John Baptist Church Mass Choir continued to sing other gospel songs while Craig Trusclair and his son Devin provided the background instrumental music.

According to the Hymel, the turn out for the event was a huge success. The African American exhibit, which is the third part of the “People of Iberville Series” has artifacts from slavery and post slavery as well as artifacts during the time period of the Civil War until present. The next program in dedicating to the exhibit will take place Sat, Feb 28 at 2p.m. The program will be entitled “The Role of the Church in the Lives of African Americans in Iberville Parish” and will be presented by Dr. Charles Vincent, Ph.D. of Southern University.

The museum is opened to the public and viewing hours are the same as regular hours, Tuesday- Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  For more information, you may call 225-687-7197 or email ibervillemuseum@yahoo.com.

REJOICING ... Ethel Edwards, a Plaquemine resident, enjoys the music of Annette Miller along with other visitors at the opening of the Iberville Museum African American exhibit.