Bishop Myrtile Mays, from Egg Harbor City, and Rev. Ernest Barnes, from Port Norris, escort Susie Perry, from Egg Harbor City, during her 100th Birthday Celebration held last year. Barnes will speak at this year's event, and Perry will be honored as a long-standing community figure.

Dave Griffin

Macedonia Baptist Church’s Rev. Ernest Barnes will talk about prominent black women such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and how the ideas in the Negro National Anthem — “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — enabled them to succeed 7 p.m. Thursday.

The topic of the annual Pastors United Black History Month program is “Black Women in Action on the World Scene,” said President Bishop Myrtile Mays, 69, of Holy Trinity Assembly of the Living God in Laureldale, Hamilton Township. Pastors United is a coalition of more than a dozen mostly black churches that work together to improve the community’s quality of life, combat violence and support youth.

“Their stories all together teach us that just because you’re female, don’t let other folks tell you you can’t do it,” said Barnes, 86, who founded Pastors United about 16 years ago. In addition to Rice, he will talk about a Baptist church founder, the Rev. Dr. Millicent Hunter, of Philadelphia; former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill.; U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Lillian E. Fishburne; and athletes such as Althea Gibson, and Serena and Venus Williams.

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Barnes said the lyrics of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” supports his message because it describes perseverance and faith.

“That tells you what you can do,” he said.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was written as a poem by educator, lawyer and diplomat James Weldon Johnson in 1899 and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson.

Music will be a big part of Thursday’s program, Mays said.

“We’ll have good singing, with the community choir and singers from other area churches,” he said.

Student essay contest winners will read their writings, and Egg Harbor City resident Susie Perry, who is 101 years old, will be honored as one of the community’s oldest and most cherished members, Mays said. His brother Perry Mays, a retired hospital executive who is involved with the Atlantic County group Stop the Violence, will also speak on keeping communities safe.

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