02/07/18 — History speaks

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History speaks

By John Joyce
Published in News on February 7, 2018 5:50 AM

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Event organizer and emcee Maximillian Mozingo takes time to speak to a few people attending during intermission Tuesday night.

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People listen as Bakari DaShawn talks about his past and starting his own business Tuesday night on the second floor of the Wayne County Museum before the opening night program for the Black History Month exhibit.

The top floor of the Wayne County Museum Tuesday night looked more like a festival or a bazaar than a historical enclave.

During an intermission from the Black History Month social taking place ---- complete with speakers, poetry performances and singers ---- guests mingled with merchants of African and African-American inspired art, clothing and accessories.

The crowd of more than 50 people at its height, not counting the number of people downstairs perusing the museum's month-long black history exhibit, was a healthy mix of various races and age groups.

Organizer and locally-based painter Maximillian Mozingo said the turnout exceeded his expectations.

"The turnout was great, it was more than I expected. But then, my expectation was just to feel the love and energy in the room," he said.

The event, a collaboration between Mozingo and newly-acquired museum director Jennifer Kuykendall, was intended dually as a look back and ahead for the African-American community, and the local community as a whole, he said.

"We're here to celebrate pioneering entrepreneurs and Wayne County's black history. We have an exhibit downstairs, and upstairs we have a social going on with featured speakers, councilmen with the city, poets and singers," Mozingo explained.

"It just shows, it's just indicative of how we forge ahead. We have opportunities now that you had to fight for, or didn't have at certain times."

Among the speakers, which included city council members Antonio Williams and Bevan Foster who went on too late to be included in this report ahead of going to press, was Brandi Matthews, a local educator and entrepreneur who recently gained notice and support for her Blessing Boxes program.

Painted boxes have been springing up around town as a place for those who have more than they need to leave food, clothing and other essential items to be received and put to use by those who might not have quite as much.

"I was approached by Max (Mozingo) with the opportunity that he was putting together this program that talked about pioneers really doing something groundbreaking in this area," she said.

At first, she was surprised at the invitation to take part in the event, she added.

"But anything that is positive and forward moving and educational, I definitely want to be a part of those things," Matthews said.

Her primary focus when speaking before the multiracial, multigenerational audience was education.

"That's one thing I talked about tonight is educating yourself. And it's more than just math and science, not saying that those things aren't important, but we really want to get involved in what's happening in our local city, what's happening in our local government and beyond," she said.  

Matthews said she has not previously spent a lot of time in the Wayne County museum, so her interest was piqued when she heard about the new exhibit and the event being put on for Black History Month.  

"I was anxious to see the new exhibits that they had up with the new director. I definitely want to be the person that shows my support to all of the things that are happening in the community.

"With my recent endeavors, the community literally has wrapped their arms around me in this project, so I definitely want to make sure I can do that for others," she said.

Kuykendall was downstairs visiting with guests while much of the festivities were going on a flight up.

She was speaking with one of Goldsboro and Wayne County's most revered gems, Mrs. Ernestine Wooten, when she stopped to speak to the News-Argus about the event.

Mrs. Wooten, who will turn 93 in March, played an integral part of gathering the stories and artifacts on exhibit in the museum this month, she said.

"Mrs. Wooten is, because she is of her age and her experience, was better than Google. Because, not only did she know exactly who to speak to, she would call people for me and say, 'you really need to call the lady at the museum back,' and people would return my calls because of who she is.

"She is so respected and beloved in the community, so she made my job easier. And I got to hang out with her in my office every day which was wonderful."

Mrs. Wooten said she was pleased with how the exhibit came together and with the positive turnout.

She said she was happy to see a new generation be inspired, as she has seen several, and hoped the actions of the next generation will match their spirit of hopefulness and positivity.

Then, exhibiting her wisdom, she passed on a valuable lesson in the midst of being interviewed while on the subject of her upcoming birthday.

"You just gave me a gift, an early birthday gift. Did you know that? You smiled," she said, breaking into a wide smile of her own.

"Don't you know that when you smile at someone, you uplift them. You warm them inside and you lift them up. You just did that for me," she said.

Noah Hood, a Goldsboro resident and Wayne Community College student volunteering at the exhibit, was standing nearby and heard Mrs. Wooten's comment.

When asked his immediate impression being a young man hearing such wisdom from an elder, he thought carefully before answering.

"Inspirational," he said. "Inspirational."