Celebrating history

As a child of the 1970s, the son of a baby boomer and a native of New Orleans, the Rev. DC Darensbourg grew up with all the residual effects of Jim Crow segregation.

Darensbourg’s story was featured at a celebration of black history at the Vincent House Sunday afternoon.

Darensbourg, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Fort Dodge, was scheduled to speak at the event, but on Sunday he was in New Orleans visiting a sick friend. His wife, Cherton Darensbourg, read DC’s prepared speech to the gathered crowd.

“Growing up down south colors your life in a way that becomes part of your self-awareness and self-appreciation,” she read. “You see life through lenses that are quite different from black males growing up on the east coast, west coast, or in the Midwest.”

DC Darensbourg wrote of examples he’d seen of segregation.

“I remember seeing the ‘whites only’ sign on the fence of the neighborhood park in the garden district in uptown New Orleans. All these things reinforced a sense of ‘otherness’ that I experienced as I grew up into adolescence, and learned from experience how a young black man is viewed and treated in society.”

“Women who didn’t want to walk near you, or want you to pass too close by them on the street. People locking their doors when you cross in front of their cars. Guys who bristle when you step into elevators, or purposely bump you on the street,” Cherton Darensbourg read.

“All built into a daily dance a young black man has to do to be non-threatening, non-aggressive, non-existent. And he can’t show anger about it, because then he’s just another angry black man.”

It’s not easy, but it’s getting easier, Cherton Darensbourg read. Society and businesses are becoming more equalized, and black entrepreneurs “are not the unicorns they used to be.”

“Black men still have to work harder, it just doesn’t take as long,” she read.

Cherton Darensbourg also grew up in New Orleans.

“It’s very different from other parts of the world, ’cause I’ve lived all over,” she said.

Charlene Washington and the Hat Ladies community singing group sang old spirituals before the speech. Afterward, soulful worship songs were provided by the Second Baptist Church choir.

The audience enjoyed the music.

“It was very nice. I wish they did more singing,” said Char Bunke after the program.

“I like that music,” said Joanne Smith. “It was so free.”

Smith and Cynthia Meeks came to the event just because it seemed interesting.

“We always like to lean some history, and something that might be different from what we grew up with,” Meeks said. “There’s always something you can learn.”

Shaunna Abrams and Sharon Naylor, both on the Vincent House Events Committee, organized the event. Naylor also sang with the hat ladies.

“We wanted to have a black history month, and I heard Sharon talking about singing at her church,” Abrams said. “Then she’s like, I can get the girls from church to sing.”

Naylor and Cherton Darensbourg said the event was important.

“They don’t do enough for Black History Month in Iowa,” Cherton Darensbourg said. “In New Orleans where we grew up they do a lot, every day, for Black History Month.”

The Vincent House is planning events every month, Abrams said. Next month’s event will have an Easter theme, with cookie decorating and bisque painting.