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Soul Food Brings Out Caring

In spite of the layer upon layer of snow that has been covering this area, the public came out to support the Hood A.M.E. Zion Church’s Soul Food Dinner on Feb. 15. At about a quarter to three, one of the members announced, “Everything’s gone. There’s just chicken, salad and string beans left.” The members had prepared Southern Fried Chicken, fried fish and barbecued ribs; collard greens, string beans, potato salad, yams, mac ‘n’ cheese and corn bread; and for dessert, peach cobbler, brownies, coconut cake, Red Velvet Cake, and sweet potato pie.

“It was a success. At first we worried that no one would come out because of the weather,” said Diane Evans Cortes, publicity chair. She and the Rev. Linda Vanager were delighted with the turnout.

Many people had ordered the food, and for those who couldn’t get out, they delivered. They also delivered to the homebound and provided free dinners for those who couldn’t afford them.

Cortes has been doing community service in the mental health field and wants to help the church now that she has returned to Oyster Bay. The Soul Dinners did their work and the next day, Sunday, “They all came, and it wasn’t requested. That is what the church is all about. It is there for the community and it all works out because of our faith in the togetherness.”

The topic of the Sunday sermon was ancestry. “We talked about some of the ancestors that made a difference to us today,” said Cortes.

 They included Harriet Tubman, famed for her work of leading slaves to freedom. When Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, it required law officials in free states to aid in recapturing slaves, but she continued her work and helped guide them to Canada.

Another ancestor is Fredrick Douglass, an escaped slave who became the voice of the abolition movement. In 1845 he wrote a biography, The Life of Fredrick Douglass, telling of being a slave as a young child; people doubted he was black since his father was white. Douglass served in the first black regiment in the Civil War. He was committed to social reforms for all Americans, including women. He was known as a great orator.

They talked of Mildred Jeter Loving, a black woman who married a Caucasian man and were both sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia. It resulted in a court case for which the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision ended a law prohibiting interracial marriage.

They talked about Madam C. J. Walker, famous for introducing hair products specially formulated for the hair of black Americans. She was a self-made female millionaire who specialized in growing hair through proper care.

Another amazing person is Shirley Chisholm, a senator representing New York’s 12th District in Congress for seven terms, who was also the first African American candidate for President of the United States. She was known for her outspoken statements such as, “Of my two handicaps, being female put many more obstacles in my path than being black.” And on a very positive note, she said, “I don’t measure America by its achievements but by its potential.”

In all, they chose people to talk about who made a difference in how lives have been changed as a result of their actions. “They worked hard for us and we are working hard for our children,” said Cortes.

Cortes is looking forward to working with the church and encouraging younger members to come back. “We have a lot of elderly to care for and I just have to remind them to come back to church and serve God. The community is still there, but younger people aren’t always there, except for Family Day when the church is packed,” she said.