Columbia residents celebrate Gospel Explosion

Sunday, February 22, 2009 | 7:36 p.m. CST; updated 12:25 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 24, 2009

COLUMBIA—Music rang through the air Sunday afternoon as a large group assembled to celebrate the annual Gospel Explosion and Soul Food Dinner at St. Luke United Methodist Church.

The event featured performances of gospel music from the band One Accord, interpretive praise dance and mime.

Roughly 100 people filled the pews of the church, stomping their feet and clapping their hands to the music. Some were moved to shout "Amen!" and others got out of their seats to participate more actively.

Bill Thompson, who coordinated the event along with the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department, said the Gospel Explosion is part of a series of events that celebrate Black History Month.

During the event, Thompson told anecdotes about the achievements of the black community at large, emphasizing the Boone County and Columbia areas. In the past, he said, several black residents broke barriers and received accolades for their ingenuity.

"We have a unique history here in Columbia, Missouri," Thompson said. "Sometimes we think that things are bad, but people before us had it a lot worse. There's good and bad in every community."

Thompson touched on the fact that many contributions by the black community often go unnoticed in day-to-day life, noting things like the traffic light and mailboxes at the post office that get overlooked.

He also emphasized a desire to educate the community on black history.

"Let's not just make it a Black History Month," Thompson said. "Let's make it a Black History Year."

Camron Cross, the supervisor of Columbia's Parks and Recreation Department, emphasized how gospel music has deep roots in the black community.

"Gospel music is a big part of black history," Cross said. "Our ancestors bonded through music and food."

Thompson agreed, noting the emphasis of the church.

"Church has been such an important part of black life," Thompson said. "It's a place for the community to come together in fellowship."

The Gospel Explosion is one of the final events hosted by the Parks and Recreation Department this month to celebrate black history. The next event is a Hip Hop Festival on Thursday at Douglass High School.

"We want to sponsor diverse events to draw diverse crowds," Thompson said.

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