Bell will toll on Feb. 20 ‘Hicks Day’

Published 8:17 am Monday, February 20, 2017

On Monday, Feb. 20, at 4 p.m., the Bethlehem Baptist Church bell will toll in Bogalusa on Robert “Bob” Hicks Day as a reminder to citizens of the contributions that African-Americans made in their struggle for equal rights as citizens in America.

The bell tolling from Bogalusa’s first African-American Bethlehem Baptist Church on Robert “Bob” Hicks Day will also coincide with February events planned across the state and throughout the nation to commemorate Black History Month.

Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette joins with prior mayors of Bogalusa by proclaiming Feb. 20 as Robert “Bob” Hicks Day in Bogalusa. Washington Parish President Richard Thomas has recently begun to make this annual recognition parish-wide as well

Barbara Hicks-Collins, executive director of the Hicks Foundation, said the tolling of the Bethlehem church bell will send a positive message with a broader purpose to young people, their families and the community, creating an awareness of the contributions made by generations of African-Americans in our city, parish and state. Hopefully, she adds, it will stimulate discussions in our schools, churches and homes about the achievements and contributions of African Americans, their experiences and how we can come together for a common purpose and make not only our city and parish but our nation and the world a better place for all people.

Hicks-Collins said that church bells were the common way to call the community together for all purposes, both sacred and secular. A tradition that started back in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation declaring all slaves in slave-holding states free, church bells rang as news of the declaration spread.

On Sept. 24, 2016, during the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington D.C., then-President Barack Obama rang the Freedom Bell, a 500-pound, cast-steel bell from the First Baptist Church of Williamsburg, Va. Church bells then rang throughout Washington D.C. The original 1907 Bethlehem Baptist Church bells were donated to the church by the Great Southern Lumber Company.

The public, including students, and representatives from churches and communities, are invited to attend the bell tolling ceremony to help unite the community in peace, love and progress. The ceremony will be Monday at 4 p.m. at Bethlehem Baptist Church, located at 837 E. 7th St. in Bogalusa.