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Celebrating Black History Month

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DINNER TIME: Attendeesenjoy thebuffet prior to the performance Thursday evening.
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SING: Four MHS students started the show by leading the crowd in the Negro National Anthem. Carol Matchette said students start the show with the anthem every year.
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DINNER TABLE: Leilanu Jackson, James Bell, Navia Cushingberry and Mark Evans play a family of characters in the tribute to Aretha Franklin.

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@chronicle-tribune.com

The Historic Hostess House’s fourth annual Black History Celebration Dinner Theatre attracted tables of guests Thursday evening, as the house continued the Black History Month celebration into the beginning of March.

Upon arrival, attendees were able to enjoy a buffet before going to the third floor ballroom to watch the Marion High School Black History club’s encore production of “The Queen,” a tribute to Aretha Franklin. The show was written by the club’s sponsor, Bobbie Owensby, Charles Bryant and the MHS Black History Club.

Carol Matchette, who is on the board of directors of the house, said the event is one of their best well-attended community events. She said the house likes to celebrate Black History Month, and they try to express that to the community with this event.

Matchette said she enjoys showcasing both the students and the house. The house was designed by an African American architect, Samuel Plato, adding another reason to showcase the house for Black History Month, Matchette said.

Though Black History Month takes place during February, Machette says the MHS club is busy with practices until their performance, which usually takes place during the last week of February, so the celebration spills into March.

Owensby said the club has performed a play for the community to celebrate Black History Month for the past 39 years, which has been a part of the Hostess House’s event since it started.

This year’s play told about parts of Aretha Franklin’s singing career. The students performed a portion of the play rather than the whole thing, she added, because of limited space, equipment and lighting.

The show kicked off with a short history on the Hostess House led by Sharon Wilson followed by four students leading the crowd in The Negro National Anthem.

“I am always excited when my students can showcase their talent,” Owensby said. “This gives them another opportunity to serve the community.”

Aside from the club’s performances during the month of February, Owensby said joining the club gives the students opportunities for traveling, visiting colleges, going to historical sites, hearing speakers and attending other plays.