WHITEVILLE, NC (WWAY) -- Black history month has begun, and so have the celebrations.
Representative Mike McIntyre joined representative Donna Edwards and local leaders for a day of prayer and empowerment at the 18th Annual Black History Month Celebration in Whiteville.
Pictures and posters of significant black leaders lined the walls of the Central Baptist Church in Columbus County, as crowds filled the pews to hear more about black history month, and why it's important to celebrate.
50 years after the civil rights act passed, its impacts are still being felt throughout the United States.
"It's a time for everyone to reflect,” Pastor Timothy Lance said. “Not just black but black, white, and others to reflect on the trials and tribulations, and things that we've experienced as a people."
"It's a way to recognize not only the rich history that we have from African American leaders and citizens not only in this area but throughout our country, but also to show the respect for all the accomplishments,” U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre said.
"It's a time we recognize those who paved the way for us African Americans,” church member Jada Harkins said.
One woman who knows all about this is representative Donna Edwards... The first African-American woman to represent Maryland in the U.S. congress.
"It allows me to put into perspective all of our civil rights history, all of our great history as black Americans contributing to the united states, and for us to be able to look forward to all of the things that we can do in the future,” Edwards said.
Another African-American woman hoping to make an impact is Harkins. She says she will be the first in her family to attend college next year something that may have not been possible without the efforts of the civil rights movement.
"You're almost amazed because you sit back and you think, 'wow, we've done so much, we've gotten so far,’” Harkins said.
McIntyre says it’s not only important to remember black leaders in politics and government, but to also recognize those who made strides in healthcare, education, and performing arts.