April 17, 2022
Easter Sunday
A Time for Memories, Resurrection and Hope
Dressed in Easter Sunday best, undated
Rise up, as today is Easter Sunday and biblically, it is a time for resurrection as noted by professor Lawrence Carter, Sr., former dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel, who stated: “The real meaning of Easter is resurrection, and resurrection means that nothing--neither height, nor depth, nor sickness, nor death can separate you from the love of God, the life of God, the peace of God, the harmony of God, because every religion in the world acknowledges that in God we live, move, and have our being… resurrection means you cannot be separated from the mystic law, from the vibratory energy in the universe that sustains all… Easter is about the day death died, that there is no separation from you and whatever you call the infinite.”[1]
Gathering Easter eggs, 2021
It is also the time for Eastern finery, easter egg hunts for children, and special family meals with loved ones. Alyce Faye Wattleton, former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, shared memories of growing up and how her family celebrated Easter: “Easter was a big time for making dresses, so there was a lot of activity among the seamstresses in the house. And also there was a lot of activity at church around Easter and Easter baskets and Easter egg hunts.”[2] Cowboy Alonzo Pettie (1910 – 2003) also shared his memories: “Before my mother [Dollie Pettie] died, we had that Easter egg hunt… we [the neighborhood kids] all played together and have fun together on a Saturday, Easter egg hunting and then have a big dinner that day.”[3] Poet and coach Gloria Burgess had a special affinity for her church’s Easter egg hunt: “Easter Sunday we would hunt for these little, little bitty eggs… from guinea hens… Our elders… picked them… and boiled them, and then hid them around the grounds of the church. And so the activity for the kids would be the Easter pageant… where you'd recite your Bible verse and sing a song… and then going to hunt for the Easter eggs.”[4]
Children lined up to recite their Easter speech, c. 2010s
For the late Cook County Board President John H. Stroger, Jr. (1929 - 2008), the childhood recitations at church held special memories: “When we were three years old, we had to be on an Easter program… ‘I'm John Stroger, I just came here to tell you today is Easter day and happy Easter.’ …You have on a little new suit (laughter)… [it] meant a lot to all of our families.”[5] Poet and spoken word artist Abiodun Oyewole, founding member of The Last Poets, added: “When I was ten… there was the Easter show at… Southern Baptist Church [New York, New York] … And my mother [Elvenia Robinson Davis] had put my name down on the list to recite the Lord's Prayer… This was my first time participating in this big Easter extravaganza… my mother had me… standing downstairs in the basement of our house and she said, ‘I want you to recite the Lord's Prayer. And… I want to hear you upstairs in the kitchen.’ …so I said, ‘Our Father--.’ She said, ‘If you yell the name of the Lord again I'll come down there and I'm a beat you… Throw your voice; project your voice from your stomach’ …and when that Easter Sunday came Reverend Wilson [C.B. Wilson] put that microphone in front of me and my mother was up like flash she said, ‘He don't need no mic, he does not.’ …People bothered me about that in Harlem [New York, New York] for the next twenty years… it was extremely special, it was the most special thing I ever did until [I] started The Last Poets.[6]
HistoryMaker Donna Satchell (left) and her sister Gale (right) on Easter Sunday, undated. From the collection of Donna Satchell
For television anchor Monica Pearson, dressing up in new clothes to give your speech was extra special: “I remember for Easter, you always got a new outfit… I always got for Easter a hat and gloves. You would have thought we were just filthy rich because she [her mother] dressed me.”[7] Folk singer Odetta Gordon (1930 – 2008) agreed: “Easter Sunday had to do with your new shoes, and your dress and your bonnet.”[8]
For former WATA-TV’s Linda Torrence dressing up accompanied the Easter speech: “I loved Easter because I could always look forward to… my [maternal] grandmother [Mattie Rembert Williamson] would buy me a new dress, and she would get my hair fixed… you always had an Easter speech… we would all get our speeches in advance and we would practice… it was a big deal for us to go to church on Easter Sunday… and say our speeches in front of all of those adults sitting in the church.”[9]
HistoryMaker Veronica Jones (left) with her sister, Marilyn Blanchard-Washington on Easter Sunday, Camden, New Jersey, undated (left); and Veronica Jones in her Easter best in front of her home in Camden, New Jersey, c. 1957-1958 (right). From the collection of Veronica Jones
That was the case also for Denver Urban Spectrum’s Rosalind Juanita Harris: “We'd have our Easter bonnets and our Easter speeches. Everyone did their Easter speeches… I can almost remember that, John 15:4,”[10] which states: Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Girls singing, undated (left); and boys in their Easter suits, Harlem, New York, c. 1982 (right)
Actor Ken Page, in his interview, recalled singing at his school’s Easter fashion show: “I did a voice of a hand puppet… In kindergarten… and they held an Easter show, fashion show, and the little girls all wore their little Easter outfits and the puppet talked about them… I sang 'Easter Parade…' ‘In your Easter bonnet… With all the frills upon it (laughter)… (Singing) You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade…’ And we had to wear our little Easter outfits as well, the boys.”[11]
Children at the National Zoological Park, Easter Monday, undated (left); and children at the 1965 Annual White House Easter Egg Roll (right)
There are those who have other Easter memories and traditions. Maxine Beatrice Baker, former CEO of the Freddie Mac Foundation, spoke of Easter Monday and the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll, an event that heralds back to 1878: “An Easter Monday in Washington [D.C.] was a big… holiday… You would go to the zoo [National Zoological Park; Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, Washington, D.C.] [And] go to the White House in the morning… you had to get dressed up… you'd roll these eggs down with a spoon… it was just a big ritual that you did every year.”[12] For mixed media artist Amalia Amaki real chickens were part of her family’s tradition: “We got real chickens for Easter… And there was always a competition to see whose chicken would survive the longest. Well, usually (laughter) it had to do with which one… grew up, got fat, and my daddy cooked... I can remember some years when I was on a punishment, I didn't get my chicken (laughter).”[13]
A family gathering, undated (left); and Easter cupcakes (right)
Also, Easter would not be Easter if it were not for good food: “Eating good Sunday Easter dinner was important… potato salad and fried chicken and ham… we had the turkey and we had the rolls that grandma [Grace Merritt] used to make,[14] stated fashion designer Steven A. Cutting, while corporate executive Antoinette Malveaux and sister of economist Julianne Malveaux remembered the importance of Easter sweets:  “I remember Easter time and baking a lot and baking cupcakes and… coloring the coconut… so they'd look like little grass… and putting the little jelly beans in them… and making the cakes… in the shapes of rabbits with my mom [Proteone Marie Alexandria Malveaux].”[15]
Left: HistoryMaker Leatrice Branch Madison (1922-2012) on Easter Sunday, 1923. From the collection of Leatrice Branch Madison
Right: HistoryMaker Lilia Abron and her family on Easter Sunday, c. 1982. From center, clockwise: Frederick Robinson, Lilia Abron, Ernest, David, and Freddy. From the collection of Lilia Abron
As we prepare for our special day today, let’s take solace in the special Easter reflections of Reverend Jesse L. Jackson from his 2006 interview for The HistoryMakers: “There is the beauty of spring… it's resurrection. Particularly, when you survive these long cold winters of hibernation… spring takes on an added beauty because it's relief… our Easter celebration in some sense as the cult of new life. It's the breaking of the egg. It's new possibility. For us as Christians, it's the resurrection of Jesus the Christ… others interpret the season quite differently… [But] it's always about new life. It's always about new hope.”[16]

God bless you, Reverend Jackson, and God bless us during this season of resurrection, renewal and hope.
[1] Lawrence Carter (The HistoryMakers A2010.080), interviewed by Denise Gines, April 18, 2011, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 2, tape 11, story 2, Lawrence Carter recalls planning the first Interfaith Resurrection Assembly.
[2] Alyce Faye Wattleton (The HistoryMakers A2005.037), interviewed by Racine Tucker Hamilton, February 4, 2005, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 10, Alyce Faye Wattleton recalls holidays in her childhood home in St. Louis.
[3] Alonzo Pettie (The HistoryMakers A2002.120), interviewed by Larry Crowe, June 17, 2002, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 6, Alonzo Pettie recalls growing up in Longview, Texas.
[4] Gloria Burgess (The HistoryMakers A2007.306), interviewed by Larry Crowe, June 3, 2008, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 8, Gloria Burgess describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood.
[5] The Honorable John H. Stroger, Jr. (The HistoryMakers A2004.006), interviewed by Larry Crowe, January 27, 2004, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 9, The Honorable John H. Stroger, Jr. recalls his earliest childhood memory.
[6] Abiodun Oyewole (The HistoryMakers A2006.164), interviewed by Shawn Wilson, December 13, 2006, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 4, story 4, Abiodun Oyewole recalls reciting the Lord's Prayer at Southern Baptist Church.
[7] Monica Pearson (The HistoryMakers A2006.030), interviewed by Evelyn Pounds, February 21, 2006, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 6, Monica Pearson recalls her family's Easter and Christmas celebrations.
[8] Odetta Gordon (The HistoryMakers A2006.038), interviewed by Shawn Wilson, March 17, 2006, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 3, story 6, Odetta Gordon recalls her religious experiences as a child.
[9] Linda Torrence (The HistoryMakers A2006.027), interviewed by Evelyn Pounds, February 18, 2006, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 5, Linda Torrence remembers celebrating the holidays, pt. 2
[10] Rosalind Juanita Harris (The HistoryMakers A2008.125), interviewed by Denise Gines, November 5, 2008, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 3, Rosalind Juanita Harris remembers the holidays.
[11] Ken Page (The HistoryMakers A2008.074), interviewed by Jacques Lesure, April 4, 2008, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 10, Ken Page describes his early education.
[12] Maxine Beatrice Baker (The HistoryMakers A2005.057), interviewed by Racine Tucker Hamilton, March 1, 2005, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 3, Maxine Beatrice Baker remembers holidays in Washington, D.C., pt. 2.
[13] Amalia Amaki (The HistoryMakers A2006.017), interviewed by Evelyn Pounds, February 15, 2006, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 5, story 5, Amalia Amaki recalls receiving baby chickens for Easter.
[14] Steven A. Cutting (The HistoryMakers A2007.242), interviewed by Adrienne Jones, August 30, 2007, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 13, Steven A. Cutting recalls celebrating the holidays.
[15] Antoinette Malveaux (The HistoryMakers A2003.198), interviewed by Larry Crowe, August 21, 2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 12, Antoinette Malveaux recalls food from her childhood and attending the local Catholic church as a child.
[16] Reverend Jesse L. Jackson (The HistoryMakers A2006.031), interviewed by Julieanna L. Richardson, February 28, 2006, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 3, Reverend Jesse L. Jackson lists his favorites.