WINSTON-SALEM. N.C. — Joycelyn Johnson has been walking through the doors of Mars Hill Missionary Baptist Church since the 1960s.
She’s heard first-hand what some of its original members faced when they first opened the doors of the historic brick building now on the corner of E. 4th St. and North Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
“Social inequities, financial inequities, lack of value for some of what the community actually has,” Johnson said.
Sept. 3, 1944 is the day the Mars Hill congregation made a historic walk.
They left their building on North Laura Wall Boulevard to their new home at 1331 E. 4th St.
75 years later, church members walked the same path and talked about how far they’ve come and how far they still have to go.
“It was a good educational piece for our young people. There were a lot of folk who said, ‘oh, I didn’t know this happened in Winston Salem’ or ‘I didn’t know this was there,’” Johnson said.
Some of the problems from the 40s still haunt the city today.
“Winston-Salem is a relatively segregated community with its housing patterns and unfortunately with the housing piece so goes the educational piece,” Johnson said.
Walking the same path as former church members reminds her that this homecoming experience is bigger than a celebration of their historic building.
They’re preaching a message of hope grounded in understanding.
“I think we can make sure it happens,” Johnson said. “I don’t know that in my lifetime it will happen, but at least we have a start.”