NORMAN — Small hats, tall hats, feathered hats and shiny hats filled the ballroom at Embassy Suites on Sunday for the Norman Public Library’s 10th annual Crowns Tea.
Librarian Judy Day said the event started as part of a celebration of Black History Month and was inspired by the photo essay “Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats” by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry.
The event is a celebration of the black cultural tradition of the church hat and a celebration to be shared by women of all ages, races and backgrounds observing Black History Month in Norman.
A reading of the photo essay was done by Meta Carstarphen, director of the graduate program at University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College, to get things started off. After the reading, all eyes and ears were on the Quayle United Methodist Church Praise Team as they provided “A History of Black Gospel Music” through song and commentary.
Beginning with spirituals in the 1780 to 1900 time frame, the group sang “Wade in the Water”, followed by a solo of “Give Me Jesus”. Rev. Erica Thomas, who directed the music portion of the program, said at this point in time slaves and black people were not allowed in a lot of the churches.
The group also sang Early Gospel songs, which spanned from 1890 to the 1920s; Traditional Gospel, which spanned from 1929 to the 1940s; and songs from the Golden Age of Gospel, spanning from 1945 to the 1960s.
Several members of the crowd got up on their feet to sing, clap and even dance along as the choir performed the Modern Contemporary Gospel (1960 to 1980) song “Oh Happy Day.” Thomas said the song became the first gospel song to cross over into the secular world hitting No. 4 on U.S. charts and No. 2 on the U.K.’s song charts.