DAYTONA BEACH — The start of this year’s Black History Month, Ersula Knox Odom could be found doing what she does every February, portraying educator, stateswoman, philanthropist, humanitarian and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune. This year, however, she was met with a surprise.
At the end of her performance entitled “Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s Comes to Life,” in the chapel at Bethune-Cookman University, a woman walked up to Odom while she was still in character and said, “Hello grandmother” while giving her a warm embrace.
The woman was Evelyn Bethune, Bethune’s granddaughter. Just the night before, during a post-performance question and answer session, Odom told the Museum of Arts & Science audience in Daytona Beach that she could not answer about the family’s reaction to her performance because she was not aware of anyone having seen her perform. Now she can.
Evelyn raved about how she loved the way her grandmother was being portrayed, and strongly urged Odom to continue as long as possible so the legacy would live on. Odom was overjoyed.
The host for the evening and curator/director of the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation, Dr. Ashley Robertson, told the audience she had fact-checked Odom and was quietly cheering throughout the presentation. And, the president of Bethune-Cookman University Alumni Association of Tallahassee said she was a “representative from your future.”
Audiences at the Largo Public Library, Pathways Christian Fellowship Center in Bradenton, the Plant City Museum, Fort Pierce and the LaBelle Heritage Museum all had a chance to watch history come to live this month. But don’t worry; she will be appearing at Dunedin Library Tuesday, Feb. 21, Eckerd College Feb. 22 and at Orlando’s Wells Built Museum of African American History on Feb. 25.
Odom will also be displaying exhibits of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, African Americans of Tampa and the Hillsborough County School Board Legends at the Florida State Fair as a part of the celebration of Black History Month.