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GOOD NEWS: Community Leaders Recognized for Black History Month

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TYLER (KYTX) - February is black history month All month long, we'll hear about historical African American figures from years past. But to kick off the month, we'd like to highlight two east Texans.

CBS 19's Katiera Winfrey brings us a special report focusing on two respected figures in the community.

On Sunday mornings you can find Reverend Jerome Milton and Reverend Orenthia Mason in their respective churches, but for each of these Tyler pastors, their work isn't over once church lets out.

"I wanted to come to a community where I could make an impact I could make an impression and not just be a part of the scenery," said Milton.

Their work spreads throughout the community.

"When the community asks you, I consider it an honor and I know someone has to step up and work with a cross section of the community to make a difference," said Mason.

Milton and Mason share several common threads, the biggest one, is the focus on youth. However, to know more about their work, we need to know more about them. Mason is pastor of Cole Hill CME Church.

"I started serving as a leader as a girl scout. I always knew they were shaping my life, for leadership in the community," she said.

Mason grew up in Tyler, graduated from Tyler schools and later graduated from the historically black institution: Texas College.

"When I grew up in a segregated school out teachers told us how to stand up. We were molded and shaped in to being who we are today."

Mason's parents and teachers influenced her desire to enact change in her community. A major portion of her work focuses on the youth.

"You shape and mold a child..directing a path begins as a baby."

Throughout her career as a community leader, she's worked with East Texas Food Bank, People Attempting to Help (PATH),Texas College and is currently serving as the Tyler ISD board president. But that's only naming a few endeavors. However being a part of so much wasn't a hard decision to make.

"I always believed in giving back to my community."

Veteran Cole Hill Church member Herndon Johnson says community service is just in Mason's nature.

"She wants to help every individual she can, not just on Sunday here, but during the week in the community she's always there," Johnson said.

The same can be said of Rev. Milton at Greater New Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church.

"He's there if you need him, he's not just a Pastor that preaches Sunday morning," said church member Camryn Smith.

"It feels great you know that he's trying to work with other people outside of the church," said church member Charleese Wade.

Originally from California, Milton overcame a lot to become a respected community leader.

"We had to have a change of mind and a change of culture," he said.

Growing up he bounced between14 foster homes, and reformatory schools. He attributes the change in his life to God, and to his last foster mother.

"Took a broken tattered and shattered little boy and said don't let your abuse be your excuse. She loved the hate out of me," Milton said.

It was during those years, that he made a conscious decision to continue a life of compassion and progress. Taking a dr. Martin Luther king approach to community improvement.

"I believe firmly any movement you start if it can't live without you, it never should have been started in the first place."

Milton started the first MLK services in Tyler nearly 30 years ago. He most recently spearheaded a movement to stop gun and gang violence following the death of a young mother in a Tyler park.

"We want the shootings to stop, we want the robberies and beatings to stop, but also the hatred and misunderstanding and the racial injustices," Milton

Milton and Mason, these two black community leaders don't plan to stop their work anytime soon.

The progress and change are too good to give up.

"This is our moment, this is our time, this is our season to step up, to make a difference in Tyler Smith County."

"When I close my eyes on this side of mothers earth I want it said that I tried to help somebody."

A message both Milton and mason stand by is that anyone can have a positive impact on the community, but it starts with a desire to help and actually take that first step.

Find Katiera on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.


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