Flint, MI—When he was just 8 years old, the Reverend Dr. Kim Yarber recalls studying the television in his Detroit home.
He watched as scenes in the struggle for civil rights flashed across the small screen. Scenes like former Alabama Governor George Wallace’s stand against desegregation at the University of Alabama and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Then, on Sept. 15, 1963, white supremacists planted a bomb in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., killing four girls and injuring many more who were there for Sunday school.
“I couldn’t understand why it was working like it was working at that particular time,” Yarber said.
And he is still trying to understand 60 years later, he said. But now, as the pastor of Mt. Hermon Baptist Church in Flint, Mich., Yarber is also trying to educate.
On top of sermons and Sunday school lectures, Yarber spends roughly half of each year researching and designing his annual African American history calendar.
The calendars are meticulously crafted, to the point that almost every day on each year’s calendar features a note on a significant event in African American history. Each month is dedicated to a historical figure as well, including illustrations and brief biographies.
For 2023, Yarber dedicated the calendar’s cover to the four girls who lost their lives 60 years ago in Birmingham, Ala. with a painting by Flint-based artist Chris Watson.
Yarber’s calendar-making journey began in 1987, he said. In fact, his interest was bolstered just a few years later when he started teaching African American history and religion at the University of Michigan-Flint, he said, a job which he held for about 12 years.
“I just love for people to learn,” Yarber said. “I want to bless everybody who I come in contact with—everybody … And I think that through education is a great way that it happens right there.”
Yarber said he now combs through pages both in books and on the web, searching for moments ranging from the founding of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority on Jan. 13, 1913 to the patenting of the first commercial lemon squeezer by African American inventor John T. White on Dec. 8, 1896.
Although some events remain constant through the years, Yarber makes sure to include new ones with each new calendar. He added that such acknowledgements shouldn’t be relegated exclusively to Black History Month in February.
“Because there’s Black history all the time,” he said.
For example, Yarber said he’s been looking forward to dedicating a month to former Flint Mayor Floyd McCree, one of the first African Americans to serve as mayor in a major U.S. city after the country’s Reconstruction Era.
McCree is featured in March this year because March 29, 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the former mayor’s birth. “The first time that I’ve featured a Flint person,” Yarber noted.
It wasn’t until the late ‘80s, while Yarber was working toward a master’s degree at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, that he had an opportunity to take a course on Black history and religion.
Now, Yarber said he hopes his calendars can introduce young people to Black history even if they aren’t exposed to it in school.
“To me, I want to learn every day,” he said. “My grandson, my granddaughter, I wanted them to learn. And then also, I’ll give [calendars] to them at some point in time to give to their teacher. … Maybe they might put it on the wall in their classroom.”
Yarber recalled a time he was visiting with relatives when a teenage boy noticed the calendar he was holding and asked to look through it.
“His smile, you know, the whole time he’s reading through it, and just, every word, he sat and read every bit there with that smile,” he said. “And I said, ‘Wow, that’s worth it right there.’”
Yarber sends his calendar out to the people he features in them, too. In 2020, he travelled to Atlanta for the funeral of a fellow pastor, where he had the opportunity to hand that year’s calendar to one of the the people featured on its cover: the late Congressman John Lewis. It was just months before Lewis passed away on July 17, 2020.
“That’s one of the cool things,” he said. “It comes out of Flint, right here. But it’s not just in Flint. It’s been all around the country.”
It was love that originally brought Yarber to Flint, he said. His wife was from the city, so that’s where they got married in 1977. He didn’t expect to stay long, he admitted, but then he became the pastor at Mt. Hermon in 1989, a role he’s held since.
“I guess that’s a God thing,” he said. “He wanted me to work with this community, this church, this congregation.”
For now, preaching to his congregation and leading Sunday school classes keep Yarber busy day-to-day, he said. But he’s already starting to work on next year’s calendar, too.
“I want to teach everybody every day,” Yarber said. “That’s the main thing. I want to teach everybody something.”