Posted on Mon, Feb 10, 2020
There is an old southern saying that says, “It’s a poor frog that won’t praise its own pond.” Although no one else is more deserving of praise than Jesus Christ, we believe honor and appreciation are in order and that charity (love) begins at home and then spreads abroad. Stay tuned for our “In the Spotlight” segments featuring members of our congregation each week during Black History Month.
Raised in Grenada County, Mrs. Anita Bledsoe-Covington is well known among Grenada, Tallahatchie and Yalobusha counties as an entrepreneur and community activist. She was born the ninth child of 11 born to the late Icy Bell and Willie Sykes. Her family was already making great efforts of their own, so it was only natural that she would follow their lead.
Her mother was the head cook of the all-white Monte Cristo restaurant in Grenada from 1963 until the year she passed in 1973. She taught her and exposed her to many things, many of which have contributed to her survival and success. Anita’s twin sister, Juanita, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he traveled through the south in 1967. Subsequently, she was arrested and jailed.
Young Anita accepted Christ and joined First New Hope under the leadership of renown pastor, Rev. C.C. Coleman. She was inspired by her mother to become involved in the ministries of the church and continued to do so everywhere she went including Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church and now at Pleasant Grove.
After living in other cities and states, Mrs. Bledsoe-Covington and her three children moved to Yalobusha County in 1973. This is really where she found her stride. Becoming a widow at a young age, she had a strong desire to be active in her children’s education and development as well as to be an example and motivator for them. She wanted them to see her, somewhat like she had seen her own mother, and want to do more for themselves and to be assets to their communities and beyond.
In reflection, Mrs. Bledsoe-Covington said, “I’ve been involved in a little of everything, but it was always something for betterment.” In 1978, she became the first black female delegate for the Mississippi Democratic Convention in Jackson, as a representative for Yalobusha County. She became a licensed cosmetologist and opened Nita’s Beauty Salon in 1982. The salon earned her many accolades and made her a mainstay in the business community, especially as a minority woman entrepreneur, but in general as well. By 1986, her active participation as a parent garnered her an appointment as the first black chairman of the Title I program for the Coffeeville School District. In the 90’s, she was elected the first female trustee of the Coffeeville School District Board of Education, serving from 1991-1998. Establishing a track record, she was hired as the first black female city clerk for the town of Oakland, Mississippi in 1991.
Never resistant to change, Mrs. Bledsoe-Covington made a career change once again, this time returning to school. She began working as a teacher with the Institution of Community Services, Inc. Head Start program. Although she had already been working as an early childhood education teacher, she attended and graduated from Coahoma Community College with an associate degree in early childhood education in 2003 and a B.S. from Mississippi Valley State University in 2005 in the same field.
Always an active member of whatever congregation she was/is a part of, Mrs. Bledsoe-Covington chose to educate herself spiritually as well. She received the Dean and President Certificate from the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education. She has served in the Mt. Moriah District Baptist Association for decades, from serving as Usher Ministry secretary under Usher President Jonas Kelly to now serving as Congress Dean. She had visited and participated on programs at Pleasant Grove throughout her lifetime and through working with the district. However, she saw Pleasant Grove in a different light after Mrs. Stella Haywood introduced her to Deacon Otto Covington who became her husband. She serves as a deaconess, Director of Christian Education and in any other capacity she sees a need.
Three of her main focuses are family, faith and education so it is very fitting that three of her biggest influences were her mother, Pastor J.C. Batteast (former pastor and moderator) and Mrs. Mary Benoist (education administrator). Her mother’s impact is seen throughout her entire life. Pastor Batteast encouraged her to “do the work of the Lord,” and she watched and admired Mrs. Benoist closely while learning innumerable things in both life and the field of education.
After a lot of hard work and service, raising her family and achieving a series of firsts, she is enjoying life and is fulfilled by helping others. She is proud to have her three children, 10 grandchildren and great grandchild as part of her legacy. In 2010, she was honored as an unsung hero by Carr’s Chapel CME Church, receiving the Succeeding Against the Odds award during their Black History observance. The Honorable Bennie G. Thompson recognized Mrs. Bledsoe-Covington as an extraordinary figure in Black History during 2014 and the proclamation was placed on Congressional Record. When asked if it was her agenda to create black history, her response was, “I’ve always accepted challenges and I guess maybe I did. I wanted to see if I could make a difference!”
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