Kirk Whalum will perform at Bethel AME Church Sunday pic

  • Kirk Whalum will perform at Bethel AME Church Sunday.

2-8 p.m. Bethel AME Church. Free, $20 for VIP seating.

This weekend, Little Rock’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church will celebrate its sesquicentennial. Think about that: 150 years. That’s older than most institutions in this state and it was begun under the type of duress and struggle that is hard to imagine. There are some interesting historical notes on the church’s website.

Bethel AME was first founded as Campbell Chapel by a freeman named Nathan Warren in 1863, the year of the Emancipation Proclamation. Bethel has served as one of the cornerstones of Little Rock’s African-American community, and counts a number of notable congregants and attendees, including Daisy Bates, musicians Art Porter Sr. and Art Porter Jr., former Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, and Little Rock Nine members Melba Patillo Beals, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray Karlmark and Carlotta Walls Lanier.


The congregation will kick off the celebration of this important milestone with its Gospel Jazz Concert, featuring Memphis native and Grammy-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum, who has performed with a laundry list of notable performers (including Whitney Houston and Babyface, among others) and who released several albums of his own material. There will be a children’s area at the event, as well as food vendors.