Danita Harris speaks at Hiawatha Church

Danita Harris preaches the gospel at Women’s Day at Hiawatha Church of God in Christ on Sunday.

ASHTABULA — Channel 5 News Anchor Danita Harris was the guest speaker at the annual Women’s Day program at the Hiawatha Church of God in Christ at 3417 Hiawatha Ave. on Sunday.

Most know Harris as a TV news anchor, but she is also an ordained minister.

Harris spoke on holy women in the Bible and focused her speech on a tract from Ephesians 2:10 entitled Holy Women: God’s Masterpiece Without Apology.

Over 100 people attended the service and program.

Harris joined WEWS News Channel 5 in 1998. She previously worked for the Black Entertainment Television Network (BET) and WJLA ABC News Channel 7 in Washington D.C. She is best known for her stories on the impact of HIV on African American women in northeast Ohio and live reporting from New York City in the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Harris received an Emmy for Good Morning Cleveland in 2004. She was recognized for her community work by Black Women in Sisterhood for Action in 2006. She received the “Women of Vision” award from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 2010. Harris was also recognized as one of the Outstanding Women in Ministry in Cuyahoga County by the National Council of Negro Women. In 2010 she was inducted into the Ohio Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Harris said she was invited to host the event and was glad to do so.

“I was invited to speak at Women’s Day here,” she said. “I do these a lot. I’m also an ordained and licensed minister at Fresh Wind Ministry in Cleveland. My husband, Reverend Brad Pratt is the pastor there and I’m the assistant pastor.”

She said the main thing that drew her to Hiawatha Church of God in Christ for Women’s Day was that she wanted to share the good news of God.

“I’m happy to bring the good news of God where God calls me,” she said. “This event touches the lives of a lot of people.” 

Pastor of the Hiawatha Church of God in Christ David Howard Jr. said the church has held Women’s Day for at least 41 years.

“We’ve held these for four decades,” he said. “I had them in my first year 41 years ago. Our goal at Hiawatha Church of God in Christ is to reach out to the least, the last, the left out and the locked out. Currently we’re reaching out to people on drugs and people in prison.”

He said Harris was chosen to be the keynote speaker not only because of her on-air persona as a news anchor, but also because she is an ordained minister and touches congregations with her dynamic style. 

Chairperson Ola Westerfield of the Hiawatha Church of God in Christ said Harris was the ideal speaker for the Women’s Day program because she knew how to touch congregations.

“This is my first year as chairwoman of Women’s Day,” she said. “We’ve invited other churches this year. Today we have members of churches in Warren, Cleveland and other local churches.”

Assistant Chairwoman Joan Crockett said, “We love Women’s Day and look forward to it every year.”

Westerfield said Women’s Day was started in Ashtabula in 1968 by Geraldine Chapman.

She said women of the church also joined together on Women’s Day to bring their savings — some even from the cookie jar — to help pay the church’s mortgage.

Elder Sean Adams said Women’s Day was a great time to celebrate women in the church with an all day event.

“It’s great all day,” he said. “It’s a wonderful happening.”

Sister Gloria King said Hiawatha Church of God in Christ was an outreach church.

“Today is a day we empower women of faith,” she said.

Elizabeth Miller, a greeter at Women’s Day, said the event gives women a chance to exercise their voices and talents.

“We’ve had some great speakers in the past,” she said. “Danita Harris should be just as great. Everyone loves her on Channel 5.”

Church member Steve Sargent said Danita Harris first became acquainted with Ashtabula and the Hiawatha Church of God in Christ at a gospel fest in North Park a few years ago.

“The Women’s Day committee decided to invite Danita Harris,” he said. “This is her first speaking and preaching event at Hiawatha. She’s both a great speaker and a great preacher.”