Jubilee day commemorates signing of emancipation proclamation, anniversary of naacp
There was no shortage of reasons to celebrate.
On New Year's Day 2009, those in attendance at the Jubilee Day event, presented by the Morgan County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), came together to mark the anniversary of two historic events - the 146th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln and the start of the year-long celebration of the NAACP's 100-year birthday.
"I do believe God has some great plans for us this year," soloist Christopher Murray said, before belting a soulful rendition of "How Great Thou Art."
The event, held Thursday morning at Smyrna Baptist Church and including about 50 NAACP officers and members as well as at least one county official, began with inspiration - the whispering of prayer, the reading of scripture and voices lifted in song - before one of the Morgan County NAACP's young members, Kiara Smith, read the Emancipation Proclamation, in its entirety, to the crowd.
Following the reading, Rev. Royce Tillman of Second St. Paul Baptist Church, speaker for the morning's event, gave a message he felt called by God to bring to the crowd.
"Today, the message on my heart to give is one God has placed there for quite some time," Tillman said. "We must re-state our mission. There is a mission, and we need a mission."
Recalling his time at Morehouse College, Tillman spoke of an audio recording he found in the college's archives during research. The recording featured a man who traveled around formerly Confederate states right after the Civil War interviewing former slaves. Tillman compared the new life they faced to the changes in the country today.
"Many of them had joy; many of them were confused," Tillman said. "They didn't have anywhere to go; they didn't know anything but the plantation. It was a new horizon...This [year] is the 100-year celebration of the NAACP. It is a new horizon. Now, we have the 44th President of the United States who is an African-American."
On the recent General Election, Tillman said that the decision to elect Barack Obama as President told him that America was changing.
"The young generation is now looking beyond those things," Tillman said. "Now we've got a new day ahead, a new life ahead."
Discussing the founding of the NAACP in 1909, Tillman spoke of how people of all races came together to form the organization because they felt that, aside from the Emancipation Proclamation itself, nothing was being done to better the situation of former slaves. He encouraged the local branch of the NAACP to re-state their mission, much as the those who established the NAACP had to make clear their mission.
"We can either come together and help each other or we can come together and do nothing at all," Tillman said. "No organization would be anything without a mission statement."
Tillman reminded the crowd that the NAACP's mission is to "help the oppressed." He concluded by talking about the mission of the NAACP on a local level.
"A mission must be identified in this county," Tillman said. "The mission could be simple, like 'Let's raise the Graduation Rate.'...God gives us what we need within ourselves, but He's only going to get started when we have a mission."
"Without a vision, the people perish," Rev. Harlon Heard, pastor of Smyrna Baptist, agreed.
In bringing the acknowledgments, Morgan County Branch NAACP President Laura Butler continued the message.
"As our President-Elect Obama said, 'It's time for a change,'" Butler said. "We need to attend city council meetings, county commission, school board meetings. My children are grown or in college, but the children here are still my responsibility."
In other news, the Morgan County Branch of the NAACP will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 19 with a breakfast at 8 a.m. at Source of Light Ministries and a religious program at 6:30 p.m. at Flat Rock Baptist Church, where Rev. Harlon Heard, of Smyrna Baptist Church, will be the featured speaker.
"This year we're going to do things bigger and better," Morgan County Branch NAACP officer Sheila Tolbert said. "It is our centennial year."
To view a larger image of the layout please click HERE.
Printed in the January 8, 2008 edition.