Welcome to African American History 2024 | Canon Earl Mounger
As we begin our annual observance of Black History here at St. John’s, I am reminded of the scripture in Isaiah 42:9: “See the former things have taken place, and new things I declare, before they spring into being I announce them to you.”
This verse from the prophet Isaiah makes me think of my paternal ancestors enslaved on a plantation in North Carolina.What must they have been thinking when they were given their freedom? What did the word freedom mean when all they knew was what their master had told them and their ancestors before them, who had arrived as far back as 1619, that you belong to me? What did this new beginning have in store for them?
“See, the former things have taken place. “
Black Americans would come to know about their formerly enslaved ancestors’ lives before and after their enslavement in large part because of Carter G. Woodson, who is known as the “Father of Black History.” As early as 1926, Woodson wanted to designate a time to” promote and educate” people about Black Americans and their culture. It was not until 1976 when then-President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month so that all Americans could“seize the opportunity to honor the too often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
This made it possible for the stories of the formerly enslaved to be written into American History. It was not easy for our ancestors to forge ahead into the unknown. They would have to endure lynching, Black Codes, Jim Crow laws, and the struggle for Civil and Human Rights. Throughout all their struggles, they would learn or create means for survival.
This year, we celebrate Black Americans and the Arts. From slavery to the present, Black American artists, musicians,writers, and performers have played an essential role in shaping our nation's cultural heritage.
Like Isiah,I want to announce our plans before they “spring into being.”
This year,the theme for the month is Black Americans and the Arts. Unfortunately, we cannot cover all the arts during the month. Black American artists have long used visual arts to express their experiences, struggles, and triumphs. The parish hall will be transformed into an art gallery for the month for an exhibition of seven local visual artists to display their works.
Our choir,under the direction of Dr. Gravis, will sing some of the beloved Negro Spirituals and hymns of Black Americans to highlight this uniquely American music. Dr. Neufeld and his Jazz trio will perform during our last Sunday's Coffee Hour.
To show the richness of the Black American literary tradition, we will use the book All the White Friends I Couldn't Keep, written by Andre Henry, the preacher for Absalom Jones Sunday, as an educational tool for Social Justice. Bob Bowen and Felicia Gaddis, members of the cathedral, will share their original works.
We have invited three guest preachers known for their commitment to Social Justice:Brandon Harris, the Associate Dean for Religious and Spiritual Life at USC,will kick off the month by preaching on Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday. Dean Harris was ordained at Dr. King's Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. We are thrilled to welcome back our former rector, Reverend Canon Warner Traynham, and his artwork. Andre Henry is an anti-racism activist, theologian, award-winning musician, and the author of the Bestselling book All the White Friends I Couldn't Keep. He will close out our month by preaching for Absalom Jones on Sunday. Absalom Jones was an early anti-racism activist and the first Black priest ordained in the Episcopal Church.
We hope that by sharing our culture through visual art, music, and preaching, we will achieve the goals of Carter G. Woodson: to promote and educate others about Black Culture.