2017 Emancipation Proclamation Service

The NAACP calls for unity in the community at the Emancipation Proclamation service held Jan. 1.


ST. PETERSBURG – The St. Petersburg Branch of the NAACP held their yearly Emancipation Proclamation service and installation of officers Jan. 1 at Positive Impact Ministries, where Pastor Kara’lynne Brubaker tends her flock.

Past Second Vice President Corey Givens, Jr., who offered reflections and read from the Emancipation Proclamation, said that New Year’s Eve had a special meaning for African Americans. He asked everyone to envision Dec. 31, 1862—the day before President Abraham Lincoln issued the Proclamation—that officially freed all the slaves in the Union.

“I think about the name George Washington Wells, my great-great grandfather,” he said, “who on that night I can imagine was sitting somewhere in Cairo, Ga., on the Blockhouse Plantation, the son of a slave and a slave owner, and I can imagine him and his mother praying to God to be free. I can see them watching the clock, waiting for 12 o’clock, when they could be free.”

Social justice, civil rights, equality and freedom are not free, he said, before reading directly from the Emancipation Proclamation.

Executive Committee Member at-large Poul Hornsleth urged everyone to sign up for life memberships to the NAACP, stating that the esteemed organization has an ongoing financial need.

“You know where the largest concentration of NAACP life members are,” he asked the crowd rhetorically. “In the obituary pages.”

A lifetime emotional commitment to the NAACP is important, but the $750 life memberships go a long way in aiding the organization financially.  Members can pay it annually at $75 per year, he noted, adding that it comes out to only $6.25 per month.

“It’s 22 cents a day,” he said. “It’s less than a penny an hour. How many people here are willing to give a penny to the NAACP?”

The NAACP community meeting is open to anyone, and even if you’re not on the board, you can see the itemized treasury report and see for yourself that funds are not squandered. Many St. Pete churches became life members decades ago when the fee was only $500, but the trouble now is that they need those churches to keep giving.

The NAACP has since come up with categories of life memberships, where silver life members who pay $75 annually have the opportunity to become gold life members, at $150 per year.

“It’s not just investing your hope,” he said, “but investing your dollars that keeps this going.”

In Pastor Robert Vinson’s keynote speech, he stressed the importance of unity within the African-American community if we are to overcome the obstacles of daily life.

“Unity is something that you need to strive for,” Vinson said, offering the Trinity as the ultimate model of getting along and working together.

Unity sometimes has been based upon what we call earthly associations, he said, but it has nothing to do with people wearing the same color, being a part of the same organization or even coming from the same neighborhood, he said.

“Unity is only given to you by God,” Vinson remarked. “Unity is spiritual.”

He went on to postulate on the differences between the community of decades ago and the apparent lack of unity in today’s community.  Back then you might not have had a two-parent household, he said, but you had a community that was unified. These days there is a “double issue” of a broken community and broken households.

“There has to be a spiritual movement in the community and in the household,” the senior pastor of Faith Memorial Baptist Church said.

Vinson lamented that many are playing the “blame game” these days, with parents, teachers, administrators and students all pointing fingers at one another, even though it is crucial that they all get along.

“The reality is that you cannot love what you hate and you can’t tolerate what you don’t understand,” he underscored. “So replacing people in the classrooms who not only don’t understand, but they’re so frustrated that they start to hate who they’re supposed to be loving. And that has nothing to do with color because black teachers are getting just as frustrated as white teachers are. And white teachers are getting just as frustrated as Asian teachers are.”

In her closing remarks, St. Pete branch NAACP president Maria L. Scruggs stressed the importance eliminating the social and economic injustices that continue to “plague this community.”

“It takes all kinds,” she said, “it takes all denominations, it takes all races and ages to do the work that is at hand.”

To reach Frank Drouzas, email fdrouzas@theweeklychallenger.com

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