Mount Tabor’s Emancipation Proclamation Service highlights “Kulibah”
By Derek Joy
And so it was – a celebration of the beginning of 2013.
The New Year rang true to form as much of America engaged in the usual celebrations highlighted by parties, social gatherings and the like.
Mount Tabor M. B. Church in Liberty City held its 23rd Annual Emancipation Proclamation Service that was highlighted by a powerful sermon delivered by Minister Wendell H. Paris, Jr.
Rev. Dr. George E. McRae, Mt. Tabor’s pastor, who conceived the Emancipation Proclamation Service 23 years ago, collaborated with Dr. Maxine Thurston-Fischer, Rev. Richard Allen Clements, Jr. and Trustee Juanita Lane to organize this program under the theme: “Trust to Our God: Trust to Our Native Land.”
Fittingly, Minister William McKnight read scriptures taken from Exodus 3:7 and Galatians 5:1 to accent the indepth meaning of a “freedom from bondage. . .” to parallel the Emancipation Proclamation as “Man’s version of freeing us.”
Minister Leo Marshall, who presided over the program, set the tone for what was to come.
“They teach history in our schools every single day,” said Marshall. “We have a rich history. But we only talk about Black History one month in the year. You know how they say ‘We perish as a people for a lack of knowledge’?”
Congregants joined Sister Marguerite McKain in reading the Emancipation Proclamation, which was ratified by Congress and signed by President Abraham Lincoln on Sept. 22, 1862, and became law on Jan. 1, 1863.
“I guarantee you nobody was trying to be a big shot before the Emancipation Proclamation took effect,” said McRae. “When the news hit African Americans they were saying, ‘Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m free at last’.”
Anticipation grew among the congregation as McRae, who, in addition to other interesting sidebars, introduced the guest speaker, Minister Paris, as the campus minister at Florida Memorial University (FMU).
Thus the excitement of religious and historical education in the rich tradition of Southern Baptists began.
Basing his message on Deuteronomy 34:9 and Joshua 1:1-9, Min. Paris chose the topic, “The People Could Fly.”
Said Paris: “My soul looked back and wondered how I got over the difficult times. Ten years ago when I thought about this day, none of us thought we’d have a Barack Obama.”
His reference was to President Barack Obama having become the first African American President of the United States, who won a second term last November.
That served as a meaningful purpose in the story of “Transatlantic Africans as a part of the unmitigated tragedy of slavery.”
He told the story of a female slave working in the fields in South Carolina, picking cotton with one hand and holding her infant son in the other. She fell ill and passed out.
The preacher in the fields, according to Paris, rushed to her aid, whispered something in her ear that prompted her to take flight and ascend into the heavens before the eyes of other slaves and the slave master.
Such human-defying miracles prompted the slave master to capture and whip the pastor and demand an explanation then ordered him to bring the slave woman back to the way she was.
MIN. Paris related how the physically beaten preacher, calmly said, “I can’t sir. I already put the word in her.”
The word Paris spoke of “Kulibah,” which originated in West African and simply means the essence of being is remembering who you are and where you came from.
“There are three things to focus on,” said Paris. “Remember who you are. Remember where you came from. And hold onto your heritage. You have to prepare yourself. Sharks were born swimming but eagles aren’t born flying.
“We’re in the wilderness acting like we’re in the Promised Land. We can’t live with these delusions of grandeur. We’ve only gotten glimpses of the Promised Land. We can’t live like we lived in Egypt. And we sure can’t live like we’re going to live in Caanan.”
And thus went the overwhelmingly powerful message at Mount Tabor M.B. Church on Jan. 1, 2013, as the congregants and McRae enjoyed the fruits of his 23-year-old concept of an Emancipation Proclamation Service.
“I always had a burning in my heart to do this on the first day of the year,” replied Pastor McRae, when asked what motivated him to start this activity. “And God has blessed us with another day, another year.”