BY AMBASSADOR SUZAN JOHNSON COOK
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I am Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, born and raised in Harlem, NY where I served as a pastor for 30 years. I was called into service representing President Clinton and then went on to serve as US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom during the Obama administration. Today I continue to serve as the founder and CEO of Global Black Women’s Chamber of Commerce.
I am especially happy and looking forward to being with you on the day of freedom, American freedom. As your host, I welcome everyone to The Positive Community’s 2nd Annual Great American Emancipation Day Awards Celebration! On January 1st we will join together to remember our people’s sacrifices and enormous contribution to American progress and world culture.
The observance of Emancipation Day has its roots in a Black Church tradition called Watch Night that dates back to December 31, 1862. The next day, January 1st 1863 (158 years ago), President Abraham Lincoln’s executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation, went into effect. On that day, slavery came to an end for over 4 million of our people in the Confederate states during the Civil War, a war that cost over 600,000 American lives.
Our Collective Soul
January 1st is one of the most important dates on the American calendar, especially for African American people. The Civil War changed course—from being a war to save the Union to a war to end slavery. As Almighty God’s Hand was on Pharaoh in the exodus of the Hebrew slaves out from Egypt, so too was the mighty Hand of Providence upon an American president in The Great Emancipation—“Let my People Go!” We owe a debt of gratitude to the descendants of those who fought on the side of the Union Army, many of whom sacrificed their lives on the battlefields for American freedom. The theme for this year’s celebration is: “God Bless the Children!” We must now take a stand on behalf of our children and for the dignity and integrity of our culture, values, and traditions—our collective soul!
We will honor three outstanding individuals, our Torchbearers: Hon. Jeannine LaRue, educator and activist; Bishop William T. Cahoon, Jurisdictional Prelate for the New Garden State Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and pastor of New Reid Temple in East Orange, NJ and House of Prayer, Plainfield, NJ; and Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Mount Vernon, NY, National Board chair for the National Action Network and chairman of Virginia Union University. In addition, we’ll recognize three great organizations: Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce/HARLEM WEEK—Lloyd Williams, president, Voza Rivers, EVP; Black McDonald’s Owners/Operators of NY, CT & NJ—Brian Hairston, president; and the dfree Global Foundation—Rev. Deforest B. Soaries, founder, Tamika Stembridge, Esq. executive director. All, who by example and through unselfish community service, continueto impact the lives of young people by highlighting their value and sense of self-worth.
A Soul Celebration
You are invited to be part of a soul celebration of our very best in music, spoken-word poetry, and theater. On December 31st, many congregations are asked to include in their virtual Watch Night services the African American Cultural Narrative video, entitled “We’ve Come this Far by Faith!” (See it online at thepositivecommunity.com). Together we affirm past triumphs and future achievements! Visit thepositivecommunity.com and download your free copy of the Cultural Narrative. Or you can order this beautiful 19 x 25 inch wall poster for just $15.99 each, or two for $25.99. Teach the children! Ideally, every church and family should take it upon themselves to instruct young people in the truth about who we really are: Liberated sons and daughters of Most High God; mighty descendents of The Great Emancipation—1863!
On behalf of The Positive Community founders Jean Nash Wells and Adrian Council, we thank each of you for your encouragement and support throughout the years. Special thanks to Roll Call to Progress bulk church subscribers (pg. 7). We are most appreciative of our forward-thinking advertisers and event sponsors—stakeholders of community progress. They are: United Airlines, McDonald’s, PSE&G, RWJ Barnabas Health, dfree Foundation, and Berkeley College.
So, on matters concerning the progress of our children and cultural integrity, always remember and never ever forget that we, the people are sovereign (not the person or persons with the most money). Therefore, the only way we can ever be denied of our own blessings— our divine inheritance—is if we deny them ourselves. May the Spirit of Truth speak to your souls; may love dominate our hearts as we share this wonderful Emancipation Day experience. “God Bless the Children!”