From my home to yours, I wish you rich blessings into the New Year. Here is a special article I created about the history of Watch Night Service in the African American community. The tradition predated the importance of the famous 1862 Watch Night Services and originated with the Moravians in Germany many years earlier. The first Methodist church in America to celebrate Watch Night in the 1700s was St. George United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, the home church of Bishop Richard Allen, co-founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. However, it has become particularly important in the Black Church, with its evolution in the early to mid-1800s. The word evolved from “Freedom’s Eve” to “Watch Night” as the freed and enslaved blacks “watched” the clock strike 12 midnight, turning the course of the Civil War and freeing three million slaves in the states of the rebellion.
Wishing You The Best in 2020!
Carole Copeland Thomas, MBA CDMP, CITM
The History Of Watch Night Services In The Black Church
by Carole Copeland Thomas
With the festivities of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa now on full display, there is still time to reflect on the ritual of my ancestors and many other African Americans, whose forefathers sat around campfires and wood stoves in the twilight of December 31, 1862. There they sang spirituals acapella, prayed, and thanked the Good Lord for what was about to happen the next day. In the North, Abolitionists were jubilant that the “peculiar institution” was finally about to get dismantled one plantation at a time.
The booklet, Walking Tours of Civil War Boston sites this about this historic event:
“On January 1, 1863, large anti-slavery crowds gathered at Boston’s Music Hall and Tremont Temple to await word that President Abraham Lincoln had issued the much-anticipated Emancipation Proclamation (EP). Those present at the Music Hall included Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe, poets Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier and essayist, poet and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. Also present was Ralph Waldo Emerson, who composed his Boston Hymn to mark the occasion.”
Now… Let’s Look Back...157 Years Ago Tonight...
It was on January 1, 1863, amidst the cannon fire, gunshots, and burnings at the height of the Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln sealed his own fate and signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It begins with the following decree:
Whereas on the 22nd day of September, A.D. 1862, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, towit:
"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.”
That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."
CAROLE' S TRANSLATION:
Effective January 1, 1863, all slaves in the states in rebellion against the Union are free.
Technically that is all that President Lincoln could do at the time. He used his wartime powers as Commander in Chief to liberate the "property" of the states in rebellion of the Union. The act did not free the slaves of the Union or border states (Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, or West Virginia) or any southern state under Union control (like parts of Virginia). It would take the 13th Amendment (that freed all slaves in 1865), the Union Army winning the Civil War (April 9, 1865), and the assassination of President Lincoln (shot on April 14th and died on April 15, 1865) for all of the slaves to be freed. That included the liberation of the slaves in rebellious Texas on June 19, 1865 (Juneteenth Day) and finally the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 18, 1865, giving all black people freedom and permanently abolishing slavery in the US.
So in 1862 on the eve of this great era, the slaves "watched", prayed, and waited. My ancestors, including Bishop Wesley John Gaines of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) (a slave in Georgia freed by the EP) and the other three million slaves, prayed for divine guidance and an empowered Abraham Lincoln to do the right thing. It is as important today as the tradition of black people eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck.
Following the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves were freed in stages, based on where they lived, the willingness of the plantation owner to release them and when Union troops began to control their area.
Black educator and community activist Booker T. Washington as a boy of 9 in Virginia, remembered the day in early 1865:
“As the great day drew nearer, there was more singing in the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more ring, and lasted later into the night. Most of the verses of the plantation songs had some reference to freedom. ... Some man who seemed to be a stranger (a United States officer, I presume) made a little speech and then read a rather long paper—the Emancipation Proclamation, I think. After the reading, we were told that we were all free and could go when and where we pleased. My mother, who was standing by my side, leaned over and kissed her children, while tears of joy ran down her cheeks. She explained to us what it all meant, that this was the day for which she had been so long praying, but fearing that she would never live to see.”
The longest holdouts were the slaves in Texas, who were not freed until June 19, 1865, two months after the Civil War ended. That day is now celebrated as Juneteenth Day around the United States.
That is the history of Watch Night in the African American culture.
May you and your family enjoy a spirit-filled New Year throughout 2020. Thank you for ALL of your support you have given to me and my business throughout 2019.
Five international holidays converge onto the scene every December (and early January) to make our schedules hectic, exciting, and pressure-filled. Wrapping gifts while shopping at odd hours of the night either push us into the spirit of happiness OR help us find an escape path until all of the celebrations are over.
Here are related links to five holidays with religious and nonreligious implications. You'll learn some interesting facts and figures that will make you scratch your head in amazement. The marathon includes Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Three Kings Day. Learn new stuff and pass it on as the merriment continues throughout the holiday season.
-Carole Copeland Thomas
Links and Resources For The Five Holidays
2 Winter Solstice
Parenting Article Written For Kids
History of the Christmas Tree
5 Three Kings Day
By Carole Copeland Thomas
I did not know her or even recognize her in late September when I sat on the same church pew with her on that fateful day. We were sitting on opposite ends but remained resolute and reflective on the occasion. And we both were featured speakers, paying tributes to a dedicated civil rights icon, whose funeral would last for more than four hours in Atlanta, Georgia.
We were both attending the funeral of one of my oldest and dearest friends on the planet. Both paying tribute to Juanita Jones Abernathy, the widow of Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, the closest associate to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. My connection to Juanita and that of many others that day were understandable. That included the King children, Bernice and Martin Luther King, III, who sat two pews behind us. It also included Representative John Lewis, the United States Congressman, who was badly beaten as a young student during the 1965 March on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Congressman Lewis sat right in front of me, and we chatted briefly before the funeral started.
We were all predictable attendees, devoted to the Abernathy family and steadfast advocates for civil rights and social justice for all.
It was Peggy Wallace Kennedy whose presence marked a startling change in the annals of American history. The daughter of one of the country’s most vile segregationists invited to speak at the funeral of one of her father’s former arch enemies. Peggy’s father: former Alabama governor and presidential candidate George Wallace.
George Wallace, who died in 1998 and was struck and paralyzed by an assassin’s bullet in 1972, was a champion racist and orchestrator of some of the worst civil rights violations in modern times. The assassination attempt changed his racial ideology, but the damage he had done for years will never be forgotten.
It’s his daughter, Peggy, who is now trying the right the wrongs of his past. And she’s reaching out to the country’s racial justice warriors to prove that she’s genuine, that she cares and that she sees the world differently from her dad.
Her father’s racial hatred was notorious. He was a first-term governor in 1965 when John Lewis, a young student from Troy, Alabama, suffered a fractured skull at the hands of the Alabama state troopers during the Selma March. Governor Wallace’s famous 1963 gubernatorial inaugural speech stated the following:
“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
So much for one daughter to overcome.
Yet Peggy Wallace Kennedy’s steadfast determination to walk in a different path from her father found her invited to speak at Juanita Abernathy’s funeral. Her remarks were carefully crafted and poignant. Her tributes to Juanita beautifully woven into the tapestry of reconciliation and peace.
During her remarks at the funeral, Peggy said, “As for me…she believed in me…in who I was rather than who I belonged to. She was my friend. Juanita helped changed the landscape of America for the benefit of all. She stood steadfast in the belief that all lives matter.”
Following her five minute tribute, she walked right over to John Lewis, who hugged and embraced her with love and admiration. During his remarks, he said, “Peggy Wallace Kennedy, thank you for bearing witness to the truth.”
For an extended time, she hugged Juanita’s younger daughter, Hollywood actress Donzaleigh Abernathy, signaling the times have changed, and there’s no room for returning to the racial hatred of the past.
Peggy Wallace Davis has written a new memoir, The Broken Road: George Wallace And A Daughter’s Journey To Reconciliation. I certainly plan on reading the book and inviting Peggy on my new podcast that will start in 2020. Perhaps it will give new clues to why her father basked in the pool of hatred as he climbed the political ladder of success in the deep South of the 1960s. Forgiveness can sometimes take generations as the healing process seeps into our soul. My hope is that her mission and her message will cause us all to look deeply inside of ourselves to find new ways to build cross-cultural bridges to our future.
By Carole Copeland Thomas
For some, the holidays are a triumphant time to celebrate the Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and other religious and nonreligious traditions on the season. Gift giving, office parties, and tons of food are earmarked with company bonuses, holiday concerts, and family get-togethers wrapped up in bright shiny packages. And let’s now forget the children, whose excitement and anticipation of Christmas are filled with toys, presents, and at least a one week break from school.
Those are the happy reflections of the holidays that perhaps represent your current state of mind. For others, a different picture unfolds as another season, or a new reminder takes shape of sadness, misery, and loss.
I know both kinds of holidays, including the happiness of my childhood years combined with the first Christmas after losing my teenage son. The happy and the sad times are both graphic reminders of what many people are facing this December.
For those who are struggling to get through the season, here are FIVE ways to cope with the holidays in a proactive and intentional manner. These are proven methods that have helped me in past years and should help those who need an anchor to navigate the season.
1. Think Of December As A Temporary Moment In Time
I am reminded of my dear friend, Joni Spicer, who faced terminal cancer in 2018 and how she navigated through last December. She made up her mind, called all of her friends, and hosted her Annual Christmas Eve Open House. I dropped by early on and was amazed by her courage and confidence to celebrate the temporary. She was thin as a rail but looked elegant and beautiful. Her house was decorated like a Norman Rockwell Christmas card. I understand that countless friends attended her gathering and celebrated the here and now with Joni and her family.
We buried Joni the next month, but what a climactic ending orchestrated with every last ounce of energy she had in her body. It was a temporary moment in time and a way for this courageous woman to not let death define her holiday spirit. Her act of courage will stay with me forever.
Perhaps you can find some ritualistic way to celebrate what you have in a meaningful and spirit-filled manner. Yes, it’s temporary, but it will hopefully move you through a more inviting 2020.
2. Your Loss Is Real, And Your Pain Is Normal
Perhaps there are only a few close friends to whom you can express this emotion. Most people are simply too wrapped up in their own drama to take on yours. Some people don’t care, others want you to “get over it,” and a tiny fraction are gleeful about your misery.
Be careful whose confidence you keep. When you’re in pain, emotionally or physically, express yourself to those who really care. Don’t ignore your feelings, and don’t navigate this month in denial. You’re human, and your sheer resilience should help you gain the strength and hopefulness to move forward in your life.
3. Reflect On The Positive
Our human nature and our protective emotional devices propel us from zero to 500 when events happen to us. You receive a note from your doctor that a second test is needed for precautions only. Your mind immediately goes to a terminal illness.
It's difficult to schedule a meeting with your boss about that raise you’re going to request. Your mind tells you that something is wrong and your job is in jeopardy.
Or a normal business slowdown occurs in December, and you panic with thoughts of your company shutting down.
These are all very real emotions that YOU must manage. Going to the “dark side” is a natural reaction. YOU must manage that reaction by pumping your thoughts with positive ideas, affirmations, and expectations. Do it first thing in the morning, EVERY morning to remind YOU that a positive perspective is more productive than negative stimulators. Thank your doctor for her/his proactive choice that will KEEP you healthy in the days ahead. Understand that your boss has deadlines to meet and has NOT forgotten to schedule a meeting with you. And remind yourself next summer to add on extra marketing activities so that WHEN the December slowdown happens, you’ll be prepared.
It’s a mind shift, designed to redirect your thoughts in a more positive-proactive manner.
4. Add Lighting To Your Home or Office
Depending on where you live in the world, shorter days in December might affect your emotions. That’s a real clinical condition for some, whose emotional state is directly impacted by increased darkness in late afternoons. And there’s an entire historical pagan tradition around December 21st, Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.
To counter the darkness, add additional lighting to your home or office. If you celebrate Christmas, the lights on Christmas trees and other holiday decorations can improve your mood. So think of adding additional lamps and other lighting devices from December through March as mood-picker uppers. Fireplaces are also beneficial. Light and sunshine work wonders on improving your emotional state of being and general outlook on life.
Yes, deep breathing provides a healthy and proactive way to clear your thoughts and center your spirit for another day of adventure. As part of my morning routine after prayers and journaling, I recite a positive affirmation that reminds me to breathe and stay calm during the day. It’s a good way to center yourself while being reminded that your mind and body will be better positioned for whatever life throws at you when you practice deep breathing and staying calm. That’s my morning message to ME as I face all the ups and downs in my business and personal life.
From yoga to health regiments to working out at the gym, deep breathing gives you energy and provides the pathway to stay focused on your goals and objectives. There are countless breathing exercises you can build into your daily regiment to add value to your healthy lifestyle activities.
These FIVE steps are designed to help you pick yourself up when you feel the positive energy draining from your system. Try them and pass them on to others. Learn how to take life one day at a time. Explore ways to manage your emotional and physical conditions so that you see more promising possibilities in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
Determine what you can and cannot CONTROL or CHANGE. Adjust your attitude when circumstances are out of our control. Fortifying the positive aspects of your attitude will help prepare you for more meaningful and beneficial opportunities in your future.
You can cope! You can overcome! You can make it through the dynamic days of December.
Explore Your Future In 2020
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Visit www.mssconnect.com for complete information.'
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.