I don’t know about you, but as 2015 came to an end, I realize I have been increasingly afraid for the lives of ALL Black people in these United States. All year, along with the rest of the world, we have seen clearly, with the help of videotape, that Black lives are indispensable and there are few, if any, consequences for the murder of Black people.
The message in the stories repeats itself and is brutally clear. Black people are dying everyday the murderes are later exonerated because “they feared for their lives.” Take a capsuled glimpse at 2015…
Michael Brown, murdered, Ferguson, MO. Grand Jury, no indictment of the murderer, he feared for his life. Eric Gardner, murdered, New York City. Grand Jury, no indictment of the murderers. Walter Scott, murdered – North Charleston., SC. Grand jury, indicted on first degree murder. Freddie Gray, critically injured and later died, Baltimore, MD. Grand Jury, to date, no indictment. 12 year old Tamir Rice, murdered, Cleveland, OH. Grand Jury, no indictment, he feared for his life. Sandra Bland, murdered, supposedly committed suicide, Prairie View, TX. Grand jury, no one indicted. LaQuan McDonald, murdered, shot 16 times, Chicago, IL. Video suppressed for a year. Murdered pleads not guilty – he feared for his life. Jonathan Ferrell, former FAMU football player seeking assistant with his car accident, murdered, shot 10 times, Charlotte, NC. Grand Jury, no indictment. He feared for his life. Anthony Hill, Air Force Veteran with bi-polar disease, naked outside his apartment, murdered, Chamblee, GA. Grand jury, no indictment, he feared for his life. Jerame Reid, unarmed, hands up, murdered, Bridgetown, NJ. Grand Jury, no indictment. He feared for his life. Christmas weekend, Chicago, IL, Quintonio LeGrier’s father calls for assistance with son suffering from mental illness. Quintonio and the neighbor Betty Jones who opened the door for the police, both murdered. And what do we expect will happen here? Grand Jury, no indictment. He feared for his life.
*On This date in 1862 the first Watch Night Services were celebrated in Back communities in America.
The Watch Night service can be traced back to gatherings also known as “Freedom’s Eve.” On that night, Black slaves and free blacks came together in churches and private homes all across the nation awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation actually had become law. At the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863; all slaves in the Confederate States were declared legally free. When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as many people fell to their knees and thanked God.
Blacks have gathered in churches annually on New Year’s Eve ever since, praising God for bringing us safely through another year.It’s been over a century since the first Freedom’s Eve and tradition still brings us together at this time every year to celebrate “how we got over.”This celebration takes many African American descendants of slaves into a new year with praise and worship. The service usually begins anywhere from 7 p.m. To 10 p.m. and ends at midnight with the entrance of the New Year. Some people come to church first, before going out to celebrate, for others, church is the only New Year’s Eve event.
There have been instances where clergy in mainline denominations questioned the propriety of linking religious services with a secular holiday like New Year’s Eve. However, there is a reason for the importance of New Year’s Eve services in the Black experience in America.
The African American Desk Reference
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.
Whether you went to church, celebrated with others or meditated alone, my prayer is that we will be focused, as a collective Black family, to look back as we watched the 2015 night end and ask the Divine Creator for the hope, desires and prayers of our ancestors to guide us as we look forward into the 2016 New Year with spirit, energy, resolve, commitment, and determination to become a self determined people, by any means necessary, and that we will exist in peace, in love and free from harm.
Working together, the ants ate the elephant~African Proverb
J Toni Oliver
National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW)
2305 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue
Washington, DC 20020
202/678-4570 (ph) 202/678-4572 (f)