BROOKSVILLE — The nods and utterances of amen said it all.
One hundred and forty-six years after it was abolished by the U.S. government, the subject of slavery still elicits passion and emotion. To the assembly gathered Thursday at the Allen Temple AME church in Brooksville, the third annual Jubilee Day observance offered a reflective setting to look back at black America's long journey from slavery to freedom.
About 100 guests sat in wooden pews inside the storied church on Leonard Street and sang along to familiar hymns, listened to Bible scriptures and reveled in thoughtful sermons meant to evoke both a historical reverence for the past as well as a hopeful eye toward the future, one that involves the inauguration later this month of the first African-American to be elected president of the United States.
The event, which has been hosted by the Hernando County Branch NAACP for the past three years, emphasized the spiritual importance and religious symbolism of President Abraham Lincoln's signing into law the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.
Speaker John Waddy punctuated his reading of the Proclamation with a sharp reminder of the enduring spirit of black America's ancestors.
"I don't need freedom when I'm dead. I can't live on tomorrow's bread," said Waddy, borrowing inspiration from a poem Langston Hughes wrote about freedom and democracy.
Pastor Herman Scriven of the Eastside House of God said that while freedom in its self is worth celebrating, African-Americans might never be completely free of the effects of hundreds of years of oppression.
"The wounds of slavery still fester in America," said Scrivens, adding that there has never been a collective apology to African-Americans for the suffering that he said left black America forever scarred.
"We built a nation on their backs," Scrivens said. "And those two words, 'I'm sorry' have yet to come forth.
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.