Friday, January 2, 2004

Gathering recalls freedom struggle

Emancipation Day celebrated locally

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WALNUT HILLS - Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued 141 years ago, a local organization ensures the monumental event won't be lost in the pages of history.

More than 100 people gathered Thursday at the Metropolitan Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Walnut Hills to observe the anniversary of the executive order abolishing slavery.

"We must continue to celebrate our history," said Rev. Eugene Godhigh, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, sponsor of the 14th annual local observance.

"We must continue to teach our young folks our history, so they know the path they have come. Once you teach them who they are and where they have come from, then they can begin to recognize who they can be," Godhigh said.

Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, newly named interim president and chief executive of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was the guest speaker. Shuttlesworth, pastor of Greater New Light Baptist Church in Avondale, delivered a fiery sermon, urging the crowd to follow Jesus Christ.

"This here is Emancipation Proclamation Day, but God's total emancipation is salvation ... I wish each Christian would keep the gospel of Jesus Christ a sacred trust. We must always remember who we are and always remember we are nothing without Him."

There are still many battles to fight, he said.

"As long as we're on this earth, there will be something that needs to be cleaned up. ... The problem today is we have a lot of passion in this world, but we don't have enough compassion to stir us out of our seats."

Five people were honored for their contributions to the African-American community and Cincinnati: Marian Spencer, Dr. William Land, Rev. J.W. Jones, Bishop E. Lynn Brown and Renaldo Ventus.

Ventus, 18, of Over-the-Rhine is the first youth honored by the ministerial alliance. While his resume isn't as packed as his co-honorees, he was honored as a beacon of promise - a youth who does well in school and leads an exemplary life.

He ranked sixth in his class of 260 at Hughes Center last year. He's now a University of Cincinnati freshman majoring in information systems.

After the celebration, Ventus talked about the importance of remembering Emancipation Proclamation Day. His ancestors paved the way, he said, because it was their struggles and persistence that made it possible for him to attend college on multiple scholarships.

"If you don't know your history, you can't really appreciate the blessings you have today," Ventus said. "That's why I think it's important for young people to know where they came from and know their roots."


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