GARY | 2013 was the most commemorative year in the history of black America, a community activist and pastor told those gathered Wednesday for the 53rd annual Emancipation Proclamation Program of Freedom at Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church.
The Interfaith Clergy Council of Gary and Vicinity on Wednesday hosted the program celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation, which consists of two executive orders issued by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.
The first one, issued Sept. 22, 1862, declared the freedom of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by Jan. 1, 1863.
The second order, issued Jan. 1, 1863, named the specific states where it applied.
Pastor Dwight Gardner, of Trinity Baptist Church, said in 2013 there were celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Washington, D.C., and the swearing-in of Barack Obama as president for a second term.
And the list goes on, Gardner said.
“We spent most of the year celebrating our heroes, our heritage and our achievements,” Gardner said. “The median income for a black family today is 80 percent higher than it was in 1963. As recently as 2000, there were more black men in prison than in college. But today that is no longer true.”
The problem is while black Americans have been celebrating every gain made in the country, “the freedom we’ve fought for, bled for, died for, is being stripped, dismantled and disengaged from the engine of progress," Gardner said.
Gardner cited several recent losses. The Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act that protected black voters, and the" corporatization" of public education dollars has led to the near implosion of public schools in many communities, he said. If Gary is at the brink of bankruptcy, it’s only because it was legislated there through exclusive “us only” legislation, Gardner said.
“We’ve made some great strides, but in celebrating have become complacent,” he said.
Among the things black Americans must do are “stand up and be counted, organize and unite," he said.
Barbara Bolling, president of the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP, read the Emancipation Proclamation.
“It was the beginning of a long struggle for equality and justice that continues today,” she said.