Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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January 2, 2013

Community reflects on 150th anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation

Pastor Tom Glenn knows that some day all men — black, white, red and yellow — will be treated as equals in the United States.

He knows the struggles black people have faced throughout time will be rewarded.

“There will be glory after our trials, after our tribulations, after the ridicule, after working lesser jobs, after doing the same work for less pay,” Glenn said Tuesday. “We can’t abort our dreams.”

Glenn told those gathered at Fountain of Life Word and Worship Center he wanted to inspire them to continue what Abraham Lincoln set into motion 150 years ago when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

It was the beginning of the end of slavery in this country.

Kokomo City Councilwoman Janie Young said she was thankful Lincoln had the foresight to think that men and women should be free.

“It takes a person with influence to make things happen,” she said. “Our people didn’t have the power to push things forward.”

Lincoln’s actions didn’t come without a price, though.

“Lincoln had people in his ear telling him what it would cost [to sign a declaration ending slavery,]” Pastor James O’Neal said. “It cost him his life.”

City and county leaders, area pastors and members of the local black community gathered Tuesday for a service commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

It’s a day everyone should remember, he said. It’s something adults should be talking to their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews about, O’Neal said.

“This is not a black celebration only,” O’Neal said. “It’s a celebration of these United States of America. This is who we are. It is incumbent upon us to take our rightful stand and give credence to our history — the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers said although slavery was one of the dark parts of U.S. history, the Emancipation Proclamation established to the world what was right and what was wrong.

He didn’t understand the declaration’s true significance to the nation’s black population until Tuesday’s ceremony, though, he said.

“We learned about it from the perspective of the white person,” he said. “I have no idea how you feel. It was a real beginning for you. I hate to say it, but it was the beginning of a battle that continues on.”

Glenn said he remembers growing up in Kokomo and seeing signs that said “No Mexicans.” He knew that as a black man, that sign was meant for him, too.

So although blacks weren’t enslaved anymore, they weren’t treated as equals either, he said.

Over the years, things slowly started changing.

He remembers the first black man elected to the Kokomo Common Council and the first black man hired as a supervisor at Delco Electronics. Glenn grew up when there were only two black officers on the city police department. Then there were three.

Were things better?

Yes, Glenn said. But that’s not enough.

“We don’t want things comfortable,” Glenn said. “We want things equal. We haven’t arrived there yet.”

Getting there won’t be easy.

Glenn said their race should expect warfare. People may throw dirt on them sometimes, he said, but it doesn’t mean they’re dirty.

It’s dirt that helps plants grow. It, too, will help people grow, he said.

He encouraged those gathered at the commemoration to remain hopeful and patient.

When Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream didn’t come true immediately, people lost hope.

“We had to experience the slavery,” he said. “We had to experience hatred. We had to go through the experience of people telling us we’re not human. But through all that, God had a set time. Our set time has come.”

It’s not time for people to faint, he said. It’s time to start pushing.

But Glenn said his people can only start pushing when they stop killing each other, when they get rid of the crack houses and when they go to school and acquire an education.

He asked the people not to give up.

His words were greeted with an “Amen” from the crowd.

The group stood to their feet to sing Jame Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

“Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,” the people crooned. “Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us; facing the sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won.”

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