The annual celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation was held on New Year’s Day, January 1st at Bethel AME Church at 511 Woodland Drive in Pensacola, Florida where Rev. Clifton Riley serves as Pastor. The event is held every year under the auspices of The Emancipation Day/Black History Committee which was begun by Rev. S.E. Chatmon, the deceased former pastor of Talbot Chapel AME Zion Church, and now under the leadership of Elder Zebedee Nicholson. Rev. Isaac Williams, Pastor of Greater True Vine Missionary Baptist Church presided over the service which was celebrated in song by the Bethel AME Male Choir and the Mount Canaan Missionary Baptist Church Choir. Rev. Douglas Young, the new pastor at Mount Canaan Missionary Baptist Church brought the message of the continuing struggle of African-Americans in today’s society.
The Emancipation Day/Black History Committee is supported by Pensacola and Escambia County area African-American churches as a community effort to celebrate President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the legislation to free the slaves. The committee is also supported by the churches to provide scholarships for young students to attend college and technical schools. Donna Woodward, Scholarship Chairman presented a scholarship to India Wright a member of True Vine Missionary Baptist Church. The committee also involves students in their presentation by having them read the actual Emancipation Proclamation. This year Tatyana Stallworth, a Pensacola High School 9th grader and Tania Stallworth, a workman Middle School eighth grader read the historic document.
The Escambia County Kwanza Committee and the NAACP Pensacola Branch, also, collaborated with the Emancipation Day/Black History Committee. The Kwanza Committee lit the final candle representing Imani or Faith in commemoration of the annual African-American heritage ritual. Dr. John Veasley, President of the local NAACP Branch made a passionate appeal for the community to embrace the spirit of the Emancipation Proclamation to continue the fight for equality and the battle against racism by joining the NAACP and becoming involved in the local programs of the national civil rights organization.