At annual emancipation ceremony, elected officials vow to work with those across the aisle for greater good
Community leaders paid homage to the past and looked to the future Tuesday, during a spirited celebration at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church.
Four politicians were sworn into office and 11 high school students were awarded college scholarships during the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Emancipation Association’s annual celebration of President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
“This celebration is such a good way to start the new year,” said Mayor Allen Joines, who has not missed the observance since he was elected in 2001. “…Today, we celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation and its promise of freedom … it was a strong step, a very strong step.”
The nearly two-hour long service took on special meaning this year, as it marked the 150th anniversary of the Jan. 1, 1863 signing of the historic document. It was a fact that was not lost on newly-elected State Rep. Evelyn Terry, who is headed to Raleigh to represent the 71st District. The former City Council member opted to hold her swearing in ceremony during the celebration, and State Sen. Earline Parmon, State Rep. Ed Hanes Jr. and District Court Judge Camille Banks-Payne followed suit.
This is a momentous occasion, and I am humbled to be able to bring greetings today
“This is a momentous occasion, and I am humbled to be able to bring greetings today,” said Terry, who succeeds Larry Womble in the NC House. “One hundred fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation signature, there are African Americans who sit in places where we can legislate, execute and bring the law for our people.”
A member of the Democratic minority in the General Assembly, Terry said she recognized that her new position would not be without its challenges.
“We’re not going to Raleigh in the best of circumstances,” she said. “But we can be instruments of peace, and with your help – all of you who made it possible for us (to serve) – we will do that to the best of our ability.”
Joines also spoke about the importance of bipartisanship in his remarks. Lincoln had to gain support from both sides of the aisle to make his Emancipation Proclamation a reality, and today’s politicians should follow his example, the mayor said.
“I believe here in Winston-Salem, we’ve prospered because we do work together,” he said. “I’m going to continue to work with Council Member Derwin Montgomery, Council Member Denise Adams (both of whom were in attendance) and others to create cooperations, to create collaborations as we move forward. It’s really the only way to get things done.”
In his impassioned keynote address, Host Pastor L. Dwight Hash Sr. encouraged both the scholarship recipients and city and state leaders to “get in the game” of life, and give it all they’ve got.
“You can’t win if you’re not willing to get in the game,” said the father of two. “…If you want people to take you seriously, first you have to take yourself seriously. People are looking for other people that they can depend on. They’re looking for someone with character and integrity.”
Hash implored the new legislators to be unwavering in their pursuit of justice.
“If the course is right, keep putting it out there,” he said. “Do the best you can. Respond to the call. Don’t doubt your future. The job is not too big and yes, you are up for the task.”
The Emancipation Association has awarded college scholarships to deserving local high school students on and off since 1955. This year, the organization honored four students with $1,000 scholarships, and seven more with $100 scholarships to help cover the costs of books. Dr. Manderline Scales, a retired college professor and chair of the Scholarship Committee, said she wished the group could have done more.
“We wish that we could give scholarships to each of the 31 students who applied, but we didn’t have the money to do that,” Scales said.
Seventeen year-old Zana Hill, an aspiring executive assistant, was one of the four $1,000 recipients. The Atkins Academic & Technology High School senior is active on campus, as a member of the tennis team, the varsity cheerleading squad, the National Honor Society, the Key Club and Friends of Rachel, an anti-bullying campaign. Hill, the second of three children, said she was grateful for the support, which she will use to offset the cost of her education at UNC-Charlotte, where she plans to major in business administration. Leroy Anderson III, De’Gary Hargrave and Thomas Williams III rounded out the $1,000 recipients.
Scales praised all the students who applied in her remarks.
“You’re all winners,” she told the student applicants, many of whom were in attendance at the celebration. “God bless each and every one of you, and may you have success in everything you do.”
The Association collected more than $3,200 in donations during the celebration, which also serves as the chief fundraiser for the following year’s scholarship fund.