By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
‘Let Freedom Ring’ Concert Brings Out Exuberant Bond with Musicians, Audience
Freedom and joy both rang out at Plymouth Church last weekend.
The landmark congregation whose founder, Henry Ward Beecher, was famous for his impassioned sermons lambasting the evils of slavery during the years leading up to the Civil War, presented “Let Freedom Ring,” a concert with three acclaimed musical groups. And prefacing the music was another surprise of history.
Maurice Middleberg, executive director of “Free the Slaves” (FTS) explained the goal of his international organization—to end all forms of slavery in today’s world. The program notes state, “Free the Slaves liberates slaves around the world and changes the systems that allow slavery to persist. FTS runs programs in many of the world’s trafficking hotspots, including Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Haiti, India and Nepal.”
According to FTS’ website, one of the Guiding Principles is believing that “all people have the right to be free from any form of slavery and to realize their true potential.” FTS works worldwide with governments and other organizations to eliminate the incentive to enslave people. Their “Our Work” tab states, “Slavery will end when: Communities no longer tolerate it; Businesses no longer profit from it; Development agencies no longer ignore it; and governments no longer allow it.”
For Middleberg, Saturday was a poignant moment that united his family and two points in history. He pointed out that his wife is a descendant of famed 19th century abolitionist Owen Lovejoy. A Republican Congressman and Congregational minister, Owen Lovejoy died in Brooklyn in 1864. His funeral took place at Plymouth Church, where Middleberg said he was honored to be standing 150 years later. He showed the audience a sketch of Lovejoy.
The quest for freedom—from slavery both of body and soul—was then expressed through music. The Inspirational Voices of Abyssinian Baptist Church, under the direction of Jeff Bolding, opened the concert. One of the most prominent African-American faith institutions in the U.S., Abyssinan Baptist Church is at the forefront of spiritual empowerment, social justice and reform through the building of communities. The Rev. Calvin O. Butts, III is the pastor of Abyssinian. The church celebrates its bicentennial this year with a celebration titled, “Abyssinian 200: True to Our God, True to Our Native Land.”
Following the Inspirational Voices was Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens. Shelton got her earliest musical experience singing in her Baptist Church. She drew her inspiration from the growing soul movement—Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Lou Rawls. She branched out into the secular music world, singing R&B, all the while continuing church work.
Upon settling in New York City, she met Cliff Driver, who would become her musical mentor and collaborator. He performed with the group on Saturday. The Impressions were the headline act at “Let Freedom Ring,” and it was at this point that an already exuberant audience let loose with cheers and hand-waving. In fact, the audience held both a musical and spiritual dialogue with all three ensembles throughout the concert.
Some of the popular songs: “It’s All Right,” “Keep on Pushing” and “People Get Ready,” kept the audience on its feet. At one point, lead singer Reggie Torian paused and spoke of the values he felt are most important in this world: “Love and mercy.”
Claude Scales of the Brooklyn Heights Blog provides a history insight on the song “Choice of Color.” This song, he writes, “was released in 1969, a time when racial tensions were high. They were slated to appear on a late night talk show, The Joey Bishop Show, but before they went on they were told that ABC management had decided they should not do this song. They told Mr. Bishop, who said they should go ahead and sing it.” Before the Impressions took the stage, Daptone records’ The Dap-Kings, featuring Binky Griptite on guitar, gave an instrumental interlude. The Dap-Kings remained on stage for the rest of the concert as the Impressions’ backing band—with Fred Cash’s son joining the group on bass.
Griptite also brought Shelton back onstage to join them for a song. The Impressions concluded the set with “Move On Up”, with the audience exuberantly clapping and waving hands, and multi-colored show lights dancing on the set and the entire Plymouth sanctuary.
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Plymouth Choir Performs Halley Trilogy As Part of ‘Let Freedom Ring’ Weekend
The weekend celebration continued freedom as the theme at the Sunday morning worship service. According to the Plymouth e-News, (details above), Sunday's worship service will be filled with music that honors the human spirit. The Plymouth Choir and guest percussionists (trap set and bongos), under the direction of Minister of Music Bruce Oelschlager, performed Paul Halley's “Freedom Trilogy.” Writes Oelschlager, “‘Freedom Trilogy’ was composed by Paul Halley, organist and choirmaster of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan from 1977 to 1989. The piece is called a trilogy because it juxtaposes Medieval Gregorian Chant, two traditional South African songs, and ‘Amazing Grace’—first sequentially, then simultaneously.”
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Brooklyn Historical Society Launches Major Exhibit on Fighting Slavery
The events at Plymouth, including last Friday’s panel discussion at the Brooklyn Historical Society on “Fighting Modern Day Slavery,” dovetail into the BHS’s longterm exhibit that opens Jan. 15 and runs through Winter 2018.
This major exhibit, “Brooklyn Abolitionists/In Pursuit of Freedom,” explores the unsung heroes of Brooklyn’s anti-slavery movement -- ordinary residents, black and white -- who shaped their neighborhoods, city and nation with a revolutionary vision of freedom and equality. The exhibit is part of the groundbreaking In Pursuit of Freedom public history project that features new research on Brooklyn's abolition movement in partnership with Weeksville Heritage Center and Irondale Ensemble Project.
Moreover, four film-and-discussion nights will be offered in conjunction with the exhibit. Themed “Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle, the films will be presented on Tuesdays, Feb. 11, March 11, March 25 and April 8, all at 6:30 p.m. Titles are “The Abolitionists”; “Freedom Riders”; “The Loving Story”; and “Slavery by Another Name.” This series is made possible through a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, through its Bridging Cultures initiative. Also partnering is the Gilder Lehman Institute of American History. The series is free but registration is necessary; visit www.brooklynhistory.org
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Martin Luther King Day of Service Dedicated to Helping the Needy
Congregations in Brooklyn are responding to a Martin Luther King Day of Service initiative.The Day of Service will take place on the day in which the slain civil rights leader’s birthday is now observed, the third Monday in January. This year, MLK Day falls on Jan. 20. (His birthday is Jan. 15.)
This year, Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope participates in its first MLK Day of Service. Volunteer opportunities will be offered for adults, kids and families, serving the wider community with projects for all ages. Projects will include card-making for patients at Methodist Hospital, food prep with CBE Feeds and Masbia Soup kitchen and working with the Temple’s partners at Brooklyn Community Services. Register through Congregation Beth Elohim’s website.
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Church of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity will also honor the legacy of Dr. King through a Day of Service as the parish’s January outreach effort.
The parish is enlisting support to serve a hot meal to guests of the soup kitchen at CHiPS (Christian Help in Park Slope) on Saturday, Jan. 18. CHiPS serves hundreds of meals to hungry people each week, and is currently badly understaffed.
Volunteers can donate canned foods (tomatoes, vegetables), bags of brown rice, dried beans. Your donations can be delivered to the Parish Hall at 157 Montague Street during the current week Monday-Friday, Jan. 13-17, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Or one may donate funds towards the purchase of food, by bringing a check to the parish office, also at 157 Montague.
This Saturday, six members of St. Ann’s will spend a few hours working with other volunteers at CHiPS (200 4th Ave, Brooklyn) helping CHiPS staff prepare food, set tables, serve the meal and clean up.
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OU Rabbis to Give Presentation At ‘Kosher Made Easy’ Show
Orthodox Union Kosher rabbinical coordinators Rabbi David Jenkins and Rabbi Eli Eleff will represent the Orthodox Union when the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the Center for Culinary Arts present the seminar, “Kosher Made Easy,” for business owners in the borough seeking to enter the kosher marketplace.
“Kosher Made Easy” will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 22 from 8:30-10:30 a.m. at Industry City, 237 37th Street in Sunset Park. The rabbis will provide a basic primer on kosher practice and how kosher certification works.
“The appearance by Rabbis Jenkins and Eleff is part of the educational effort maintained by OU Kosher to inform the trade about kosher certification, as well as to educate the consumer about kosher products,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher. “I am certain their presentation will enlighten all who are present, whether they currently are kosher certified or are considering certification for the future.”
Kosher updates appear regularly on the Orthodox Union’s web site and in the News Reporter section of the Orthodox Union publication Jewish Action. Kosher for Passover products under OU supervision are published annually in the Kosher Directory Passover Edition. OU Kosher Symbols for Parve, Dairy and Meat Categorizations: OU Kosher Logo - The products are Pareve (contains neither milk or meat ingredients). OU Pareve may contain fish or eggs.
OUD means that the products are Dairy. These products either contain dairy ingredients or have been processed on dairy equipment. OU Kosher Logo - The products are Meat/Poultry. Alternatively, they may contain meat/poultry ingredients or have been processed on meat equipment.
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‘Divine Therapy’ Pioneer Leads Shabbaton on Yoga
Kosher Yoga is the focus of this weekend’s Shabbaton at Congregation B’nai Avraham, Brooklyn Heights’ Orthodox synagogue.
Noted healer and yoga instructor Vladmir Angert will lead the Shabbaton, on Friday, Jan. 17. An Associate of Boro Park Medical Center, Angert has worked side-by-side with doctors, helping to diagnose and provide energy healing to patients, according to a flyer announcing the event. He has evolved his own brand of energy healing and facilitated sound health and empowerment through his pioneering process, “Divine Therapy.”
The Shabbaton starts at 6 p.m. with dinner and lecture, following services that start at 4:37 (Shabbat candle lighting time). For reservations, call 718-596-4840, ext. 11, or email [email protected]. The cost for members is $25 and $30 for non-members.
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NYC Peace and Justice Groups Protest Egypt’s Restrictions at the Rafah Border Crossing
Activists from across the metropolitan area joined forces to demand humanitarian help for the people of Gaza With shouts of “Egypt! Don’t be Israel’s prison guards!”
Brooklyn for Peace recently sponsored this event, at which a diverse coalition of peace and human rights groups gathered in front of the Egypt Consulate in Manhattan on the first Saturday of January to call attention to the plight of the people of Gaza. More than 60 demonstrators met, despite freezing temperatures, to call for a permanent opening of the Rafah Border Crossing between Egypt and Gaza. Recent storms and flooding have added to Gaza’s woes but the underlying problems remain the same: In September 2011, five independent UN rights experts made a report to the UN Human Rights Council, which said that Israel’s siege of Gaza amounted to collective punishment of the Palestinian people and was a “flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law” under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Before the recent coup in Egypt that deposed the elected government and brought the military into power, the Rafah Crossing was more open than it had been in years. Naomi Allen, a member of Brooklyn For Peace and its Israel-Palestine Committee, and one of the organizers of the event, added, “now Egypt is making a dire situation even worse by restricting movement of critical food, fuel and aid to Gaza and preventing people from moving across the border for study or for medical care.”
Brooklyn for Peace points out that the International Red Cross and the United Nations have found the Israeli regime’s siege of Gaza to be illegal under international law. Residents of Gaza are blockaded by land, sea and air. As the rally ended, Thomas Cox, another of the organizers, asked that attendees continue to build on the momentum and create an ever-larger coalition, to bring justice to the long-suffering people of Gaza. “Politics in the U.S. allows this dismal situation to continue. As Americans wake up to the fact that our nation is supporting this injustice, the calls to end the blockade will become louder and louder,” he stated.BFP spokesperson Naomi Allen reports that their protest was well received. “There was absolutely no heckling, but we did get a lot of thumbs up from drivers passing by, and some stopped to get our brochure. It was very cold, but the sun came out and smiled on us!”
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