by Terry Rogers
On Tuesday, March 10, Milford High School’s Bible Club along with the Milford High School and Milford Central Academy Gospel Choir held a Black History celebration. A group of young people known as Praise Worship started the program with contemporary gospel music. Aaron Walker, a member of the Bible Club, welcomed everyone to the event and started off with a moment of prayer. Following the prayer, Cherish White read several verses from the Bible.
“From Psalm 1:5, therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous,” White read. “From 2nd Corinthians 3:17, now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. From John 8:36, so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. From Psalms 118:5, when hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. From Psalms 103:6, the Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” White also read passages from Galatians 3:22 and 5:1, Ephesians 3:12 and Psalms 118:24.
Abigail Catanya pointed out that the audience was given the lyrics to “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” when they arrived.
“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is among the most treasured and most widely recognized African American spirituals,” Catanya pointed out. “It was identified as a song of the century and was recognized by the National Endowment of the Arts. The song was written in December 1840 by a slave named Wallis Willis and history provides us with several versions of how the hymn came about. The Civil War divided friends and family, and, at times, brother against brother. Northern states were against slavery while the South wanted to keep slaves as they needed them to work plantations. Abolitionists like Harriet Tubman and others helped salves escape through the underground railroad.”
Catanya pointed out that it is believed “swing low” meant to swing low to the Southern states to gather slaves and “sweet chariot” represented the wagons that carried them to freedom in the North. Another version is that Elijah came from heaven in a chariot to free the slaves. After she provided the history of the song, Catanya led the audience as they sang the spiritual.
“Many African American anthems were code during the time of slavery,” Catanya said. “For example, the song “Wade in the Water” described how slaves walked in creeks and rivers to throw off their scent as they were hunted by bloodhounds. “Following the Drinking Gourd” described how they followed the Big Dipper toward freedom.”
Several young people were part of the “Who Am I?” presentation, providing facts about many well-known African Americans like Whitney Houston, Rosa Parks, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington, Oprah Winfrey, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jur., Madam CJ Walker, Serena Williams and Coretta Scott King. One young woman gave facts on costume designer Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes who designed the original Playboy bunny costume, stating that in honor of the designer, she made the dress she wore for the program.