Bak a yonda win e bin da shout bout e dey a jubilee.
De night fo de paypa bin gwine read fa see e free
Gret dey e had ta bin a shoutin time eny!
Wi dun cum toggedda one mo gain fa studee
Bout how disya gwine on afta de paypa dun tun 150.
150 years after the night before the Emancipation Proclamation I was blessed to sit where my ancestors had sat. I was blessed to be on historic St. Helena Island, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation hearing and singing the songs that emitted from the very spirits of those children of Mother Africa that had been enslaved on the Sea Islands-hence the name “The Spirituals.” I sit in the day of harvest of the seeds that they planted by each word that they spoke and sang from that time into this generation. In the midst of appreciation for this date in time and knowing that there is so much more progress to be made for my people, “Hold On” emits from my soul. As the congregation immediately joins in, I hear the voices of my ancestors ringing out. I feel the hearts of the elders that sang this song during the Civil Rights Movement launched 50 years ago. Again, I feel the joy of the time and the pulling of the urgency of the work that is yet to be done for the furtherance of TRUE freedom for my people and all people.
Watch Night for over 150 years has been the night after the one of few “days off” that the enslaved Africans in the American south gathered together in praise and testimony, worship and thanksgiving as they looked onward out of the time of bondage that they were in to the day of Jubilee. This day when all that had been taken from them would be fully restored and then multiplied was in the collective consciousness of those that filled their spirits with living the words that emitted from each Spiritual. These Spirituals took them beyond the moment and beyond the circumstances as they shouted with it and entered into trance. They saw into a day that we now call “Emancipation Day” in the Gullah/Geechee Nation.
The Watch Night wishes 150 years ago became the reality that we now sit in the midst of as people celebrate and commemorate 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation was first read in Port Royal, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation and then on historic St. Helena Island. 150 years ago major celebrations took place in these places and in Charleston, SC as Gullah/Geechees came out to give witness to the greatness of what God had done for them because they had remained strong in their faith and they continued to keep their minds “stayed on freedum.”
Watch Night 2012 I wondered what the descendants of these people that sat in that Watch Night 150 years ago had in their minds and souls. I wondered who was truly seeking freedom for all. I wondered what happened to the shout that was once in the feet and hands of the entire community. I wondered what happened to the spiritual energy that held them up for hours as they not only were individually lifted, but as they lifted collectively and my Watch Night wish was that this energy would return so that not only we would fully enter Jubilee, but that as a whole we would be forever free.
Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation stands at the Emancipation Oak in Port Royal, SC on Emancipation Day 2012.