African-Americans all across the world attend Watch Night New Year’s church services but do you know the historical meaning and how it ties to the end of slavery? Dr. Gabby Cudjoe Wilkes, Co-Pastor of The Double Love Experience Church in Brooklyn, New York stops by the Get Up! Church to teach us about the true meaning of Watch Night.”
“Do you all know that back in 1862, on December 31, enslaved and free African Americans were gathered, many of them gathered in secret to ring in the new year and to await the news that the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect? That is the history of why we gather and wait on New Year’s Eve,” Dr. Wilkes tells Erica and GRIFF. Dr. Wilkes continues, saying “In September of 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the executive order that declares enslaved people are free legally, but it does not go into effect until the beginning of the year. So black folks gathered in secret, watching the clock waiting for the day of their freedom to come and meet them, which would have been the first of the year.”
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With now being educated on the history of Watch Night, Dr. Wilkes gives the listeners advice on how to celebrate Watch Night.
Dr. Wilkes: Whether you’re going to a watch night service tonight, or whether you’ll be at home with your family, I want us to step into the tradition of our ancestors and think about anything that has enslaved you this year. Anything that you have been a slave to whether it’s bad habits, whether it’s poor eating, whether it’s insecurity, whether it’s hopelessness, whether it’s debt, anything that has enslaved you this year, tonight, I want you to bring that before the Lord was some kind of radical faith that says on the first of the year, I have a new shot, right? I believe that we can go in the spirit of our ancestors. They had every reason to doubt that whatever President Lincoln put into effect would not take place but they did not gather in doubt. They gathered in the belief they gathered and hope and they gathered in believing that their situation would change. I think we should do the same. Go to God with belief.
Listen to the full interview below
Check out Dr. Wilkes new book “Psalms for Black Lives: Reflections for the Work of Liberation.” Purchase on AMAZON or wherever you get your favorite books.