A Church Bell Rings Out for Healing, Peace and Justice

1140-first-baptist-church-williamsburg-virginia[8]
First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Va.

Founded in 1776, First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Va., is believed to be the first black Baptist church that was organized entirely by African Americans — a group of slaves and freed blacks who met secretly under an arbor on Green Spring Plantation. By 1781, the congregation had close to 200 members, and its pastor was a slave who worked in the Williamsburg tavern owned by his master.

Having moved from covert locations to a building in Williamsburg, in 1886 the church gained a bell, which rang out for decades. Mechanical problems silenced the bell throughout the civil rights era and into this century. On the first day of February 2016, Black History Month, the First Baptist bell found its voice again, and it was my great honor to be the first to make it ring out once more.

Be an E-Activist. Sign up for the AARP Advocate e-newsletter »

On that day, descendants of illustrious Virginians joined social activists, politicians, artists and celebrities for the “Let Freedom Ring” celebration, a national call for healing, peace and justice throughout Black History Month.

The remarkable story of First Baptist Church reminds us of just how long the courageous struggle for equality in our society has gone on. It is older than our nation. We are where we are today because of those who sacrificed to make sure we had the opportunity and the freedom to succeed and make the most of our God-given talents. We are indebted to the leaders of the civil rights movement for their courage and perseverance.

While there is still work to be done, we have come as far as we have in large part due to people like those brave souls who gathered in secret in order to worship with one another, individuals who refused to abandon their pursuit of the freedoms to which they were entitled. Their determination created not only First Baptist Church, but also a legacy of freedom-fighting that helped drive a generation of ordinary people to stand up, sit down, march on, and make their voices heard as they demanded the rights every human deserves.

First Baptist Church is challenging America to come to Williamsburg in February to ring the bell, all day, every day, for the whole month. Let the sound of this bell remind us that the struggle for justice and equality is never-ending. May it never again fall silent.

Photo: Aileen Devlin/The Daily Press via AP


JoAnnJenkins_104H[1]
www.RachelSmithPhotography.com

Jo Ann Jenkins is the chief executive officer of AARP. Follow her on Twitter @JoAnn_Jenkins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also of Interest

See the  AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more.

Search AARP Blogs

Related Posts
December 11, 2018 10:07 AM
In an election year filled with partisanship and political fights, it’s no surprise that many Americans feel that their voices aren’t being heard or that the issues that affect their lives aren’t being addressed. But, many outstanding elected officials work hard every day to make a positive difference for their constituents.  That’s why AARP recognizes state legislators, governors, and other elected officials – from both sides of the aisle – who have stepped up and worked together to write, support, and advance common-sense policies that help older Americans remain in their homes and communities and retire with confidence. AARP is proud to announce our fifth annual bipartisan class of Capitol Caregivers, who fought this year to increase support for family caregivers and their loved ones, along with our fourth annual bipartisan class of Super Savers, who championed policies that enhance retirement security.
December 05, 2018 01:06 PM
Caroline is a mother of two children and a preschool teacher who unexpectedly became a family caregiver for her father after he suffered a major stroke. Her father, Tom, now deceased, lost the use of his right side and his ability to speak. Multiple surgeries and rehabilitation treatments later, he was able to live at home with the help of nurses. But it was up to Caroline to provide daily care, such as overseeing appointments and handling certain nursing responsibilities, like managing his medications. “I became the person my father could rely on more than anyone in the world,” Caroline said. “I became his safe place and his best friend.” In communities across the country, family caregivers like Caroline are caring for older parents, spouses and other loved ones, helping them to remain at home – where they want to be. Their tasks are done out of love and commitment, but are not easy. That’s why AARP is fighting for family caregivers and their loved ones in every state. In 2018, AARP advanced new policies to provide more help at home, flexibility at work, training, relief and more, which will benefit over 30 million family caregivers. Here are a couple highlights:
November 27, 2018 08:55 AM
A few months ago, I wrote a blog about the vital role that transportation options play in what we at AARP call “livable communities” – great places to live for people of all ages. Being able to get around is critical to earn a living, raise a family, contribute and stay connected to your community and enjoy life. And, having alternatives to getting behind the wheel of your own car is particularly important for older adults who want to stay in their homes and communities as they age.