This month is African American History Month and it celebrates the achievements and the hardships faced by many Americans.
The Human Rights Watch Film Festival returns to New York screens from June 13 to 23 with a program of 20 challenging and provocative films from across the globe that call for justice and social change. Eighteen documentaries and two fiction films will be featured, including 15 New York premieres. Traditional values and human rights is one of four themes for this year’s festival—incorporating women’s rights, disability rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights. The festival will launch on June 13 with a fundraising Benefit Night for Human Rights Watch featuring the HBO documentary Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? Solar Mama profiles an illiterate Bedouin woman from Jordan who gets the chance to be educated in solar engineering but has to overcome her husband’s resistance.
Three films in the program remind viewers that, despite recent strides toward equality, LGBT communities around the world still struggle for acceptance.
Harry Freeland’s In the Shadow of the Sun is an unforgettable study incourage,telling the story of two albino men who attempt to follow their dreams in the face of prejudice and fear in Tanzania. Four American documentaries—including festival opener ANITA—highlight human rights issues in our own back yard. Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story tells the story of a Texas man who was wrongfully convicted of his wife’s murder and was exonerated by new DNA evidence after nearly 25 years behind bars. In conjunction with this year’s film program, the festival will present the photo exhibit Dowry: Child and Forced Marriage in South Sudan.
Numerous African American Christians observe Watch Night in a variety of ways; however, many may not be cognizant of the tradition’s historical roots.
In their denomination’s manuals, African American Methodists can trace the original roots of Watch Night to the Methodist tradition. The first Methodist Watch night service in the United States probably took place in 1770 at Old St.
While acknowledging the Methodist starting point, many African American Christians link their celebration of the tradition to December 31, 1862, “Freedom’s Eve.” After the Union Army was victorious at the Battle of Antietam on September 22, 1862, Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation that declared that all slaves in “any state or designated part of a state .
Nearly one hundred and fifty years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, many African American Christians continue the tradition of gathering into mainline Protestant churches on New Year's Eve to celebrate Watch Night. Giving his renowned “I Have a Dream” speech one hundred years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Reverend Dr. The chains of poverty, racism, and discrimination have acted as constricting shackles for many blacks throughout the course of the century following emancipation. As I reflect on the historical and contemporary significance of Watch Night for African American Christians, I find myself wrestling with the following questions: should black Christians continue to keep the memory of slavery alive in the twenty-first century? Despite the early resistance to celebrating blacks’ emancipation, many African American Christians have continued the tradition of gathering in churches for Watch Night services.
However, in my experience and celebration of Watch Night in a Church of God in Christ congregation, a Baptist church, and in a United Methodist church, the emancipation thrust of Freedom’s Eve has had weak emphasis. As Reverend Steward explained over a century ago, many contemporary African Americans may not feel the need to continue watching for freedom. Unfortunately, even 147 years after the Emancipation Proclamation there is ample room for blacks to watch for freedom in the United States. Imprisonment is the new slavery for the black community … Of the 2.1 million inmates today, 910,000 are African American. The following traditional hymns can aid African Americans in reflecting on how God has been and remains to be their source of hope in the freedom struggle. To assist members in their Watch Night service, the worship leader may place the following in the church bulletin or on the projector screen. These worship books provide hymns, gospel songs, scriptures, and images that can help the worship leader prepare for the watch night service. These rich academic texts offer historical analyses and interesting illustration and photography of various African American emancipation celebrations including Freedom’s Eve, Emancipation Day, and Juneteenth. Their works contain statistical analyses that pinpoint current challenges and complexities in African American communities and both works also contain strategic plans of action for African Americans to consider adopting and enacting to address black family, community, ecclesiastical, educational, and political breakdowns. As it is for many people around the world, New Year’s Eve (the day before New Year’s Day), especially the time approaching midnight, is an important time of the year for most Americans.
Year after year, they gather, sometimes in the same place and other times at different places, to “watch” the old year out and the New Year in and to celebrate the beginnings of new hopes and new dreams. Following the annual practices of African American churches, Watch Night has been a mainstay on The African American Lectionary’s black church calendar since the Lectionary went online as a major resource for African American Christians and congregations.
Again this year at Watch Night services, every black Christian is urged to focus his or her attention, hopes, and re-commitments on the children of the village. At some point, the Watch Night tradition began to have, and continues to have, special significance for African Americans. In times of old, black Christians, old and young living in cities and rural hamlets, traveled in the dead of winter by car, bus, train, foot, horseback, buggy and wagon to attend watch night services—many at churches, structures, and “church meeting houses” that were lighted by coal oil, heated by wood-burning heaters, and serviced by outside toilets.
The historical roots of Watch Night celebrations in the African American community are difficult to untangle.
Some trace its roots back to a Moravian Christian sect located in what is now called the Czech Republic.1 Others try to connect Watch Night roots to the Methodist Movement of 1733.
Admittedly, the Watch Night services of 1862, whether held at all black, all white, or racially mixed Methodist churches, Baptist churches, or churches of other denominations, were important Watch Night services; however, clear and convincing evidence is still lacking to allow us to definitively declare them to be the first African American Watch Night services. Prior to December 1862, African Americans had watched and waited for other announcements of freedom from their government. Also, there were times when announcements of freedom were issued but subsequently revoked or nullified. Further, any serious examination of the beginnings of African American Watch Night services must, I believe, start at the beginning. Can we yet count the Watch Nights that our ancestors endured prior to ever hearing of the Moravian Christians, Methodism, or President Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation? Further, any serious investigations that attempt to pin an actual date on the beginnings of Watch Night must also consider the evolving purposes of the tradition and the conditions that made Watch Night necessary. Regardless of where or when the African American Watch Night tradition began, the tradition, over the years, has taken hold as a unifying cultural phenomenon. In the present instance, we are encouraged to use Watch Night to cry out to God for all African American children and to recommit ourselves to improving their condition.
A more thorough analysis of the traditional arguments regarding the history of Watch Night and its related cultural underpinnings can be found in the African American Lectionary Cultural Resources 2007, 2008, and 2009 Watch Night units that were prepared respectively by Dr.
Over 70 percent of black babies are born to unmarried mothers, more than twice the rate for White babies and higher than any other racial or ethnic group. Black babies are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday as white babies.
Black children spend more time on average watching television daily, are less likely to have regular mealtimes, and have far fewer books than white children. In twelfth grade 84 percent of those black students who have not dropped out of school cannot read at grade level and 94 percent cannot do math at grade level. Black males age 18 and over in 2008 represented only five percent of the total college student population but 36 percent of the total prison population. Black youth have the highest unemployment rate: nearly one in three black high school graduates age 16 to24 are unemployed. Nearly half of black households with children live in asset poverty, meaning they would be living below the poverty level within three months of losing their jobs or other income. The number of black children and teens killed by gunfire since 1979 is more than 10 times the number of black men, women, and children of all ages lynched in American history. Fewer than 40 percent of all black children live with two parents, compared to about 75 percent of white children. These dismal statistics do not bode well for either black children or the black race, yet they are not immutable.
The negative conditions and evil forces that afflict and torture our children can be overcome. Real change is still possible, if we only believe, embrace, and judiciously employ the resources that we have, and utilize the tools and weapons that are available to us. To plant and nurture new seeds of hope, envision new possibilities of change, and create and find new ways to overcome the negative conditions that are stealing our children, sapping their energies, and festering their dreams, we can begin by looking at two great examples who, under extreme conditions, became overcomers.
They lamented honestly to their God about the dehumanizing conditions they faced—broken homes, prohibitions against marriage and learning to read or write, beatings, hangings, rapes, torture, and children and family members being sold as chattel.
In spite of this, they—our ancestors—invented a new religion, torn and quilted from broken memories of African theologies and the traditions of their masters.
Listen to an eyewitness account: Miss Susie King Taylor, a black Civil War nurse, gives her personal account of one of her slavery experiences about freedom.

This Watch Night and every day and night thereafter we must cry out to God to deliver us and our children from our life-smothering conditions.
Approximately twenty-five years ago several of my friends and I started an intercessory prayer group in Marin City, California.
While children are not the only concern of our prayer group, crying out to God for children has been one of our primary prayer focuses—because the need is so great. Over the years, we have prayed and continue to pray for many children in different parts of the country and a few other parts of the world, as some of our members have friends in other countries.
Further, when schools are about to re-open after summer vacation, we pray for children everywhere.
Moreover, one of the major blessings of our prayer work over the last twenty-five years is to have witnessed a number of the children we have prayed for grow up to finish school and college and start families of their own, as successful adults. So, if you are thinking about starting an intercessory prayer group, I suggest that you keep the bright lines in mind. My most memorable Watch Night service was the last one I spent with my Mother on December 31, 1997. Everyone else in our family attended Watch Night service either at our local church or at some other nearby church. As midnight approached, Mother summoned an incredible amount of energy—it was as if she was no longer ill.
That Watch Night, the Holy Spirit visited us and we became lost in a spirit of praise and joy.
Consider holding a Watch Night Jobs Fair for the youth of the congregation and community to help reduce the high unemployment rate among youth ages 16–19.
As a Watch Night and New Year’s pledge, consider adopting a two-year moratorium on all non-essential church expenditures.
I am a reality tv junkie but sometimes my heart aches because these shows turn women we look up to into characters.
There are a plethora of Independent films soaring through the film world and here are a few prominent ones featuring African American actors, writers and directors. Things Never Said is the story of Kalinda Stepney, a woman haunted by a miscarriage and stuck in an abusive marriage. Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. Have You Heard Michelle Obama’s New Empowering Song Featuring Missy Elliott, Zendaya, Janelle Monae & More?
MadameNoire is a sophisticated lifestyle publication that gives African-American women the latest in fashion trends, black entertainment news, parenting tips and beauty secrets that are specifically for black women. Here is an awesome website with images, audio and more to help everyone understand American History even better.
Now in its 24th edition, the festival will once again be presented at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and this year adds downtown screenings at the IFC Center.
Most of the screenings will be followed by Q&A sessions with filmmakers, and some by panel discussions with experts and film subjects. In addition to Tall As the Baobab Tree, five documentaries in this year’s festival consider the impact on women.
Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann’s Born This Way is an intimate look at the lives of four young gay men and lesbians in Cameroon, where there are more arrests for homosexuality than in any other country in the world. In the Festival Centerpiece, Fatal Assistance, the acclaimed director Raoul Peck, Haiti’s former culture minister, takes us on a two-year journey following the 2010 earthquake and looks at the damage done by international aid agencies whose well-meaning but ignorant assumptions turned a nightmare into an unsolvable tragedy. In Joshua Oppenheimer’s chilling and inventive The Act of Killing, the unrepentant former members of Indonesian death squads are challenged to reenact some of their many murders in the style of the American movies they love. 99% – The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film goes behind the scenes of the 2011 movement, digging into big-picture issues as organizers, participants and critics reveal what happened and why. Lisa Biagiotti’s Deep South is an evocative exploration of the rise in HIV in the rural American south, a region where poverty, a broken health system and a culture of denial force those affected to create their own solutions to survive. The exhibit is Getty photographer Brent Stirton’s visual investigation into the devastating impact the tradition of child marriage has on girls in this East African nation.
The first Watch Night service began with the Moravians, “a small Christian denomination whose roots lie in what is the present day Czech Republic” in 1733 on the estates of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf in Hernhut, Germany.1 John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement, picked up the tradition from the Moravians and incorporated it into Methodism as a time for Methodists to renew their covenant with God and to contemplate their state of grace in light of the second coming of Christ. George’s Church in Philadelphia, a church of which Richard Allen, the founder of the African American Episcopal church, was a member.4 African American Methodists celebrated Watch Night prior to Freedom’s Eve because Allen and other African Americans celebrated Watch Night Meeting services at St. During their Watch Night services, many African Americans probably do not specifically celebrate Freedom’s Eve per se in the sense of reflecting on their ancestors’ freedom from slavery. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. Being only quasi-free and given the illusion of equality, many African Americans derived hope from the well spring of their faith as they struggled for the realization of God’s perfect will for true liberation and justice.
Is there value to entering a New Year by reflecting on how our enslaved ancestors waited and watched for their freedom? As the slaves did on Freedom’s Eve, many black Christians offer prayers of thanksgiving, sing praises, shout, dance, and “get happy” as they transition from one year into the next. Unlike enslaved blacks, during my celebrations of Watch Night in the twenty first-century, I must acknowledge that I have not devoted time to prayerfully reflecting on the glorious dawning of freedom for enslaved persons and communities.  Similar to millions of Americans, I have established personal New Year’s resolutions, vowing to liberate myself from unwelcome habits, to clear my debts, to eat healthier and to exercise regularly. There are a number of staggering disparities in healthcare, public and private education, employment, wealth, and the justice system between black and white Americans. Sutton of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania wrote the following poem which highlights the African American history of Watch Night. This image can be copied from the website on this page or from the 2008 African American Lectionary Watch Night material. Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915. At that time, celebrations big and small, public and private, traditional and non-traditional are held all over the Country.
This year, on Watch Night (December 31, 2012), The African American Lectionary provides members of African American denominations, congregations, and communities with an opportunity to examine their lives to determine where they have fallen short and to cry out to the Lord for forgiveness, correction, courage, and direction—all for the sake of our children. Each year, Watch Night services are held across the nation in thousands of African American churches, regardless of denomination. They are buried in more than two full centuries of fused American and African American culture and history, causing the beginnings of this tradition to be disputed. In their momentous work on slavery, From Slavery to Freedom, historians John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moreover, shall we dare ask how many Watch Nights our ancestors endured before the border states’ slaves were set free, before all blacks got the right to vote, before they got the right to a public education, and before they began to enjoy other economic and political rights of American citizens? Each significant period of African American history surely has had an effect on African Americans’ evolving purposes for and institutionalization of Watch Night as a sacred tradition. African Americans all over the country and in churches of all denominations, social clubs, convention halls, public spaces, and private homes now celebrate Watch Night annually. When faced with the greatest and most painful situation of his life—death upon the cross—he cried out to God, his Father. When snatched from their homeland, transported in chains to a foreign land to live and work as slaves under violent conditions unmatched in human history, and stripped of their languages and dialects and made to speak a foreign tongue, they cried out to God.
They cried out to God openly and privately—sometimes in coded language, since praying often was not allowed. We also pray for local, state, national, and world conditions that affect children—named and unnamed.
We pray that they will have a successful school year and we pray against all negative forces that would seek to come against them in their educational environments. We believe regardless of the other individual’s level of faith and despite the complexity of the problem.
In this capacity, we are not lawyers, doctors, social workers, counselors, teachers, or preachers.
Her sweet, soft voice was filled with strident earnestness, rich gratefulness, and sincere appreciation. Use the savings for tutors and scholarships for the children and youth of the church and community. Tell the children and youth how special they are and what great expectations the church and community have for their lives. With the power of poetry and the affections of a handsome stranger, Kalinda begins to see her way out of her strained existence.
Black women seek information on a wide variety of topics including African-American hair care, health issues, relationship advice and career trends - and MadameNoire provides all of that. The film is Sebastian Junger’s moving tribute to his lost friend and Restrepo co-director, the photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington, who was killed while covering the Libyan civil war in 2011.

Veteran documentarian Kim Longinotto’s Salma is the remarkable story of a South Indian Muslim woman who endured a 25-year confinement and forced marriage by her own family before achieving national renown as the most famous female poet in the Tamil language. It will be shown with Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s Going Up the Stairs, a charming portrait of a traditional Iranian grandmother who discovers her love of painting late in life and is invited to exhibit her work in Paris. Yoruba Richen’s The New Black uncovers the complicated and often combative intersection of the African-American and LGBT civil rights movements, with a particular focus on homophobia in the black church.
Danish journalist Nagieb Khaja’s My Afghanistan – Life in the Forbidden Zone shows ordinary Afghans in war-torn Helmand who were provided with hi-res camera phones to record their daily lives, giving a voice to those frequently ignored by the Western media.
Marc Wiese’s Camp 14 – Total Control Zone tells the powerful story of Shin Dong-Huyk, who spent the first two decades of his life behind the barbed wire of a North Korean labor camp before his dramatic escape led him into an outside world he had never known. It will be featured in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater for the duration of the festival.
Did the tradition originate in 1733 with the Methodist Movement or in the 1862 Freedom’s Eve celebrations?
Yet, the direct link between Freedom’s Eve celebrations and Watch Night undoubtedly has both explicit and implicit impact on many African American Christians’ observance of the tradition. He declared, “This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred and forty-seven years after the first Freedom’s Eve celebration, do African Americans still need to watch for freedom? Thousands of black Americans are in bondage to drug addictions and substance abuse, including alcohol, marijuana, crack and cocaine. Black Christians can be inspired by the prophet Jeremiah’s words to the people of Israel, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NRSV). Goodson, “We’ve Come This Far by Faith” is a congregational hymn that can encourage African Americans to cogitate how far they have come in America from the era of slavery to the present. The poem can be read during Watch Night services or printed in the church bulletin as a reading. Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915. Millions of people, who on any other night would be sound asleep, are instead, on New Year’s Eve (near midnight), wide awake—many with their children, some with their neighbors, others with their friends, and still others with their fellow congregants or office colleagues. The call is for an urgent cry of intervention for our children and for God to give us the ability to live 2013 as better guardians and better examples of Christ than we were in 2012.
God’s intervention is entreated as a remedy for the ills faced by our children and for our failings as guardians.
Their methods of celebration may differ but many of their reasons for celebration are similar. With proper focus, leadership, and money, coupled with God’s help, significant gains and strides can be made with many of the other ills that plague black children and youth.
He lamented honestly to his Father about his despair and the other conditions that faced him.
At other times, the names of children, along with their prayer concerns and needs, have been brought to the prayer group for prayer.
We cry out to God for fair and just government policies that speak to the needs of children. The conditions and situations brought to the prayer group are often complex, thought to be hopeless, and laden with years of neglect, anger, and failure.
Our faith, though sometimes smaller than the size of a mustard seed, anchors us, puts the person’s prayer needs in perspective, and constantly reminds us that all things are possible if we believe. Through your personal prayer work, you may be led to know whether intercessory prayer work is your calling.
Mother, who to my knowledge had never missed attending Watch Night services at our home church, was not feeling up to going that year.
Together, we sang our favorite hymns, read scriptures, gave our personal testimonies, and thanked God for His faithfulness. She thanked God for her life and for the life and joy of each of her children, calling out each of them by name.
Things Never Said was selected for many film festivals, including the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival. The main program will kick off on June 14 with the Opening Night presentation of Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Mock’s ANITA, in which Anita Hill looks back at the powerful testimony she gave against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and its impact on the broader discussion of gender inequality in America. Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin’s candid HBO documentary Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer centers on the women of the radical-feminist punk group, two of whom are currently serving time in a Russian prison for their acts of defiance against the government. In Srdjan Dragojevic’s drama The Parade, afight by activists to stage a Gay Pride parade in Belgrade leads to an unlikely alliance in a black-humored look at contemporary Serbia. Marco Williams’ The Undocumented isan unvarnished account of the thousands of Mexican migrants who have died in recent years while trying to cross Arizona’s unforgiving Sonora Desert in search of a better life in the United States. Wiese is the recipient of the festival’s annual Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking for his film.
Though some African American Methodists can proudly pinpoint the 1733 origin of the tradition, Freedom’s Eve likely has the strongest link to the widespread celebration of Watch Night in several African American Christian churches. In rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”6 Many blacks in the North and South as well as both free and enslaved blacks anxiously waited for Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to become effective on January 1, 1863. King’s position that “the Negro is still not free” is nearly half a century old; and since then, undeniable progress has been made in the struggle for freedom.
If we look closely, we will come to understand that Watch Night and the reasons and needs for it have evolved with the times. They are shouting at us through: their music, sexual exploits, gunfire in the streets, rejection of our mores and values, embracement of short life spans for themselves and others, colossal low school achievements, and the public broadcasting of their life and personal failures on social media and television. They envisioned freedom, believing it would come, even though their condition spoke vehemently otherwise. She, unbeknownst to her or any of us, was battling pancreatic cancer that, by mid December of 1998, would prove fatal. The Closing Night screening on June 23 will be Jeremy Teicher’s award-winning drama Tall As the Baobab Tree, the touching story of a teenage girl who tries to rescue her younger sister from an arranged marriage in rural Senegal.
The Sunday before that “Day of Days,” Frederick Douglass expressed to his audience at Rochester’s Spring Street AME Zion Church his elation at “the glorious morning of liberty about to dawn upon us.”7 On December 31, 1862, Watch Night services occurred throughout the United States.
Black Americans have the freedom to own property and to obtain lucrative wealth in a free capitalistic market economy, to acquire an education, and even to become the president of the United States.
His Father answered, and ultimately he was endowed with all powers—those necessary to defeat his current challenges and those necessary to fulfill his dreams and his mission. The self-starters built their reputations and successes without the help of a man, but they never underestimate the power of a girlfriend’s support. On one hand, some African American worship leaders fully honor the Freedom’s Eve tradition during Watch Night. To say that black Americans like the well-known Irvin “Magic” Johnson, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan are financially free is an understatement. Then our enemies will be defeated and our children will be able to tell their children’s children about us and how they were healed. And we thanked God for our church, family, community, nation, government leaders, and members of our family yet unborn. These independent ladies are aggressive in their pursuit of personal and career goals, but will the cost of success prove too steep as they climb their way to the top? On the other hand, many African American Christians from various denominations including Methodist, Baptist, and Pentecostal churches implicitly reflect the spirit of Freedom’s Eve celebrations by bringing in the New Year with jubilation and praise, praying, shouting, and thanking God for allowing them to live and survive another year as they anticipate the fulfillment of their hopes and God’s promises in the New Year. Black Americans are living the American dream as doctors, lawyers, engineers, college professors, etc.
Cobb imagines one day entering paradise and looking back and pondering, “How I got over?” Not only can getting over be a referent to heaven but it also can be a referent to the realization of earthly hopes and dreams. Black Americans have passed through academic halls in both predominantly black and white institutions. Though a minority, blacks are sitting in some of the highest offices in judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government. In this Psalm, Moses distinguishes the eternal nature of God from the finite nature of human beings.

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