Published On: Fri, Jan 11th, 2019

A Sweet, Bitter Start to the New Year

A new year is upon us and once again, just like clockwork, we found ourselves doing a variety of things to usher it in.

Like many of my friends who were at concerts or parties, I kicked off my new year on a high note at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Boynton Beach where the incomparable gospel music legend Evangelist Barbara Norwood was in concert.

This was not your traditional Watch Night service in the black church in America where five minutes before midnight, men, women and children knelt, held hands and prayed to God from the present year into the New Year.

Instead, the Rev. Jovan T. Davis had his congregation to link up with their families. For those whose families were not present, he invited them to huddle with him then he prayed.

At one point in his message, Davis paused, almost like an intermission, brought Norwood to the stage and she led the congregation in one of her numbers.

Adding to the mix was the church’s choir, which primed the audience for Norwood and Davis’ message.  

Even at 83, Norwood, dubbed the “World’s Greatest Storyteller” is still making a strong impression. The veteran singer swung rhythms as exuberantly as any jazz singer might on “Shake the Devil Off” and spun intricate embellishments on her classic, “Victory Is Mine”, which is arguably one of the greatest congregational hymns of all time.

Though frail, she sang those songs with such great, passionate gospel fervor; I am convinced that she is by far one of the great gospel luminaries who can just bring a song to life.

Later that day, I attended the 39th Annual Emancipation Proclamation Service at Christ Missionary Baptist Church in Delray Beach where the Rev. Dr. Gilbert Stewart did an astounding job teaching the attendees about the significance of the day.

The late Rev. Randolph M. Lee of St. John Missionary Baptist Church and the late Rev. Matthew Mitchell of Christ Missionary Baptist Church started the tradition to recognize the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation 155 years ago, which helped free approximately 3.5 million slaves during the Civil War.

Rev. Stewart, of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, centered much of his presentation on drawing parallels between what he said it was like to be oppressed and in captivity during slavery and now. He told his flock that the people today, especially the youths, are perishing from lack of knowledge.

The Youth Ministry did some remarkable dramatizations to convey the story of what happened on Jan. 1, 1863.

I applaud Bishop Albert Moore and Linda Mitchell Moore of Delray Community Missionary Baptist Church for continuing the legacy.

Like Mitchell Moore, a longtime educator and daughter of Rev. Mitchell, I understand the need for the service.

There are many older residents as well as young people in our community who do not know about the Emancipation Proclamation and its significance. So, it is important that we keep that celebration going so our children and their children’s children can understand and appreciate the Emancipation Proclamation.

I end this column with a sad note on the passing of pioneer tv news anchor and host AnEta Sewell-Spence.

I met AnEta back in the late 1980s when I was a reporter for one of the local dailies. We both were members of the Palm Beach Association of Black Journalists and she was very encouraging to me. Whenever I saw her, even long after she had left the business, AnEta was always genuinely interested in how I was doing.

Many today may not remember her, but she was an icon in the Palm Beach/Treasure Coast market for several years.

Let’s face it, she was the first black TV news anchor around here, and as such, she inspired many.

When she was on the air, AnEta informed today’s citizens as well as inspired a lot of tomorrow’s journalists in the area. She was an especially powerful role model for young women and girls who admired her integrity, her tenacity and her intellect, not to mention those whom she blazed a trail for.

May her soul rest in peace.

  1. Ron Allen can be reached at or 561-665-0151.

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