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Amistad Sunday at Church of the Open Door united

Christians celebrate friendship

Gigi Tinsley | 2/27/2014, 9 a.m.

The Church of the Open Door, 6001 NW 8th Ave., under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Joaquin, Congregational, United Church of Christ, and the United Black Christians will, for the 17th consecutive year, host the celebration of Amistad Sunday. Their aim is to constantly keep that legacy in the minds of Floridians.

La Amistad, in Spanish means Friendship, but the ship that carried Mendes, who were originally taken from Sierra Leone to Puerto Principe, Cuba to be sold into slavery was showing everything but the act of friendship. The ship was a 19th-century two-masted schooner built in Spain and owned by a Spaniard living in Cuba.

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Dr. Joe. A. Lee former president of Tougaloo College and Alabama State University

In July 1839, the Africans took control of the ship by killing the captain along with several others aboard the ship. La Amistad was captured off the coast of Long Island by the Revenue Cutter USS Washington, after the navigator misled the Mendes by making them believe he was taking them back to Africa.

The Mendes and La Amistad were interned while court proceedings were undertaken for their disposition. The case, United States v. The Amistad (1841) was finally decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in favor of the Mende, restoring their freedom. It became a symbol in the movement to abolish slavery.

“Connecticut Congregationalists formed the Amistad Committee, which organized a legal defense, eased the captives confinement during the lengthy court case, and eventually funded their return to Africa after winning a favorable decision from the US Supreme Court,” explained Willis.

The Amistad Committee became a seed for wider advocacy for the abolition of slavery in the US. In 1846, Lewis Tappan, an Amistad Committee leader, founded the American Missionary Association which continues today to fund American Missionary Association Colleges.

Miami graduates of American Missionary Association colleges will be honored during the service and Dr. Joe. A. Lee, former president of Tougaloo College and Alabama State University will be the morning speaker.

The 2014 honorees are: Carol Davis Byrd, Fisk University; James Cole, Esq., Talladega College; Valerie Riles, Howard University; Dr. Katherine Latimore, Hampton University; Donzaleigh Lisa McKinney, (posthumously) Dillard University; and DaNita Jackson-Jenkins, Clark-Atlanta University.

Amistad Sunday celebrates the founding of the American Missionary Association, the first abolitionist organization in the U.S. with integrated leadership that established over 500 schools, churches, libraries and universities for the newly freed African Americans of the South.

“We join other United Churches of Christ in commemorating the 1839 struggle for freedom, the Amistad Committee, and the American Missionary Association history as a part of our heritage,” Willis said.

The public is invited to attend the service.