By Michael Peters
At Lincoln’s first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, the audience was eight people, his cabinet.
“There were no microphones, nobody to text or email, but the impact was powerful,” the Rev. Hector Grant said Monday to the small group assembled for a Black History Month reading in Loftin.
“I used to be a college professor, so I’m used to students signing up but not showing up; but whoever is here, we do what we are required to do,” the four-time author said.
The audience punctuated his remarks with “amens” and laughs throughout.
Grant opened by asking if anyone knew this year’s theme for Black History Month.
This year’s theme is “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.”
Grant spoke about the slaves in 1863 who, after emancipation, “became the most ferocious soldiers” to ensure their freedom and livelihood.
Grant elaborated on the difference between freedom and equality.
“Freedom is quite tangible, but equality is something different,” he said. “When I think about freedom, I’m thinking of chains falling off.”
Grant continued, “Equality is a function of social relationships based on some kind of law, convention, or some kind of understanding of who people are.”
Returning to the small attendance, Grant said, “There are murmurings that there is no great concern to celebrate or observe Black History Month, and it is proven by the absence of African-Americans,” he said.
“There was a time when African-Americans understood themselves to be part of a great people moving beyond the slave ships,” Grant said.
“How do we learn to accept the gifts that we’re given by God and celebrate who we are?”
Grant garnered some laughs as he talked about how he has “a thing against halitosis” because “it can be corrected; it is part of social grace.”
“That can be cured, but my skin color is a gift from God,” Grant said, “and God doesn’t make mistakes.”