On a hot summer Saturday morning, men gathered from all around the city to attend Ministry ONE Men’s Conference 2013.
As men made their way to the sanctuary for the event at Emmanuel Baptist Church, located at 8301 S. Damen Ave., they were greeted and asked to fill out information slips and were given instructions on where to sit.
The African men were instructed to sit in the middle pews of the church to the right and the African-American men were instructed to sit on the middle pews to the left. Some of the African men were dressed in business casual attire or colorful native garbs while African-American men wore casual attire.
Camera crews were positioned to the far right and left of the pulpit. A large projector screen and projector was positioned to the right of the pulpit which showed interviews and presentation material during the event. As time progressed more men began to fill up the house of worship and were instructed to sit on the African side if they were from any country in Africa, while men who were born in America began to take their seats.
Once the event began, one of the narrators asked the African men what part of Africa they were from and then he asked the American men if they have ever been to Africa. Among the handful of American men who stood up to speak was Attorney George Howard, a deacon at Emmanuel Baptist Church.
Howard stated how he visited the continent with his wife and how they traveled to various parts. He explained that African-Americans need to have a better understanding of their history and culture.
“We need to be enlightened to where our forefathers came from. I mean the main thing is we’re just not proud of our ancestry,” said Howard. “And if you’re not—if you don’t like yourself, nobody else in the world is going to like you.”
Among the crowd of men filling the pews was Booker Thomas Cox, Jr., a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church. He recalled how his father told him and his siblings the importance of knowing their heritage as well as their history.
“My dad exposed us. When we were children—I was the youngest of four,” said Cox. “[He] always told us that we were Africans and he’d often tell us how the people—of Africa— they sold their people to the white man. And—we were always aware of that…”
A significant moment for Cox, Jr. occurred when one of the speakers at the event, Rev. Dr. Kanayo Odeluga apologized to the men in attendance. When Odeluga was speaking at the pulpit during his demonstration he took the time to apologize to the men on behalf of his fore fathers for what they had done in the past to their ancestors.
“I thought that was very humbling,” says Cox, Jr. “It had touched our spirit just to hear what he said. I know it touched mine.”
Cox enjoyed the fact that the amount of men who showed up for the event were there because of their love for God. He said his main takeaway from the conference was how, “The brothers from the motherland and [America] love the true and living God.”
“We connected that’s the most powerful thing. We connected at a very deep level,” said Odeluga. “I–I cry when I heard Pastor Jackson.”
Rev. Dr. Odeluga explained that the issues that exist between Africans and African-Americans come from the actions of their ancestors.
“Joseph did not need to reconcile with Egyptians,” he said. “We don’t need to go to white America for healing. God will judge between us and white America how they handled us when we get here. It is something that God has to deal with.”
As a result of dislocation by circumstance of place, the youth are living violent and destructive lives, he said.
“Now what has happened is that as a family we have not being able to hold Africa accountable for what they did,” said Odeluga. “Knowing this will also empower young people here to know where we came from and how far we’ve come.”