My friend, historian Paul Lee shared this today and I am sharing it with you, in remembrance of my father who died on February 20, 2000 on Beulah Land, the Shrine’s farm in South Carolina.
‘A Day of Remembrance’ Salute to Jaramogi
By Paul Lee
On Feb. 20, 2000, Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, formerly the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., the founder and first holy patriarch of the Shrines of the Black Madonna of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church (PAOOC), returned to the ancestors at the age of 88.
Since then, the PAOCC and others who cherish the life, work and legacy of this visionary theologian, master-teacher, freedom fighter, nation-builder, father and father-figure, who on Easter Sunday 1967 proclaimed the self-determinationist creed of Black Christian Nationalism (BCN) to restore the African roots of Christianity and resurrect the original Israel as a “black nation within a nation,” have commemorated the anniversary of his passing as the “Day of Remembrance.”
COVENANT AND COMMITMENT
This year, I’m honored to share a rare audio recording of Jaramogi Abebe reading the original BCN Creed, his statement of the church’s sacred covenant with God and “Total Commitment” to God’s people, which he promulgated in early 1972.
From then until 2011, church members and often visitors faithfully recited it during every Sunday service at Atlanta, Ga., Beulah Land, S. C., Detroit, Flint and Kalamazoo, Mich., and Houston, Tex., and at the community and college cadres at Georgia, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania.
The recording is illustrated with a photo of Jaramogi Abebe reading some notes on the dais of Detroit’s Shrine #1 about 1970, shot by the BCN/Ujamaa Graphics department.
FROM MOVEMENT TO CHURCH TO DENOMINATION
Jaramogi Abebe read the creed at a “Black Religion and Black Revolution” symposium at Duke University, Durham, N. C., on April 8, 1972.
He was then the presiding bishop of the Black Christian Nationalist Movement, founded on March 26, 1967, when he unveiled at Central United Church of Christ, formerly Central Congregational, Glanton Dowdell’s striking nine-by-18-foot Black Madonna and child chancel mural, after which the church would be renamed in January 1968.
From Jan. 27-30, 1972, the then-Reverend Cleage served as the general chairman of the second biennial Black Christian Nationalist Convention at Shrine #1, during which the BCN Movement became the BCN Church, a new “black” denomination. When he read the creed at Duke, he neglected to change “Movement” to “Church” in the final sentence.
In July 1978, the BCN Church evolved into the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church, named in honor of the African Orthodox Church (AOC), which grew out of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). After this, “Pan African Orthodox Christian Church” replaced “Black Christian Nationalist Church” in the creed.
NEW TITLE AND NAME
Five days before the Duke appearance, Sala Andaiye (also Adams), the Detroit minister’s new secretary, advised the symposium’s organizer: “We also have given Rev. Cleage an African name, Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, and address him as Jaramogi.”
His Luo title (Jaramogi) and Amharic and Akan names (Abebe Agyeman), erroneously identified as Kiswahili by an amateur African names book, was given to him by the late Rev. George Bell, the BCN convention coordinator, who soon took the Kiswahili title Mwalimu and the Fulani and Kikuyu names Askia-Ole-Kariuki.
ORIGINAL BCN CREED
Below is the original creed read by Jaramogi Abebe (all-capitals represent the bold font used for “believe”; “INDIVIDUALISM” was capitalized in the original):
“I BELIEVE that human society stands under the judgment of one God, revealed to all and known by many names. His creative power is visible in the mysteries of the universe, in the revolutionary Holy Spirit which will not long permit men to endure injustice nor to wear the shackles of bondage, in the rage of the powerless when they struggle to be free, and in the violence and conflict which even now threaten to level the hills and the mountains.
“I BELIEVE that Jesus, the Black Messiah, was a revolutionary leader, sent by God to rebuild the Black Nation Israel and to liberate Black people from powerlessness and from the oppression, brutality, and exploitation of the white gentile world.
“I BELIEVE that the revolutionary spirit of God, embodied in the Black Messiah, is born anew in each generation and that Black Christian Nationalists constitute the living remnant of God’s chosen people in this day, and are charged by him with responsibility for the liberation of Black people.
“I BELIEVE that both my survival and my salvation depend upon my willingness to reject INDIVIDUALISM and so I commit my life to the liberation struggle of Black people and accept the values, ethics, morals and program of the Black Nation, defined by that struggle, and taught by the Black Christian Nationalist Movement.”
At the end of the recording, Jaramogi Abebe pauses, then says, “That’s a creed.” Indeed!