LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The state’s oldest African American college, established by former slaves to educate the children of fellow black Americans, is now leading a national initiative for the liberation of American descendants of slavery.
Simmons College of Kentucky is calling the nation to come together to alter the downward spiral of the descendants of slaves that began in 1619 when the first slaves set foot on American soil in Jamestown, Va. That was 400 years ago.
“Louisville, through Simmons College of Kentucky, is the leader of this national movement,” said Cheri Mills, author of the book “40 Days of Prayer.”
The movement calls for 40 days of prayer from July 12 through Aug. 20. The daily readings during the 40 days of prayer includes actual accounts of slaves escaping on the Underground Railroad. The second reading on the daily prayer and reflection page is a collection of historical facts revealing the ongoing systemic oppression leveled against our black forebears who were first enslaved and that continued against American descendants of slavery.
The third writing on each daily prayer and reflection page is the “We Are the Voice of One,” prayer declaration, which is adapted from Isaiah 40.
“It should take no more than two minutes each day to do the devotion,” Simmons College President Dr. Kevin Cosby said. “The two-minute devotion will be life-transforming. You empathize with these people when you read their experience. You are exposed to a part of the American history that has been excluded in our textbooks, our history classes and our civic classes.”
“This prayer period will set a context and a tone for a brighter future,” Dr. Frank Smiths said.
The initiative will culminate on Aug. 20 at 12 p.m., with people gathering in Jamestown, Va., and across the nation. St. Stephen Church in Louisville is calling on the community to join its prayer and dialogue at noon that day.
“The nation will pause to pay tribute to the 19 pioneering enslaved Africans,” Cosby said. “From their loins came the African American community.”
More than 12.5 million Africans were captured, sold, and transported to the Americas. Slaves were considered by law as property or chattel because they were not considered free men and women. They were deprived of most of the rights ordinarily held by free people.
“African Americans are the only group in America who did not immigrate to those shores looking for a better life,” Cosby said. "African Americans were brought forcibly against their will.
“Two hundred and forty-six years of government-sanctioned oppression. You were property. You were someone’s assets.”
Cosby said the remnants of slavery still influence our world today.
“We were American citizens, but we did not have the opportunity to access the benefits of American citizenship,” Cosby said. “I do not identify with Africa. I identify with America. I am an American citizen, proud to be an American.”
“40 Days of Prayer” strives to create inclusion, understanding and justice. It also calls all Christians, people of goodwill, and seekers of justice to join their efforts.
“The slaves built the country and never benefited from it,” Cosby said. “As painful as it is, we must learn about it because in the words of James Baldwin, ‘You cannot fix what you won’t face.’”
“40 Days of Prayer” is now available on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble.