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2011-01-05 / Columnists

Amityville & More

Our Piece of the World
by Ellen Holliday
Photos by Joe Turner

“Over centuries, African Americans and Native Americans created shared histories, communities, families and ways of life. Prejudice, laws and twists of history have often divided them from others, yet African-Native American people were united in the struggle against slavery and dispossession, and then for self-determination and freedom. For African-Native Americans, their double heritage is truly indivisible.” -Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

On Dec. 4, Bethel A.M.E. in Copiague, celebrated its 195th Anniversary with a program honoring our Native American and African Ancestry.

Pastor Stanley Gordon Smith, minister of Divinity of Bethel, teamed with Rev. Sharon Jackson, associate Minister of Rush Temple A.M.E. Zion Church, Jamaica, who is also known as Princess Winona Red Bird, co-founder and coordinator of The Lenne’ Lanape’ Ancestry group. The celebration began as Pastor Smith and his wife Wanda met at the cemetery at Albany and North Bayview avenues in Amityville with local Elder Jean Wilkins-Dember and her son Jerry to lift our ancestors through libations and prayer. Calling together the spirits of the living and the dead, the group proceeded to the church at 20 Simmons St., where it was joined by the processional and cultural Dancers with Native Americans in full regalia. The group was followed by clergy, officiating officers and the pastor of this great church.

Bethel is the oldest Black church on Long Island and planted on Native American land, donated and designated for the purpose of worship.

The Word of God, prayer and singing was lead by the associate ministers of the day, including Rev. Theresa Bedford, an African Native American, as were most of those that gathered there, including me and my family.

Sister Lucinda Pierre, Church Anniversary Chairperson, read the occasion/welcome; Ms. Stephanie Brown presented the Church History and the offering was lifted for the Grave Site Cleanup Committee by the Bethel Officers.

Ms. Eva Crews, Two Hearts, rendered a song. Y.A.D.A, Bethel’s praise dancers followed, as did an Inter Cultural Group. A Caribbean Selection and the Cup of Unity was presented by Prince Esemasas. He included his words of faith, commitment to brotherhood and the honoring of ancestors and Mother Earth.

This has always been the key to the Native American life style; honoring those that came before and the land. After the meditation, remarks, blessing of the food and benediction by Rev. Stanley G. Smith, the program continued in the lower level of the church. Rev. Sharon Jackson presided and presented “Nunowa,” the celebration of the Harvest. Also called a Corn Festival, it honors Mother Earth. We dined on three sisters soup (beans, corn and squash) offered by Mrs. Mary Davis our culinary coordinator, along with corn chowder, succotash, rice, sweet and white potatoes, corn fritters, corn bread, salad, chicken made by the congregation and barbecue ribs prepared by Pastor Smith.

The opening ceremony was a Warrior Dance, in true Native style, by Timber Wolf. A shawl dance was lead by our own Sister Terri Caldwell, also known as Loving Spirit.

The oral history, roll call, and prayer were all presented in authentic manner by Princess Winona Red Bird, representing the three Totems— Turtle, Turkey and Wolf clans. The blend of our cultures, in Truth makes us one. One blood, One Nation of a people, indivisible.

For more information on the Church activities, call 631-842-8463, or go to http://

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