From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 12:55:40


                    BLACK PRESBYTERIAN CAUCUS 
                         By Julian Shipp 
MEMPHIS, Tenn.-- Republic of South Africa president Nelson Mandela was 
among three recipients of the Black Presbyterian Women's Lucy Craft Laney 
Award, presented during the National Black Presbyterian Caucus (NBPC) 28th 
Annual Conference March 23-26. 
     Accepting the award for Mandela was Vera Swan, ecumenist, teacher, 
author and former missionary in South Africa, who participated as an 
observer last year during the nation's post-apartheid democratic election. 
     Also honored were Dr. Sarah Cordery, former moderator of Presbyterian 
Women,  and Lee Wilmore, co-partner in ministry with her husband, Dr. 
Gayraud S. Wilmore. 
     "This has been a very pleasant experience, one which has made me very 
happy," Wilmore said. 
     "I'm grateful to the Black Presbyterian Women for this honor," Cordery 
said. "I'm not a wagering woman, but I'm willing to bet that I see before 
me the core of black Presbyterian leadership in this church." 
     Keynote speaker at the conference was Annalee Walker, a noted 
educator, storyteller, singer, poet and writer from Oakland, Calif. Echoing 
the conference theme "Walk with Africans: A Healing Journey," Walker used a 
series of traditional black spirituals to illustrate the resiliency and 
heritage of African Americans. 
     For example, Walker said, songs like "Wade in the Water" and "Over my 
Head" were used by slaves working in the fields to communicate the status 
of escaping slaves as they approached a "heaven plantation" or checkpoint 
along the Underground Railway. The meaning of the lyrics, impervious to the 
white slave owners, also served to empower the slaves spiritually. 
     "If you listen to our spirituals there is not one word of hate or fear 
in the lyrics of the spirituals," Walker said. "Walk with the Africans for 
it is truly a healing journey." 
     The Lucy Craft Laney Award is presented annually to African American 
women who have served admirably in their respective places of ministry, 
according to Bettie Durrah, one of the program participants. 
     "The individuals whom we honor today are carrying on in the same 
tradition of Lucy Craft Laney," Durrah said. "African American 
Presbyterians need to tell their own stories and celebrate and share our 
heritage and hope." 
     Born in Macon, Ga., in 1855, Laney was a former slave, daughter of a 
Presbyterian minister and noted educator. In 1883, she opened a private 
school in the lecture room of Christ Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Ga., 
which later became Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, offering both 
college preparatory and vocational courses. 
     Three generations of young men and women who responded to Laney's 
influence went on to Atlanta University, Lincoln University, Fisk 
University, Howard University and Talladega College.  During her lifetime, 
Laney also received honorary degrees from her alma mater, Atlanta 
University, and from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and South Carolina 
State College. 
                               # # # 

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  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
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