GALLIPOLIS — “Links in the chain to freedom” is this year’s theme for the 149th annual Emancipation Day Celebration slated Sept. 22-23 at the Gallia County Fairgrounds.
The Gallia County Commission and Gallipolis City Commission recently issued joint proclamations, according to which the Emancipation Proclamation has been celebrated and honored in Gallia County since 1863, beginning on Sept. 22, 1863, the first anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation on slavery, and has continued consecutively to pay tribute to this historic document.
“The Gallia County Emancipation Day Celebration embodies all that is innate at the core of the American Spirit,” said event organizer and President of the Emancipation Committee Andrew Gilmore. “This celebration is not just a black history celebration; it’s an American history celebration. It is not a Democratic, Republican, Catholic or Protestant history celebration; it’s an American history celebration.
“We gain support from all segments of our community and we welcome everyone to come and help us celebrate,” added Gilmore.
The event begins at 10:30 a.m Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday and includes a number of re-enactors taking on roles as Civil War soldiers, President Abraham and Mrs. Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and others. Music will be performed by the River Valley Marching Band, Burlington Male Chorus of the First Baptist Church, the Community Choir of Gallipolis and Ordinary People of Gallipolis under the direction of Christian Scott. April Fletcher, Gerry Bass Cain and Melony Fletcher Howard, MBA, JD, co-authors of the book “From Plantations to Prisons”, will serve as Saturday’s keynote speakers.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will hold a presentation beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Rev. Leon Forté of Athens will deliver the Sunday sermon and Charlene E. McGhee Smith, Ph.D., daughter of Tuskegee Airman Col. Charles McGhee, has been selected as the keynote speaker.
“From Plantations to Prisons” is described as a riveting true account of a family’s journey into history. It is a nonfiction novel that expresses a theory validated by statistics and laws. It features untold prison stories designed to provoke thoughts for young adults and seniors, and untold stories of struggles, racism and experience within one family bound by their ‘roots’. The work also contains the true story of a unique American love affair between a master, John Hockaday, and a slave – a biracial love story that predated the Civil War resulting in offspring migrating from Halifax County, North Carolina to Gallia County, Ohio.
Forté is the founding and Senior Pastor of Grace Christian Center in Athens, Ohio. He is a highly sought after and dynamic speaker who has traveled the nations to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He and his wife, Linda, make their home in the Athens area.
Forté grew up in Columbus, Ohio, where at the age of 35 he realized God’s plan for him to start a life-changing church in Athens — a place where people who were distressed, discontented and indebted would be trained into the leaders of tomorrow.
This vision became a tangible reality when, then Adullam Ministries, was founded with 23 people while sharing space with another church. In that time the church grew exponentially. In a short time Adullam Ministries became Grace Christian Center, a vibrant, multi-cultural, ethnically diverse body of charismatic believers, and moved to its current location.
In Forté’s 30 years of ministry, he has led hundreds to Christ. At the heart of Forté is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He seeks to bring biblical truth into practical understanding. As a prophetic voice in the Church, his passion is igniting a fire here in his city and beyond, confronting and conquering racism, inequality and injustice. As well, Forté is a change-agent to alter the destiny of the disenfranchised.
Forté attended Word of Life Bible College (World Harvest), was ordained through Victory Christian Center, and holds a master’s degree in theology from Jacksonville Theological Seminary. He has two children, Aaron and Kariss.
Saturday’s keynote speaker Smith’s education includes a baccalaureate degree in Education from the University of Illinois, a master’s degree in Health Services Administration from U. of I., Springfield, and a doctoral degree in Communication from Ohio University. Additionally, she is a graduate of the Wharton School Effective Executive Program and the Osteopathic Health Policy Fellowship program and is a past Fellow in the American College of Medical Practice Executives.
Smith is also a recipient of the Standard of Excellence Award of the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine and the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine and was honored by The Ohio University Friends of the Libraries for publication of Tuskegee Airmen, Biography of Charles E. McGee, Air Force Fighter Combat Record Holder.
In 2008, Smith retired from the position of Associate Provost for Program Development at Ohio University. Prior to that she served as Assistant Vice President for Health Sciences and Medical Affairs at the New York Institute of Technology, Associate Dean of Operations (COO), Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine (OUCOM) and Associate Professor of Social Medicine in the College’s Department of Social Medicine and she held other positions with the college, including Associate Dean for Administration and Finance and Managing Director of the Osteopathic Medical Center.
In addition to leadership responsibilities, Dr. Smith also taught and facilitated in medical education and graduate programs. A frequent presenter, Smith leads professional development seminars and workshops on topics ranging from values based leadership and teambuilding, strategic planning and conflict management to health communication, cultural competency and health care trends and strategies. Other publications by Dr. Smith have appeared in National Productivity Review and the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.
Smith and husband William divide their time between homes in Athens, Ohio and Annapolis, Maryland. They enjoy close connections with family, including four children, Tesha (Smith) Myers, Damona (Smith) Strautmanis, Damon Smith and Charon Smith, and nine grandchildren.
“In addition to the generous camaraderie, the event is an opportunity to hear inspiring and talented entertainers, sample traditional foods and purchase authentic wares,”said Gilmore. “The history exhibits offer a glimpse into our past and open a wealth of genealogical discoveries.”