Born July 1, 1942, vocal arranger, songwriter, choir leader and pastor Andrae Crouch bridged the worlds of church and mainstream music for more than 50 years. Dubbed as “The Father of Modern Gospel Music,” Crouch brought a contemporary sound and melodic sensibility to gospel. This made him uniquely suited to appeal to both black and white audiences during the early days of the countercultural “Jesus Movement,” and it also brought him attention beyond the church.
A California native who grew up in the Church of God in Christ, Crouch wrote his first gospel song at age 14. That song, “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power,” went on to become one of Crouch’s signature hits, gracing churches everywhere.
His contribution to the worship of the church include songs such as:
- My Tribute (To God Be the Glory)
- Bless the Lord Oh My Soul
- Through it All
- Let the Church Say Amen
His recordings garnered him 7 Grammy Awards, 6 GMA Dove Awards, an Academy Award nomination for his arranging work on the 1985 film The Color Purple, and an induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998.
Crouch’s career was formed during a period of great unrest in America. The Civil Rights Movement, assassinations, the Vietnam War, race riots and a rising drug subculture defined the times, as did the Jesus Movement. Crouch left college and went to work for Teen Challenge, a Christian organization which rehabilitated drug addicts and gang members. He formed the Addicts Choir there and began writing songs to comfort and encourage the troubled teens he counseled.
During the same period, Andrae and his sister Sandra formed Andraé Crouch and the Disciples from members of his church. In 1969 they were signed to Light Records, a mainstream Christian label. Crouch was inspired as much by contemporary pop, rock, and R&B as he was by traditional gospel. The crossover appeal of the group and Crouch’s contemporary gospel style also garnered them popularity on the white church circuit. It catapulted the group to prominence during a time when the nation was in need of a clear message of hope.
The Disciples’ contemporary style also brought some criticism from some gospel music purists who challenged the authenticity of Crouch’s contemporary sound. The popular gospel style of the day followed the more traditional gospel sound, such as that of the Reverend James Cleveland; also a driving force in modern gospel music. Still, because Crouch’s songwriting followed familiar gospel music structure and reflected traditional church doctrine, his music’s purity has earned a place in hymnals around the world.
It wasn’t long before Andrae Crouch also caught the attention of the pop music world. He was best known to the mainstream music audience for his choral work on Michael Jackson’s hit Man in the Mirror (1988), Madonna’s Like a Prayer (1989) and the soundtrack to the Disney film The Lion King (1994). His passion, however, would forever be for creating the music that expressed his faith and for preaching and teaching at his parent’s home church in Pacoima, California. He passed away on January 8, 2015, at the age of 72.
“That’s all I want in life is to be remembered as a guy that really loved God” – Andrae Crouch
Introduction, Dr. Judith McAllister. History, Karen Lascaris.
Hear West Angeles’ Revelation Choir, under the direction of Brother Ron Taylor, honor the anointed work of Andraé Crouch by singing one of his most heralded songs entitled, “Soon & Very Soon”:
At the age of 28, James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) began to pen a poem which would become one of the most celebrated hymns of all time. Johnson was not only a writer, but also a lawyer, teacher, United States diplomat, and the author of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the Negro National Anthem. He became the first African-American to pass the bar in the state of Florida, and also served as executive secretary of the NAACP from 1920-1930.
VOICE OF A PEOPLE, SONG OF A NATION
After receiving his bachelor’s and law degrees, Johnson balanced dual careers as educator and lawyer, while also writing poetry. In 1900, at the age of 29, he was asked to speak at an observance at the Florida school where he was principal, but chose to write a piece instead. That piece became what we now know as Lift Every Voice and Sing.
Said James Weldon Johnson –
“A group of young men in Jacksonville, Florida, arranged to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday in 1900. My brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, and I decided to write a song to be sung at the exercises. I wrote the words and he wrote the music. Our New York publisher, Edward B. Marks, made mimeographed copies for us, and the song was taught to and sung by a chorus of five hundred colored school children.
“Shortly afterwards my brother and I moved away from Jacksonville to New York, and the song passed out of our minds. But the school children of Jacksonville kept singing it; they went off to other schools and sang it; they became teachers and taught it to other children. Within twenty years it was being sung over the South and in some other parts of the country. Today the song, popularly known as the Negro National Hymn, is quite generally used.
“The lines of this song repay me in an elation, almost of exquisite anguish, whenever I hear them sung by Negro children.”
In 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded and by 1920, Johnson was appointed as its Executive Secretary. As he worked with the organization to combat racism, lynching, and segregation, the popularity of his anthem began to spread throughout the South. Copies of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” could be found in Black churches across the country, and the NAACP had adopted it as its theme song. It was also during this time that “Negro History Week” (now “Black History Month”) was first celebrated, conceived by noted historian Carter G. Woodson.
According to Harry Henderson and Romare Bearden in A History of African-American Artists (From 1792 to the Present)-
“[Lift Every Voice and Sing] resonates strongly as a Christian hymn because it is a song about exodus. It is a story of a journey sanctified by faith, and protected and prospered by God”.
Though the Johnson brothers wrote over 200 songs together (mostly for the stage), this anthem would be their most renowed. Recent historic references to Lift Every Voice include the recitation of its 3rd stanza by Civil Rights leader Reverend Joseph Lowery (formerly president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference), for his benediction at the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama in 2009, and a beautiful performance by noted soprano Denyce Graves at the opening ceremonies of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC in 2016.
Lift Every Voice and Sing continues to serve as inspiration of a people, and an anthem of resilience, hope and faith – not only for African Americans, but also for all Americans who are on the journey to freedom, liberty and justice.
LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING
Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
 – Poetry Foundation, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/46549
 – Bearden, Romare and Henderson, Harry: A History of African-American Artists (From 1792 to the Present), Pantheon Books (Random House), 1993, ISBN 0-394-57016-2. Pp. 168-180.
Image of Augusta Savage, courtesy, New York Public Library.
The American journey of Black History Month begins around 1915, 50 years after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. In September of that year, historian Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by black Americans and other peoples of African descent. Known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the group sponsored a National Negro History week in 1926.
CREATING BLACK HISTORY MONTH
The son of former slaves, historian Carter G. Woodson was the second African American to receive a PhD from Harvard University. Like W. E. B. Du Bois (who was, incidentally, the first African American to receive a PhD from Harvard), he believed that truth could not be denied, and that reason would prevail over prejudice . Through his organization, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), he conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The NAACP was also founded in February in 1909.
Woodson lobbied schools, churches, and organizations to participate in a special program to encourage the study of African-American history. The response was overwhelming. Black history clubs sprang up, teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils, and progressive whites, not simply white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort.
By the time of Woodson’s death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. Mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week. The Black Awakening of the 1960s dramatically expanded the consciousness of African Americans about the importance of black history, and the Civil Rights movement focused Americans of all color on the subject of the contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.
By the 1970s, Negro History Week had evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses. During America’s Bicentennial Celebration in 1976, President Gerald R. Ford recognized Black History Month as a national celebration, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
HONORING BLACK HISTORY MONTH TODAY
Since its official, national recognition in 1976, Black History Month has been designated by every American president as a time to reflect upon the history and accomplishments of African Americans, and to honor the individuals and groups which have worked tirelessly toward racial justice. Other countries around the world also devote time to celebrating Black History.
American Presidents have also adopted the practice of endorsing specific themes for the month’s observations. The 2013 theme, “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington,” marks the 150th and 50th anniversaries of two pivotal events in African-American history.
For Black History Month in 2014, President Barack Obama in his Presidential Proclamation said the following:
“As we pay tribute to the heroes, sung and unsung, of African-American history, we recall the inner strength that sustained millions in bondage. We remember the courage that led activists to defy lynch mobs and register their neighbors to vote. And we carry forward the unyielding hope that guided a movement as it bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice. Even while we seek to dull the scars of slavery and legalized discrimination, we hold fast to the values gained through centuries of trial and suffering.”
As the Black American journey continues to uplift the hopes and dreams of those of other cultures worldwide, the stories and testimonies found in African American history serve as a constant light and reflection of the true soul and promise of America. Carter G. Woodson, in promoting the study of black history, has inspired a nation to honor the resilience and spirit of a people.
Karen Lascaris is a regular contributor to Westa.org. She is the author of “In Our Own Image: Treasured African American Traditions, Journeys, and Icons”, published in 2001 by Running Press of Philadelphia.
Video, courtesy, History.com. Many thanks!
 – “About Carter G. Woodson”, Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). https://asalh100.org/our-history/carter-g-woodson/, accessed 2-7-2017.
 – “About African American History Month,” excerpted from an essay by Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University, for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. http://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/about.html; accessed 2/4/2016.
 – “African American History Month”, The National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts. http://www.national-consortium.org/Special-Recognition/African-American-History-Month.aspx
FEATURED PAINTING – Aaron Douglas: “From Slavery to Reconstruction, Aspects of Negro Life”, 1934; courtesy, The New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Art and Artifacts Division.
DID YOU KNOW?
- In September 2016, the Smithsonian Institution opened the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC. Thirteen years since Congress and President George W. Bush authorized its construction, the 400,000-square-foot building stands on a five-acre site on the National Mall, close to the Washington Monument.
- AfricanAmericanHistoryMonth.gov is a collaboration between The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
- The Library of Congress has a branch dedicated to law and legislative documents. The Law Library of Congress has compiled guides to commemorative observations, including a comprehensive inventory of the Public Laws, Presidential Proclamations and congressional resolutions related to African American History Month.
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the greatest leaders in world history. Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950s-60s, which began in the African American communities of the segregated south. Its purpose was to achieve legal equality and economic justice for all, the effects of which were felt not only in the United States but also worldwide.
“…‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” -Matthew 22:39-40 (NET )
Reverend King’s work has transformed the lives of African Americans, women, the poor, and people of other colors and faiths in America, opening the door to greater, unprecedented opportunities for advancement in all areas of life. The purpose of the Civil Rights Movement was to establish the Constitutional and Biblical principles of equality, liberty, and freedom for all in America. Dr. King’s work with the movement ignited and inspired people of other cultures and faiths worldwide in their own struggle for freedom.
A timeline of key events in the extraordinary life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. follows:
1929: Born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, GA, Martin Luther King was the son, grandson, and great-grandson of Baptist ministers. Named Michael King at birth, King was renamed “Martin” when he was about 6 years old. His father, Martin Luther King Sr., pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, and his mother, Alberta (Williams) King, a former schoolteacher, shared the Auburn Avenue home where Dr. King spent his early years with his maternal grandparents, the Rev. Adam Daniel Williams and Jeannie Celeste Williams.
1944-48: King attends Morehouse College, majoring in sociology. Although initially reluctant to follow his calling, Dr. Benjamin Mays, President of Morehouse College, showed him that a religious career could be intellectually satisfying as well as the right foundation with which to pursue the ideals of social change. Dr. King, he was ordained during his final semester at Morehouse.
1951: King began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University’s School of Theology. It was during his time in the Boston area where he met and courted Coretta Scott, an Alabama-born Antioch College graduate who was then a student at the New England Conservatory of Music. They married two years later.
1955: received his doctorate from Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, PA. He became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL, making his first mark on the civil-rights movement by mobilizing the black community during a 382-day boycott of the city’s bus lines. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately declared bus segregation unconstitutional.
1957: Dr. King laid the groundwork for the organization now known as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He was elected as its president, and he soon began helping other communities organize their own protests against discrimination.
1963: In Birmingham, AL, during a non-violent protest for fair hiring practices and the desegregation of department-store facilities, police brutality used against the marchers dramatized the plight of blacks to the nation at large. Dr. King was arrested during the protest. He wrote“Letter from a Birmingham Jail” during his imprisonment. He then became a principal speaker at the historic March on Washington, where he delivered one of the most passionate addresses of his career to a multi-racial, multi-cultural crowd, the largest which had ever assembled there on behalf of a common cause in US history. Time magazine designated him as its Person of the Year for 1963.
1964: At 35 years old, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize (see Dr. King’s original notes for his renowned Nobel Prize acceptance speech HERE). In Selma, Ala., he led a voter-registration campaign that ended in the Selma-to-Montgomery Freedom March. King next brought his crusade to Chicago, where he launched programs to rehabilitate the slums and provide housing.
Dr. King rallied behind a new cause: the war in Vietnam. Here, King began to also address poverty, which he saw as a fundamental connection to the cause of the war; students, professors, intellectuals, clergymen, and reformers rushed into the movement as well. He called for a guaranteed family income, he threatened national boycotts, and he spoke of disrupting entire cities by non-violent “camp-ins.” With this in mind, he began to plan a massive March of the Poor on Washington, D.C., envisioning a demonstration of such intensity and size that Congress would have to recognize and deal with the huge number of desperate and downtrodden Americans.
1968: On April 4, 1968, at the age of 39, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. He was felled by an assassin’s bullet as he stood with Jesse Jackson and Ralph Abernathy on the balcony of the black-owned Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, TN. The hotel is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.
1983: Legislation for a Holiday honoring Dr. King was first introduced four days after Dr. King’s assassination. It was signed into law in 1983. He is the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor and is the only non-president memorialized on the Great Mall in Washington, DC, our nation’s capital.
BELOW: Watch a rarely seen video of Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967, where he delivered his speech “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” Many thanks to Beacon Press for posting this video, and to Mr. Rodges Lawton, the student who recorded it back in 1967.
The King Library and Archives in Atlanta is the largest repository of primary source materials on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American Civil Rights Movement in the world. Significant records which document the social, cultural, economic and political impact of the civil rights movement are housed at the King Library and Archives and are available online. See more at http://www.thekingcenter.org/
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the greatest leaders in world history. Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950’s-60’s to achieve legal equality and economic justice for African Americans in the United States. Legislation for a Holiday honoring Dr. King was first introduced four days after Dr. King’s assassination, then signed into law in 1983.
Today, we honor the legacy and memory of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with 7 of his quotes on racism, social change, and nonviolence:
- “Racism is a philosophy based on a contempt for life…It separates not only bodies, but minds and spirits. Inevitably, it descends to inflicting spiritual and physical homicide upon the out-group.”
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now…”
- “Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’”
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense [rather] than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
- “It is the arrogant assertion that one race is the center of value and object of devotion, before which other races must kneel in submission.”
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
- “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Image and quotes, courtesy of The King Center.org. (accessed January 17, 2016). http://www.thekingcenter.org/about-dr-king. See excerpts from the historic March on Washington below, courtesy of The History Channel.
The King Library and Archives in Atlanta is the largest repository of primary source materials on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American Civil Rights Movement in the world. Significant records which document the social, cultural, economic and political impact of the civil rights movement are housed at the King Library and Archives, and are available online. See more at: http://www.thekingcenter.org/
Learn about the significance and history of New Year’s Eve – also known as Watch Night – and the traditions designed to bring Christians closer to God.
The significance and historic symbolism of New Year’s Eve have been overshadowed in recent years by revelry and broken resolutions. Some in society have even discouraged the tradition of making resolutions, citing studies which tell us that only 8 percent of us keep them, and that resolutions may even be harmful to us!
But did you know that the Christian New Year’s Eve church service – also known as Watch Night Service – was created to bring Christians closer to God, and also has very special significance in the African American community?
In America, however, another tradition was unfolding. In 1770, the first Watch Services were held in America at the St. George’s Methodist Church. Two slaves, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, were a part of this congregation and they later left the church after being denied the right to pray alongside white worshipers. In 1794, they became the renowned founders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.).
WATCH NIGHT SERVICE TODAY
Watch Night Services usually begin between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., and often end just past midnight. Today, the services may combine praise and worship, testimonies, and prophecy for the year to come, but many African American churches still honor Watch Night’s connection to the abolition of slavery.
Over 150 years has passed since the first “Freedom’s Eve,” and tradition now brings Christians of all colors together for worship and celebration each year. African American Christians have gathered in churches annually on New Year’s Eve ever since 1862, praising God for safe deliverance through another year: but, most importantly, honoring the ancestors’ prayers for a future of freedom and liberty.
Karen Lascaris is a regular contributor to Westa.org. She is the author of “In Our Own Image: Treasured African American Traditions, Journeys, and Icons”, published in 2001 by Running Press of Philadelphia.
 Forbes.com, “Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Years Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It.” http://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/. Accessed 12/26/2015.
 “Watch Night”; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchnight_service, accessed 12-28-2017.
 “The Covenant Service”. http://www.methodist.org.uk/who-we-are/what-is-distinctive-about-methodism/a-covenant-with-god/the-covenant-service. Accessed 12/27/2017.
 “Why We Make New Year’s Resolutions”. LiveScience.com. http://m.livescience.com/42255-history-of-new-years-resolutions.html, accessed 12-28-15.
 “The Official Site of the AME Church”. www.ame-church.com/our-church/our-history/, accessed 12-28-2017.
 “First Watch Night Service Occurs”; The African American Desk Reference,
Schomburg Center for research in Black Culture. http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/first-watch-night-service-occurs, accessed 12-28-2017.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Not all Slaves were freed by the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Only 3.1 million of the 4 million slaves were freed at that time. Freedom’s Eve was a call to action for all Black Americans; a moral imperative to fight for the full realization of freedom for their brothers and sisters who were still enslaved.
- All enslaved Africans were freed from chattel slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy during the Civil War and the ratification of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery on December 18, 1865.
- In the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, the tradition of the late night service is called Midnight Mass or Eucharist. Like the Watch Night service of the Church of Scotland, it is attended on the night of Christmas Eve.
Praise the New Year in with West Angeles! Please join Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Evangelist Joyce Rodgers, the West Angeles Mass Choir, and other special guests for Watch Night Service on December 31, 2017 at 10:00 PM the West Angeles at the Cathedral, 3600 Crenshaw Boulevard, LA 90016.
Please join us for the Afterglow Breakfast! We’re having breakfast in the Crystal Room immediately following Watch Night Service, 12:30-2:30 a.m. on January 1, 2018. Cost: $10 per person in advance, $12 at the door. West Angeles North Campus, 3045 Crenshaw Boulevard, LA 90016. See you then!
January is Consecration Month. Please join West Angeles Church of God In Christ in fasting in prayer for the month of January, 2018. Complete guidelines and prayer calendar available in the lobby, and on Westa.org.
Looking for a meaningful way to spend some of your down time this Christmas season? Devote it to a Christmas craft project! Crafts are a great way to spend time with loved ones and friends, and it’s also a great way to spend meaningful time with the children in your family.
Ornament-making is a great way to start your own Holiday tradition. Whether you’re spending Christmas with the family, or away from your own loved ones, this is a great activity to take time out to share the Christmas Spirit with those in a women’s shelter or home for the elderly.
HAND-MADE CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT
Here’s a project that’s simple and enjoyable to do – and a great way to recycle those special Christmas cards you receive each year by making your own keepsake ornaments.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
- Six (6) Christmas Cards
- Paper or Craft Glue
- Compass (or Drinking Glass)
3. Using your ruler, draw a square inside of each circle (make sure the corners of the square touch the edge of the circle). Score, and fold upwards along the edges of each square to create a flap (see photo below).
4. Glue the back of each flap, and attach five of the circles until the ornament takes shape.
5. Punch a small hole in the center of the sixth circle. Make a loop with the ribbon and knot underneath. Glue top to remaining flaps.
You can also adorn and personalize your ornaments with family photographs, glitter, crystals, shells, or other special items.
As it says in Exodus 31:3-5 (NIV) –
3 “and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills; 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts”
Working with our hands by engaging in crafts with loved ones or those in need of cheer during the Christmas season can be our own way to bless God.