North Georgia Black Methodists for Church Renewal
SANKOFA HUSH ARBOR
Communion Room (Foundry Building, Empire 1)
North Georgia Annual Conference 2019
The NGBMCR SANKOFA HUSH ARBOR was historic. This year was the first time NGBMCR created a space to highlight the faith and excellence of the Black Church traditions. If you were unable to attend Annual Conference or did not have a chance to visit the space, enjoy this summary.
Empire Room 1
Hush Arbors (brush arbor, brush harbor) were created by enslaved Africans and their descendants as “hidden” places to worship. These spaces were sacred and free from whites, who offered westernized Christianity that demanded slaves to obey their masters. Historians have referred to this antebellum church and worship practices of enslaved persons as the “Invisible Institution”. In addition to worship our ancestors learned to read and make plans for escape. The Hush Arbor location would change to prevent capture, severe punishment or death for those who attended. The call to worship was a coded message between enslaved persons telling of an upcoming service. They found freedom and release from the dehumanizing physical and mental cruelty of slave life through worship and fellowship. The Hush Arbor gathering provided spiritual and emotional renewal and affirmed the humanity of those enslaved. So important were these services that many who attended would worship all night only to return to the fields at sunrise. We believe NGBMCR serves as a Hush Arbor for Black Methodists.
Sankofa Bird and Sankofa Masks
We chose Adinkra symbol Sankofa as the name and theme for the NGBMCR Hush Arbor because of its meaning, “go back and get it.” We wanted to remind one another of our history, the powerful witness and extraordinary faith of our ancestors. The Sankofa Bird and Sankofa Masks were handmade in Ghana, West Africa. The Sankofa bird sits atop the Communion Table and two Sankofa masks guard our churches and schools represented by the mason jars.
Lanterns were used to find their way to the location in the dark. Those who went ahead to set up the Hush Arbor would leave clues for others to follow.
Live Trees represent the thick wooded areas chosen for hush arbors, the hedge protection from evil and the interdependence between us and our world. The number of trees used were 18, the number of bondage, which can be physical or spiritual. Our ancestors found freedom in the Hush Arbor and we wanted to create a place free of bondage.
Exposed Brick Wall represents remote slave cabins also used as Hush Arbors or Praise Houses. We have left the brick wall exposed to remind us of the kitchens in these cabins where pots filled with water muffled the sound of prayer and praise.
Quart sized mason jars filled with soil represents the historically and traditionally black churches across North Georgia. There are jars for Clark Atlanta University, Gammon Theological Seminary and Paine College. These historically black colleges and universities are located within the North Georgia Annual Conference. We also included two jars of soil from South Georgia to stand united with the local BMCR caucus in South Georgia, SGBMCR.
Quilts were used (as well as pots filled with water) to muffle the sound in order to prevent discovery. They would watch and pray. We have placed three quilts in the Sankofa Hush Arbor.
Underground Railroad Quilt
Using African animals fabric 2019
Block piece created by Jean Freeman (Member, Ben Hill UMC)
Long arm by Aisha Lumumba
SOWING THREADS OF MEMORIES
The symbols included in the quilt indicate the way to freedom.
African-American Quilt: “Picking Cotton on the Farm”
Artist: Phyllis Stephens – Circa 2000
From the Private Art Collection of James W. Jackson and Gedney L. Vining
Ancestral Table Quilt
Block piece and quilting by Marie Hambrick.
Mrs. Hambrick, an 88 year-old elder who learned of the Hush Arbor from her neighbor Hatti Jackson, Vice-chair, NGBMCR. She was so excited she made a quilt for the occasion.
The Ancestral Table includes books The Middle Passage by the late Tom Feelings, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and the Legacy Museum, where the mason jars of soil from locations of lynching are located.
Following the Path
Artist Earl Jackson, 1988
A Place of Crossing, 1991
Signed by Artist: Earl Jackson
Jesus Loves Me
Artist: Varnette Honeywood, 1988
BLUE BOTTLE TREE & COMMUNION TABLE
The Anti-White Supremacy Bottle Tree was debuted during the General BMCR 52nd Annual Meeting by NGBMCR in preparation for the Sankofa Hush Arbor.
Iron was used in the threshold of slave quarters as a protection for the house. (We used a wrought iron bottle drying rack that will fit 88 bottles as the base of the bottle tree).
Cobalt blue glass bottles were hung in trees to catch the evil night spirits and keep them from entering the dwelling. It was one of many spiritual practices of those enslaved persons brought with them from Africa and adapted to the Americas. Bottle trees originated from a spiritual practice in the Kingdom of Kongo (1390-1914), West Central Africa.
The number 88 is a code number used by white supremacy groups when communicating. H is the 8th letter of the alphabet. The 88 stands for HH (Heil Hitler) or Hitler Salute. We placed 88 bottles on the iron drying rack as a sign of protection from evil and raise awareness of the rise in white supremacy and its negative effects on our communities.
Burlap represents the rough clothing (made from croaker sacks) given to enslaved persons and the loving kindness shown by older children, who would wear the new roughest garments to soften them for the younger children. May we always show kindness one to another.
Candles (12) have been placed around the bottle tree to represent the young adults in each of the twelve Districts of the North Georgia Annual Conference.
A CEREMONY OF LIBATION was conducted to invite our ancestors (cloud of witnesses) to join us in the space. Our “ask” was they be pleased with who we have become, find us honoring their sacrifices and holding fast to the faith which they passed on to us.
We specifically honor those relatives of North Georgia Black Methodists who were lynched in Georgia.
Henry “Peg” Gilbert
Location of Lynching: Troop County, Georgia
Grandfather of Evon Lucear
Ben Hill UMC
Location of Lynching: Montgomery County, Georgia
Great Uncle of Pamela Perkins Carn
Empire Room 2
The Annual Conference Prayer Room was designed by Rev. Jan McCoy and the Visual Team. The room contained the four prayer stations with the Annual Conference themes for Bishop Sue’s 1st Quadrennium in North Georgia and the prayer labyrinth. The Annual Conference Visual Team embraced the Hush Arbor and NGBMCR added items to the existing design.
NGBMCR ADDITIONS TO PRAYER ROOM
Prayer Station One
Framed Artwork: The Baptism
Artist: Don Reasor
Prayer Station Two
Vintage Wooden Sankofa Wall Hanging
Prayer Station Three “One With Each Other”
Framed Artwork: The Procession
Memorial to those we have lost. The foundation for the memorial was a body outline placed on the floor. We added a bouquet of flowers and a stuffed bear with pink and blue ribbons (which normally signals the birth of a child) to highlight the memorials our children are creating for family, friends and peers they have lost.
Become a member of NGBMCR.
Our Time Under God Is Now!