Lashanna yawned, checking the time on her phone, hoping church would soon end, dreading the rest of the day. Yes, she needed prayer and uplifting music, having worked the late shift at McDonalds the day before, a shift bustling with kids celebrating graduation, kids her age, some from her class. “May I take your order please?” she would say to them, wishing she was on the other side of the counter, wishing she had time to celebrate, too. After all, she made honor roll four years in a row and graduated with honors, with a higher GPA than most of them, a GPA that got her accepted into Morgan State, a GPA that is the shining star in her high school record, a record replete with excellent schoolwork but lacking extracurricular activities, a record that did not meet the requirements for a full academic scholarship. Grandma sat next to Lashanna in church as always, so proud of how she turned out, considering how crack had taken her mother and the mean streets had taken her father. She squeezed Lashanna’s hand tighter, saddened by her mother’s broken promise to be there for her daughter, weighed down by Lashanna’s unanswered questions about the whereabouts of her father. “I’ll do everything I can for you,” she promised Lashanna years ago. And she did. It took all the strength Grandma had to raise another girl, dealing with the teenage drama, protecting her from the dangers that all teenage girls face, buying clothes, food, gas, and school supplies; nothing left to save for college. Lashanna helps Grandma stand up, and they join the congregation in singing “Life Every Voice and Sing,” an anthem that reminds Grandma of the dark past she and Lashanna overcame, an anthem that invokes visions of Lashanna’s future gleaming like a white star, an anthem that frightens Lashanna, fearing the weary years ahead and remembering the silent tears that wet her face some nights as she fell asleep. The music continues in the background as the Pastor acknowledges each graduate, parading one-by-one to the altar to receive a certificate from the church. “Lashanna Jackson,” he calls, “Lashanna has been accepted to Morgan State University!” “What?” Lashanna thinks, “How did he know that?” As the congregation cheers and applauds, Lashanna sees Grandma smiling through her tears of joy and pride. Lashanna shakes the Pastor’s hand and accepts her certificate, along with a $1000 scholarship. “We love you,” the Pastor says to the graduates, “and we will be here for you along your college journey. We are praying for you and we know you will continue to make us proud! God did not bring you this far to leave you!” Lashanna smiles through her own tears of joy, eyes fixed on Grandma, suddenly not as tired or as scared as before.
This scene plays out at African American churches all over the country every year. Union Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (www.ubame.org), located at 6810 Floral Park Road, Brandywine, MD, where Rev. Dr. Harry L. Seawright is Pastor, has awarded a $1000 scholarship to each graduating, college-bound senior for more than a decade, providing vital funding to jump start the futures of their young, matriculating members.
The Union Bethel Scholarship Ministry will raise funds to support their graduates with a gospel concert, featuring a free will offering and some of the region’s top gospel talent, taking place Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 4 PM at Union Bethel. Featured gospel ministers are Baltimore’s Kimberly Williams, a phenomenal young minister of music gifted in praising God with the acoustic guitar and stirring vocals; a local favorite known as Another Group, an a cappella quartet-style gospel ensemble that is a treat to the ear and the soul; and special guest DMV Christian Music Award Winner Nicois Harris, described by Rejoice America Radio as an artist who “represents a chosen generation full of expression, creativity, and poise. The singer and songwriter has been saturated with an undeniable gift of song and uses it to the glory of God. Not one to be pigeon-holed, the D.C. area-based artist is breaking out of the box, blending gospel, Christian rock and urban sounds. Her passion lies in creating universal, powerful, and effective music for the Christian believer that stretches across genres, races and even, continents.”
Visit DCGospel.com/UnionBethel for videos, directions, and to make your donation to the Union Bethel Scholarship Ministry today!