The Rev. Dr. Damaris Whittaker Leading The First Congregational Church Hartford, AKA, (Center Church UCC,)

There are certain beautiful, magical days in which the elapsing of the events that takes place and changes one’s life. This was one of those wondrous days in Hartford, Connecticut. For we were representing our people, opening up new possibilities and making history at once.

The Rev. Dr. Damaris Whittaker, would be installed as the first woman, first Latina, first proud, black puertorriqueña, Boricua of African descent and of none direct European lineage to lead this historic church, First Congregational Church Hartford, AKA, (Center Church UCC,) in its then 384 year history. At first I thought it didn’t really matter, hence I would automatically become the church’s very first, First Gentleman in the churches entire history. Of course, as a first Garinagu, West Indian, Honduran, whom also represented my African American community. It was indeed a big deal to every black person whom attended or were members of such magnificent institution. We all came together and everyone was so proud. It was my dearly departed mother’s birthday, and as a heavenly gift from above, it appeared as if we’d single-handedly managed to unite the entire world under that one roof. Among our visitors and congregates, there were Christians, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Episcopalians, Japanese, Chinese, whites, blacks, Latinos, West Indians, gay, straight, quer, Africans, African Americans, Buddhist, Armenian, etc. It was a celebration that was indeed the talk of the town.

This was up there as being almost as significant as our wedding day, except that with our wedding, is between just my wife and I, and here, we carried the community upon our shoulders, since we actually represented such. It was nerve wrecking for me, I couldn’t even imagined how might it had been for my wife, whom in reality carried all of the responsibility upon her shoulders. Our friends and colleagues, including Trinity College president Berger Swainy, her family trinity college professors as well as many from surrounding universities, came out to witness such historic event. Our good friend, paisano and colleague Dr. Dario Euraque and his family came to show their support, our cousins, Thomas Avila and his beloved wife, drove all the way down from Boston, Massachusetts. You better believe we had our traditional Garinagu music. Belizean, Garinagu and Alex, native of Livingston Guatemala brought their drums and we dance a little ‘Punta.’

Although it was here, within the walls of this church, where the US. constitution was actually dreamt and ratified so long ago… what mattered most to me on that 14 of June, was that it was also my dearly beloved mother’s birthday and as Lift Every Voice and Sing, better known among African American Community as the Black National Anthem was being played by the orchestra and sang by one of the most magnificent choirs in the New England Northeast, as we processed, hand in hand, as if in shared bold representation of the tears, the pain and the struggle of all of our ancestors that came before and had placed their lives on the line in order for us to obtain such education, thus soar against all odds. Felt honored and responsible to uphold Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream.

Lift Every Voice and Sing, often referred to as “The Black National Anthem,” is a hymn written as a poem by NAACP leader, James Weldon Johnson in 1900. His brother, John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954), composed the music for the lyrics, of this beautiful and poignant uplifting song

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