Of American holidays, Thanksgiving probably is the one most open to personal interpretation.
Though it has roots in historical events and religious practice, the holiday has never had the type of specific tie that defines Christmas, Independence, Presidents and Martin Luther King Jr. days. Neither does it recognize a specific group of people, as do Veterans, Memorial and Labor days.
Among the most widely observed holidays, only New Year’s Day is as open to individual application. But for many, New Year’s is more about frivolity than introspection. Thanksgiving, while certainly known for food, is first and foremost about giving thanks in whatever way you find personally appropriate — no matter the circumstances.
That’s what the Pilgrims did in the first recorded American Thanksgivings. It certainly was Abraham Lincoln’s intention in 1863 when in the midst of the Civil War he made Thanksgiving an official holiday. In his proclamation, he noted reasons for Americans to be thankful to God, including this glass half-full assessment:
“In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict…”
In conclusion, Lincoln urged:
“I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”
Appropriately, “Lincoln” is one of the blockbuster movies this holiday season — yet another reminder that Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday for the United States today.
Nestled in between a bruising presidential election and a pending congressional battle over spending and taxes, Thanksgiving 2012 provides each American an opportunity to remember the things that enrich his or her life and to reach out to those who have been less blessed.
For many, generosity comes easily at this time of year. Robin Gordon Jr., director of Portland-based People Reaching Other People Expecting Restoration, said Thanksgiving is the easiest time of year to enlist volunteers — a sentiment echoed by other charities.
With the help of some 100 volunteers, Po’Shines Cafe de la Soul and Celebration Tabernacle, PROPER serves a Thanksgiving meal to more than 500 people. In addition to the meal, the annual event at Celebration Tabernacle in North Portland includes live music. It attracts a crowd ranging from the homeless to low-income families to singles.
“We really want to give people a home-away-from-home experience,” Gordon said.
Across the nation, thousands of Americans will volunteer at similar events today. Many more will offer a prayer for the less fortunate as they give thanks for the blessings they have received.
But the real challenge for each individual, for elected leaders and for the nation as a whole is to find a way to extend that spirit beyond the holidays, and to focus on what’s possible instead of what’s not. That is a tradition older than the nation itself.
Pastor E.D. Mondainé (second from left) joins a patron outside his soul food eatery “Po’ Shines” in north Portland to symbolically ring the bells of freedom on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s infamous “I Have A Dream” speech. PHOTO BY DONOVAN M. SMITH
Bells literally rang across the country at 3 p.m. on Wednesday as people symbolically rang bells in commemoration of the 50 years to the exact time when slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King’s delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” during the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice on Aug. 28, 1963.
In Portland, the owner of the soul food eatery ‘Po’Shines’ and the founder of Celebration Tabernacle, pastor E.D. Mondainé, took it upon himself to memorialize the moment with his staff and patrons. On the corner of North Kilpatrick and Denver in the Kenton Neighborhood, Mondainé proclaimed “We’re ringing the bell for justice, we’re ringing the bell for freedom”
“They were ringing the bells across the nation and I said you know what, we need to be a part of that,” he said.
In the half-century old address, King famously demanded that “freedom ring” throughout America.
Mondainé recalls seeing King’s speech on TV as a boy, and being “mesmerized by the figure on the screen.
Moving forward he hopes that African-Americans in Oregon will increase their concern for one another.
“We are as distant as night and day,” he said, referring to issues that impact the two percent of Oregon’s population who are African American.
“We have forgotten that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.” he said, quoting King. “We’ve forgotten the fight, we’ve forgotten the plight, we’ve forgotten the struggle,”
In contradiction to Portland’s progressive branding, Mondainé characterizes the city as “20 years behind” on providing full equality. “We’re still judging people for their lifestyles, we’re still etched in the backwoods of the horrors of the Deep South,”
He encourages Portlanders to vote, support the local chapter of the NAACP, which has dwindled in numbers, and empower other socially active groups representing local African Americans, like the Albina Ministerial Alliance, Urban League of Portland, and Self Enhancement, Inc.
PORTLAND, OREGON — August 24, 2013 — Pastor Elbert Mondaine, center, leads the Portland march through SW 4th Ave. to commemorate 50th anniversary of March on Washington for civil rights. Motoya Nakamura/The Oregonian
Portlanders on Saturday commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with a march of their own.
The group of at least several hundred walked from Terry D. Schrunk Plaza downtown to South Waterfront Park, where there were music and speakers.
It was at the Aug. 28, 1963, march of approximately 250,000 that The Rev. Martin Luther King. Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream Speech.” The march and King’s speech were among the turning points in the civil rights movement in the U.S.
The local event Saturday in Portland was sponsored by Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice & Police Reform, Urban League of Portland, NAACP of Portland, ACLU of Portland, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, and several labor and other community based organizations.
According to a news release from the groups, “Ironically the same issues that compelled the first march, jobs, police brutality, housing, health care, equality are the same pressing issues of today.”
A new antique shop that opened in the big glass showroom of the old St. Johns Honda at 7810 N. Lombard St. is gearing up for a grand opening Nov. 19. Heaven’s Archives is set to showcase its roughly 2,000 square feet of antique furniture, rugs and glassware but also its unique social mission.
One part retail, one part job training center, the store is owned by the pastor of Celebration Tabernacle Church E.D. Mondaine.
With about 100 members, the 24-year-old, the Kenton-based church has launched more startups than a Palo Alto garage. These include a dance school, The Empyrean Movement Academy, an all-ages nightclub called the Wave and the soul food joint Po’Shines Cafe De La Soul.
Creating businesses and cultural institutions is part of Mondaine and Celebration Tabernacle’s vision of community service. Just as in the for-profit world, not all ventures survived, but the church’s volunteer-run, nonprofit cafe has been a big success. Po’Shines is a job training center for young people and the food is so good it will blow your tongue’s mind.
The restaurant launched as Fridays in Kenton in 1990 and now has operations at the Rose Quarter and Portland International Raceway. Last year, the fourth Po’Shines opened at 5003 N. Lombard St. in Portsmouth, in a building that also housed an earlier version of Heaven’s Archives.
Heaven’s Archives, unlike Po’Shines, is a for-profit venture but will also partner with the church’s job training program, Teach Me to Fish. The store will help give at risk youth and ex-cons experience in retail sales, furniture restoration and warehouse work.
“They come in and we teach them a new trade,” said church volunteer Diana Soares-Gordon. “We teach them love and tolerance as well.”
Soares-Gordon is a Piedmont neighborhood resident and recently retired interior decorator. She’s been with the church for 25 years and for the last three she’s been working with Mondaine to turn Heaven’s Archives into a full-fledged store.
“We’re doing God’s work,” Soares-Gordon said. “My motto is to make the world a more beautiful place to live, one home at a time.”
— Cornelius Swart