rev._joaquin_willis_3.jpgMIAMI – The Church of the Open Door, Congregational, United Church of Christ will celebrate Amistad Sunday on March 10 at its regular 10:30 a.m. worship service. The public is invited to attend the service at the church, 6001 N.W. Eighth Ave., Miami.

Graduates of American Missionary Association colleges will be honored during the service when the pastor, the Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis, speaks on the topic, 'How a Ship Led to an Open Door.'

The 2013 honorees are Iral D. Porter, Fisk University; Dr. Patricia Duncan, Talladega College; Cecilia Stewart, Howard University; Rev. Shedrick Gilbert, Hampton University; and Danita Jackson-Jenkins, Clark-Atlanta University.

Amistad Sunday celebrates the founding of the American Missionary Association, the first abolitionist organization in the United States with integrated leadership that established more than 500 schools, churches, libraries and universities for the newly freed African Americans of the South.

In 1839, a group of enslaved Africans broke free while being transported around the island of Cuba aboard the coasting schooner Amistad. They attempted to sail the small vessel back to Africa, but were captured by the U.S. Revenue brig Washington off the coast of Long Island, charged with mutiny, and threatened with return to slavery.

Connecticut congregationalists formed the Amistad Committee, which organized a legal defense, eased the captives’ confinement during the lengthy court case, and eventually financed their return to Africa after winning a favorable decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Amistad Committee became a seed for wider advocacy for the abolition of slavery in the United States. In 1846, Lewis Tappan, an Amistad Committee leader, founded the American Missionary Association.

The Church of the Open Door joins other United Churches of Christ in commemorating the 1839 struggle for freedom, the Amistad Committee, and the American Missionary Association’s history as a part of our heritage.


*Pictured above is the Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or