Sunday's emotional commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation at the Fairfield Museum and History Center stirred strong feelings about injustices past, but more importantly gave inspiration to changes yet to come.
Nearly 100 people took part in the "Let Freedom Ring!" event, co-sponsored by the Fairfield Clergy Association. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln, effective Jan. 1, 1863. The museum's "Promise of Freedom" exhibit, which runs through Feb. 24, features an original copy of the document that officially ended slavery in the United States.
"We're very honored as a museum and as a community to exhibit an original copy," said Michael Jehle, the museum's executive director. "Our mission is to use history as a way of understand ... our role in society today."
"These are the ears that heard the crying when a mother saw her child being torn away ... These are the eyes that were shut in fear. These are the eyes that looked for something someone called freedom," she recited, urged on by the audience.
"We can't all be totally free until every country ... can join with us and say we're totally free," she said.
Rabbi Evan Schultz of Congregation B'Nai Israel reported some startling discoveries from his rabbinical studies abroad relating to human trafficking.
"There are still about 20 million people in our world who are enslaved in some way," he said, including human trafficking that takes place in the Tri-State area.
"There's still much more work to be done," he said, pointing out the museum's "Freedom" exhibit offers tangible suggestions for how people can get involved "to become real agents and citizens of change in our world."
Several members of the clergy and community also read a prayer for human rights and freedom.
Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau said the event was "a chance to redefine what diversity means to our community."
"How important is it that we have that strength?" he said, likening diversity to many small strings being tied together to make a strong rope.
"It's really a wonderful experience getting together," Calkins said in closing.
"A museum is not just a place to go and look at ancient history, but to come together," he said.