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Rev. Wilson thanked for leadership

By Michael Z. Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Nov 5, 2019 - 8:21:43 PM

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UPPER MARLBORO, Md.—The illustrious senior pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church, the Reverend Willie F. Wilson, retired in grand style on Nov. 3 during a program here at the fabulous Camelot By Martins medieval-themed grand ballroom.

After serving as senior pastor for 46 years, Rev. Wilson is turning church leadership over to his daughter, Reverend Dr. Anika Wilson-Brown.

Well-wishers came out Nov. 2 to honor the work of Pastor Willie Wilson.

The retirement celebration had the pomp, glitter, and pageantry fit for a king. Rev. Wilson and his lovely wife Mary entered the ballroom in grand style, pushed on a movable throne behind a procession of dignitaries, including Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan and wife Kadijah Farrakhan, led by the pulsating beat of the Ujamaa Shule and Malcolm X Drummers.

What followed was high praise and accolades from the community as well as national leaders for the work Rev. Wilson has done throughout his years of service to the Anacostia area of Washington, D.C., and the entire city. The welcome was handled by Union Temple Board of Trustees Chair Kathy McDaniel, who provided a welcome and words about the occasion. She introduced Ayanna Gregory, daughter of the late activist and satirist Dick Gregory, who provided a musical tribute. Ayana Gregory brought the house down with an original tune entitled “Tribute to Union Temple.”

The mic was then turned over to the mistress of ceremonies for the evening, Meshelle The Indie Mom of Comedy. She described the evening as “a sacred moment.”

What followed was a heartfelt musical presentation by the Union Temple Baptist Praise Team, who blew the doors off the ballroom with a stirring rendition of “Praise Him.”

Head table guests were introduced and included Imam S. Adeyola, Bishop Frank M. Reid, John Brown, Minister Farrakhan and Mother Khadijah Farrakhan, Rev. Anika Brown, Tom Sherwood, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, and Rev. Wilson and his wife.

The first speaker was Mayor Bowser, who said thousands of Washingtonians owe a debt of gratitude to Rev. Wilson for the work he has done. “He is the giant of Anacostia,” she said. “We are a better city because of your leadership,” she told the evening’s honoree.

Throughout the program, tribute videos played with friends and colleagues offering well wishes. The Reverend Al Sharpton said Rev. Wilson brought the church back to its Afrocentric roots. “He is a man of vision,” said the National Action Network leader. A special presentation came from Rev. Wilson’s family members with sons Bashiri Wilson, Hamani Wilson, and daughter Anika Wilson-Brown testifying to how their father offered lessons in how to lead and love without fear.

Next to present was Lebo M., composer of the music to The Lion King, followed by Bishop Dennis Proctor, who offered special recognition of Reverend Mary Wilson. He was followed by Imam S. Adeyola, a brother of Mrs. Wilson who introduced her. The Muslim imam cited the necessity of Muslims and Christians working together for good.

Rev. Mary Wilson thanked everyone from the Nation of Islam to her church family for coming to her aid after she suffered a stroke five years ago. “My life cries out thanking God for my children,” she added. Rev. Mary Wilson challenged the audience to go out into the world and make a difference after facing a personal test.

“Create triumph after tragedy,” she said.

As the program moved along, the audience enjoyed entertainment and musical selections for Rev. Wilson from Richard Smallwood and his singers. The attendance was brought to its feet as the contemporary gospel group sang “Trust Me” and other musical numbers.

More tributes to Reverend Wilson came from Mr. Sherwood and the Honorable Samual Tekyi of Ghana. The house reached a crescendo with the introduction of Minister Farrakhan, who eloquently provided a personal tribute to his dear friend. “Walk closer to God,” Minister Farrakhan encouraged the audience in his powerful remarks.

The program ended with words from Rev. Willie Wilson, who thanked Minister Farrakhan and his Union Temple family, who have stood by him through the years. Rev. Wilson was also a co-convener of the historic Million Man March in 1995 and subsequent anniversary marches.

Rev. Wilson said he was not “retiring,” because he is “young”, and retiring is not in his DNA. While stepping away from daily church operations, the pastor vowed to tap into the spirit of his forefathers and to stay in the struggle for Black liberation. “I have to fight to the finish,” he said. He spoke of Blacks enduring 250 years of chattel slavery followed by years of Black codes, sharecropping, criminal leasing, Jim Crow laws yesterday and mass incarceration today.

“I am not a Christian, I am a follower of Christ,” he added.

Lamont Mitchell of Washington, D.C., told The Final Call the program was beautiful. “The Minister was wonderful. I thought it was a fitting tribute for somebody that has given so much time to the city.”

Norman Nixon, also from Washington, added, “I thought it was phenomenal. Just the fact of Black people coming together, the symbolism of passing the leadership to his daughter is great. He has fought a good fight, and we look forward to what the future will bring him.”

Thelma Jordan of Maryland shared how Union Temple changed her life. “I thought the program was absolutely beautiful and fitting for our pastor. I thank him very much for all he has done,” she said. Union Temple was known for its activism in the District of Columbia’s poorest neighborhood and boasted thousands of members. The church included a heavy dose of Afrocentrism and a huge mural inside the church sanctuary featured a Black Jesus surrounded by heroes of the Black liberation struggle in a depiction of the Last Supper.

Dr. Claudia Thomas came from Florida for the program. More people need to hear the message of Rev. Willie Wilson and Minister Farrakhan, she said. “I have been inspired to start a school for Black male children as a result of inspiration from the two,” Dr. Thomas added.

Jawara Lumba of Bowie, Md., may have summed up the tribute best. “It was a rich combination of teaching, musical uplift, love, and community all woven into a powerful tapestry from my perspective,” he said.