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Shrine of the Black Madonna

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Rare Films to Celebrate the Vision of ’60s Civil Rights Leader

Houston, TX, June 07, 2007 --( The Pan African Orthodox Christian Church will present “A Timeless Visionary: Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman (Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr.)” a free commemoration honoring the 96th birthday of an influential leader of the Civil Rights Movement, independent Black thought and political action, at the Shrine of the Black Madonna, Bookstore & Cultural Center, 5309 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Houston, Texas on Wednesday, June 13, 2007 from 7:30 to 9:00 p. m. The commemoration will feature two rare documentary films which have not been seen in decades. They offer a unique opportunity to witness one of America’s most compelling political and religious figures in his own words and at the height of power and influence.


The Shrine of the Black Madonna was founded in 1953 as St. Mark’s Community Church and changed its name to Central Congregational Church in 1954 and Central United Church of Christ in 1965.

It entered into its present incarnation when the then-Reverend Cleage unveiled a striking 18-foot chancel mural of a Black Madonna and child and proclaimed the creed of Black Christian Nationalism (BCN) on Easter Sunday, 1967.

The mural, which is in the process of being restored, quickly became world-famous and BCN became the major force in restoring the African roots of Christianity and resuscitating the historical role of the black church as a leader of change in all spheres of life.

By 1962, Reverend Cleage and his church were at the center of the burgeoning civil-rights and Black-Power movements, locally, nationally and internationally.

He marched with and spoke on the same program as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at Detroit’s historic “Walk To Freedom” in June 1963, addressed two meetings with Malcolm X in 1963 and 1964 (and was quoted by Malcolm X on both occasions), and hosted Rosa Parks, the “mother” of the modern civil-rights movement, in 1966.

The church was rechristened the Shrine of the Black Madonna in 1970 and the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church was founded in 1978 as a new black denomination, of which the Shrine is a part. It has churches in Atlanta, Ga., Houston, Tex., and Beulah Land, S. C., near Calhoun Falls. Reverend Cleage became known as Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman in 1972.

Community Revitalized

As recounted in “Church Steps in to Revive Neighborhood” by Norma Martin in the Houston Chronicle, Sunday, October 24, 1993, the PAOCC expanded to Houston and purchased a church and adjacent building at 5317 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and apartment complexes at 5500 and 5702 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. During this time period, the area was commonly known for its violence and the drug infestation of the neighborhood. The Shrine’s purchased property spanning from 5309 to 5702 M.L.K and turned the community around. Among the Shrine’s Houston assets are The Shrine Bookstore and Cultural Center which was purchased in 1973 and remains the largest black-owned bookstore chain in the United States, 3 houses and 1 three story mansion close by on Martin Luther King Blvd.

Cardinal Aswad Walker, Pastor of the Shrine of the Black Madonna’s Southwest Region, will host the program. For more information, contact The Shrine Cultural Center & Bookstore (713) 645-1071. No audio, photographic or video recording devices will be allowed.

Contact Information
Shrine of the Black Madonna
Ewunike Nhau
(713) 645-1071

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