Midweek Message

Hat Sunday and LABC Reads

Carolyn Matthews

February 23, 2023

Sunday, February 26 is

HAT SUNDAY! And the Soul Food Dinner


A few words about the idea behind hat Sunday. Hats are very important in the African American church tradition.


Elaborately adorned headdresses hold enormous significance in African rituals. Africans enslaved in America continued the custom of weaving geometric designs, attaching feathers and adding beaded jewelry to straw and fiber hats before attending church. Besides instilling pride and confidence, the hats reminded the wearers to carry themselves like queens. Culturally, church hats became a strong symbol of the ability to triumph over hardships. Worn with the head held high, African American women strut with “hattitude” while sporting these crowns.


In the early 20th century, Sunday church services provided African American women who worked as domestic servants or in other subservient roles the only real chance to break away from their drab, dreary workday uniforms. They favored bright colors and textured fabric — the bolder the better, really — and topped their outfits off with a flamboyant hat, or “crown.”


Elaborate outfits also served as a way to honor God. Women showed respect and reverence by dressing up for church. In earlier times, slaves might wash their one set of clothes; field workers might decorate a straw hat with a ribbon or flower to look more formal. And a new hat, when she could afford it, made the wearer look and feel completely different.


Although most talk around hats in church is about women, men also took pride in the hats they wore to church. Although they had to take them off once entering the building, the sight of a group of men in suits and “well-appointed fedoras” also proved to be a source of pride. They too were swapping out their janitors or chauffeurs caps for more formal wear.


Hat Sunday is in honor of this tradition. Why the fourth Sunday? So the gentlemen in the congregation have the opportunity to display their “well-appointed” choices. We look forward to everyone’s “hattitude.”

(from various sources)


LABC Reads tomorrow, Saturday, February 25, 9:00 AM via ZOOM


The book for LABC reads is, American Sirens: The Incredible Story of the Black Men Who Became America’s First Paramedics, by Kevin Hazzard. Today we take the idea of the paramedic for granted – this was not always so. Even if you have not read the book, please consider joining us to learn this bit of American history.  Here is a description of the book/story:


The extraordinary story of an unjustly forgotten group of Black men in Pittsburgh who became the first paramedics in America, saving lives and changing the course of emergency medicine around the world. Until the 1970s, if you suffered a medical crisis, your chances of survival were minimal. A 9-1-1 call might bring police or even the local funeral home. But that all changed with Freedom House EMS in Pittsburgh, a group of Black men who became America’s first paramedics and set the gold standard for emergency medicine around the world, only to have their story and their legacy erased—until now. In American Sirens, acclaimed journalist and paramedic Kevin Hazzard tells the dramatic story of how a group of young, undereducated Black men forged a new frontier of healthcare. He follows a rich cast of characters that includes John Moon, an orphan who found his calling as a paramedic; Peter Safar, the Nobel Prize-nominated physician who invented CPR and realized his vision for a trained ambulance service; and Nancy Caroline, the idealistic young doctor who turned a scrappy team into an international leader. At every turn, Freedom House battled racism—from the community, the police, and the government. Their job was grueling, the rules made up as they went along, their mandate nearly impossible—and yet despite the long odds and fierce opposition, they succeeded spectacularly. Never-before revealed in full, this is a rich and troubling hidden history of the Black origins of America’s paramedics, a special band of dedicated essential workers, who stand ready to serve day and night on the line between life and death for every one of us. (This summary does not mention Phil Hallen but he was also instrumental in bringing this to reality)


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