From the Super Bowl to the Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus: Two Memorable Weekends
March 30, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry
Finally, the day had arrived. It was a bitterly cold morning. However, thank God that our transportation was warm. Our thoughtful driver had heated up the car for us. Leah; Dr. Karen, my wife; and, Sarah, Leah’s assistant, entered the church and went immediately to prepare for Worship. As I sat in the huge sanctuary, thinking of what Leah would say, I remembered the days when I was in seminary and would take her along. In fact, I taught her the Greek alphabet, which she probably still remembers. Obviously, much that I taught her had sunk deep in her subconscious mind. Here she was today about to deliver a sermon at this illustrious gathering. Also, among her many other achievements, she’s the Founding Pastor of The House of the Lord Church in Washington, D.C. and had initiated the Faith in Action Committee in the Democratic Party.
Assemblywoman Annette Robinson coordinated the Sunday Morning Religious Service, and she was the Co-Worship Leader along with Assemblyman Michael Blake. The Old Testament Reading was read by Ms. Michaelle Solages; the New Testament by Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda.
As we waited for the service to begin, I could not help but think of Former Deputy Speaker Arthur Eve and his 1977 candidacy run for the Mayoral seat in Buffalo, NY. I had, and have, great respect for him. I took a bus load of my followers up to Buffalo when he was campaigning. We spent the day registering voters, which, by the way, played a major role in his victory during the primary. We registered 1,178 new voters. In the evening, our church choir rendered a concert. On Sunday morning, we conducted worship at the campaign headquarters.
Weeks later, I returned. I stayed at Mr. Eve’s home for a week, campaigning with and for him every day. Mr. Eve should have been the elected Mayor. Buffalo was a Democratic town. Whoever won the Democratic Primary was guaranteed to win the General Election – hence, the Mayoral office. It was not the case this time. Blatant racism reared its ugly head and denied Mr. Eve the victory.
I don’t think Mr. Eve ever got over it. After the primary, he had begun to assume the decorum of a mayor. People started calling him, “Mayor.” He was invited to the White House, and walked the Rose Garden with President Jimmy Carter. His defeat was shocking and disappointing. The lesson we should learn: Never discount or minimize the resiliency of racism. During Mr. Eve’s mayoral candidacy in Buffalo, the late Honorable Percy Sutton was campaigning for Mayor in New York City.
It was not long before Leah was introduced. She appeared differently, but somehow her appearance was the same as it was in California. Perhaps, it was her white and maroon clergy attire that made her appear different. Or, maybe it was the special anointing or radiance for the occasion. However, the message was the same except that the emphasis was on the religious side, or the politics was clothed in religious garb.
Leah was her cool and confident self. After acknowledging various persons, she did what I always admired about her. She expressed gratitude to some of the people who had had an influence on her life, including Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Councilmembers Charles Barron and Inez Barron, etc.
Her sermon reiterated the theme of the Caucus, “REPAIRERS OF THE BREACH: RESTORING FAITH & JUSTICE.” Appropriately, she took her text from Isaiah 58:1-12 where God said to the prophet, Isaiah: “‘Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. … The LORD will guide you continually… Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.'”
In her message, Leah skillfully applied the Scripture to our contemporary reality. I will quote from her sermon extensively – not because of parental pride, but because of relevance, challenge, and inspiration.
She said, “…the theme of this weekend is ‘Restoring Faith & Justice: In Pursuit of Empowering Our Communities.’ And a fitting theme it is, because surely our communities cannot realize the full measure of its potential or its power unless and until the complete and full measure of justice is also realized in our communities.
“And yet, it is an interesting phrase: Restoring Justice … because that would presume that justice was at one time present in our communities. And I believe that many of the folks with and for whom we work would disagree with that point. Between unjustified police killings, disparate health care, and broken schools, many of our people have waited so long to see justice that they don’t even know what justice looks like. But they can describe injustice, chapter and verse. They know what injustice looks, feels, sounds, tastes, and smells like.
“Injustice looks like rising rents and property taxes that force renters and homeowners out of the homes; like unplowed snow, and delayed trash pickups.
Injustice feels like long lines in the doctors’ office and in the emergency room in our part of town, while folks across town get the best care in the best hospitals.
Injustice tastes like food deserts, high prices in our grocery stores, inedible food in our school cafeterias.
“Injustice smells like burning trash, rotting food, pesticide and dead rats.
Injustice sounds like the children of the newcomers in our gentrified neighborhood, laughing on the playground of their brand new state of the art middle school, while our children who’ve been in the neighborhood for years struggle to learn in dilapidated buildings, without adequate heat or air conditioning, without a playground, without adequate resources … cause God forbid the new residents’ children should have to learn side-by-side with our children at the old school.
“Yes, too many of us, too many of the people we serve, too many of the people with and for whom we work, have more intimate experience with injustice than we do with justice. And yet, this is not true for all of us. Some of us have managed, by some strange turn of fate or faith, have managed to move ourselves and our families closer toward the realization of the dream that Dr. Martin Luther King shared with us more than 50 years ago. For some of us, time has brought the realization of the dream. But for many, perhaps too many others, the dream is still an elusive illusion.
“Much has changed in 50 years. And much remains the same. Colored and white water fountains no longer exist. But institutional racism still creates segregated communities. Separate but equal classrooms have been abolished. But a quick comparison of high graduation rates across communities confirms that white children still graduate from high school at higher rates than black and Latino children, and white children are still more likely to attend college than their black and Latino counterparts.”
…to be continued.