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Passing of Giants of the Human Spirit: Ten Days When Death Came Calling: Three More Transitions, and Gordon Howie

June 22, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry

Part Fourteen

Saturday, June 11, 2016: Later that morning, as is my custom, I attended the National Action Network Rally. It is an exciting place to be on a Saturday morning. Anyone (i.e. the old and young, the physically challenged, grassroot activists, radicals, revolutionaries, elected officials, celebrities, etc.) might show up on any given Saturday.

If it is an important issue, it will be discussed at the Rally. Rev. Al Sharpton, if he’s in town, usually gives a Morning Message, which includes an update on his travels; information, analyses, and history of events and issues; and, always humor, challenges, and inspiration. Of course, the media is almost always present.

On this particular Saturday, I was in for a surprise. I knew that Rev. Sharpton would speak about Muhammad Ali. He related his longtime friendship with Ali, which went back to his days with the James Brown, the performing artist. He mentioned a very interesting piece of history regarding Ali; Jim Brown, the great football player; and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On the night that Dr. King gave his speech, “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam?”, at the Riverside Church, there was a meeting in the morning with Ali, Dr. King, and Mr. Brown in which they discussed the war in Vietnam. Three weeks later, Ali resisted the draft. (I was at the Riverside Church that night. I didn’t know about the earlier meeting.)

That Saturday morning, I didn’t expect the presence of Deshawn McKenzie’s family. Deshawn was a sixteen-year-old who had been chased to his death by a white gang. It is said he died from an asthma attack. It is reported that a member (or members) of the gang shouted, “Nigger.”

It is reminiscent of the case of Michael Griffith. He was chased by a white mob onto the highway, and killed when he was struck by a car. This was in Howard Beach, NYC in December 1986. As is the custom, the families waited in the back office, and entered the stage with Rev. Sharpton. Usually, a member of the family speaks. The Deshawn’s mother was the speaker. She was highly emotional, and sobbing as she described her son. She said, “He was a good boy.” In addition, a friend of Deshawn made remarks. He related how they played basketball together, and Deshawn was an excellent basketball player. “He was a good friend, and didn’t bother anyone,” he said. The case is being investigated whether it was a hate crime.

When the program was over (which usually lasts for two hours, from 9am-11am), an invitation to join the movement (the National Action Network) was extended by Rev. Sharpton; and, afterwards, an offering was raised. Then, the people lined up to shake the Rev. Sharpton’s hands and take photos. After the program and greetings, committee meetings are held throughout the day.

From the National Action Network, I attended the funeral of Ronald (Edgar) McPhatter at Browns Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn. I know his family. Ronald attended our daycare center, the Alonzo Daughtry Memorial Daycare Center, which was named after my father.

There is confusion surrounding Ronald’s death. He was killed at the Irving Plaza Nightclub in Union Square, NYC on Monday, May 30, 2016 at the age of 30. Rapper Ronald (Troy Ave.) Collins is accused of attempted murder. The prosecutors said, “Collins fired five times into a crowded venue with no concern about the results.” But, Collins’ lawyer, Mr. Scott Leemon, claimed that Ronald was Collins’ bodyguard and his life-long friend. Therefore, he wasn’t shot by Mr. Collins. However, Mr. Collins did have a leg wound which was done by himself.

In my remarks at Ronald’s funeral, I remembered that it seemed only a few days ago that he, his brother (Shanduke), and others, were at my church, The House of the Lord Church, trying to resolve a dispute that had transpired in the community. In addition, it wasn’t long ago that Ronald had seen me addressing a rally at a housing development in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. He thought that I did not have enough security around me. He came and stood next to me until I finished speaking, the program was over, and I was safely escorted to my car.

His brother, Shanduke, who founded Gangtas Making Astronomical Community Changes (GMACC), has become well-known in his fight against violence in the community. I have walked the streets with him on several occasions to quell violent eruptions. In addition, I’ve been with him at several press conferences. He can be seen often in the community, leading marches and demonstrations, particularly in those communities where violence is pervasive.

In my attempt to console Shanduke, he related how he planned to remember his brother. He said, “I have been fighting to prevent violence, and I have comforted people who have been the victims of violence. Now, I know firsthand how it feels to have a loved one killed by violence. I plan to intensify my efforts. I will always remember my younger brother as I continue to serve the community.”

I said, “Having had the experience of losing my brother over twenty years ago, of whom I was very close, I know the pain of what it means to lose a brother. I still keep him with me in my memory, photos, and other memorabilia. And, of course, I have the hope that we will meet again.”

Significantly, June is “Stop the Violence” Month. Ronald was killed on the eve of the month in question. Let us all hope that his death will inspire even greater efforts to end the violence.

There was another death during this time of transitions that I want to record for history’s sake – Gordon (Gordie) Howie. He was what some called the greatest hockey player of all time. He was born on March 31, 1925. He died on June 10, 2016. I did not know Gordie, but I wanted to record his name because he passed away during the important time of transitions (April 23, 2016-present). Significantly, during this time, the sports world suffered the transitions of some of its greatest stars. Muhammad Ali (boxing), Gordon Howie (hockey player), and Winston Hill (football).

I cannot let this day pass, insofar as we are dealing with transitions, without remembering James Chaney, 21; Michael Schwerner, 24; and, Andrew Goodman, 20. They were three courageous young men who went to Mississippi in a Voter Registration Campaign. They were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. June 21, 2016 marked the 52th Anniversary of their deaths.

…to be continued.