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Remembering Afeni Shakur: Our Own Black Shining Princess, Part One of Two

June 22, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry

“It was a blast. It was like a family reunion. I saw old friends that I have not seen in years.” – William Lesane, the nephew of Afeni Shakur

They all came – the young and old, radicals, revolutionaries, nationalists, cultural nationalists, political activists (representing a wide range of political ideologies), militants, moderates, and many of the last Black Panthers. They all came to remember and celebrate their memories of Afeni Shakur, and to rehearse the ideas and doings of day past and gone. For me, it was a week filled with melancholy memories and shining hope for the future.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

In the morning, I attended Partnership of Faith (POF)’s monthly meetings at Christ Church in NYC. Launched in 1991, POF is an interfaith group of clergy of some of the most prestigious ministers in NYC. This morning, the main topic of discussion was “Police-Community Relations.” A representative from the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) was present.

Later that evening, I was at the Brooklyn History Society (BHS) in Brooklyn, NY. I was invited to participate in a panel discussion remembering the 50th Anniversary of Black Power. On the panel were Dante Barry, Janeen Mantin, Basir Mchawi, and DeRay McKesson. Robyn Spencer was the Moderator.

The panel was entitled, “From Black Power to Black Lives Matter.” The two-hour panel discussion conjured up memories of the events preceding Kwame Ture’s screaming “Black Power” in Greenwood, MS; and, recapitulated movements and events up to the emergence of Black Lives Matter.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

We held a Noonday Hour of Power at my church, The House of the Lord Church, in Brooklyn, NY. It is where I am spiritually refueled to continue the rest of the week.

In the evening, at our church in Jersey City, we planned to participate in the Second Annual Memorial for Lavon “Momo” King, a young man who was killed by the police on June 19, 2014. As Momo lay dying, a neighbor heard him ask, “Why did you shoot me?” The Memorial will be held on Friday, June 25, 2016, starting at 3pm in Jersey City on the corner of Grant Avenue and MLK, Jr. Blvd.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I spent part of the day visiting one of my parishioners at a hospital in Hackensack, NJ. He had an emergency situation the night before. It was my original plan to visit Kwadir Felton in Southwood Prison in New Jersey. Kwadir was 18 years old when he was shot in the head by a police officer. Fortunately, he lived. Unfortunately, but not unusual, the cops convinced the jury that they were robbed by Kwadir. Two white plain clothes officers (well-known in the community) would be robbed by an 18-year-old street smart kid going to see his girlfriend?! Who can believe such a preposterous story? The Jersey City’s jury did. Additionally, the officer’s bullet blinded Kwadir for life.

Later in the day, we continued planning for Afeni’s Memorial – logistics for special guests, printing, luncheon, public relations, promotions, budget, etc.

Friday, June 17, 2016

I did at extensive interview with Thomas Leveist, PhD for his documentary project, “The Skin You’re In.” It dealt with health disparities plaguing African Americans. The interview ended up with a trip down memory lane. We discovered that he was one of our first Randolph Evans Scholarship recipients in 1979. He is now a Professor in Health Policy and the Director of the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

In the morning, again, as is my custom, I stopped by Rev. Al Sharpton’s Saturday Morning Rally at the National Action Network (NAN)’s headquarters. In his message, Rev. Sharpton focused on his childhood. When he was in the 2nd grade and was about 7 or 8 years old, he wrote his name as “Rev. Albert Sharpton.” It made an impression on me because I have been dealing with the topic, “Naming Yourself.”

Before I was five years old, I wanted to be a doctor. I named myself, “Doctor.” My parents were very helpful and they started calling me, “Doctor.” They even said that I walked like Dr. McAdoo, who was the only Black doctor in town. I suspect that if we studied the lives of extraordinary achievers, early on, they named themselves, “Achievers” in some language or form of action, and the world eventually agreed with them.

Gwen Carr (mother), Esau Garner (wife), and Emerald Garner (daughter) of Eric Garner, who was killed in a police chokehold in 2014, were present with Rev. Kirsten Foy who is the Northeast Director of NAN. We discussed planning a “Remembering Eric Garner” March that would commence at my church, The House of the Lord Church, in Brooklyn, NY, at 11am; and, end at Prospect Park on Saturday, July 16, 2016.

Departing NAN at 11am, I stopped by my church. I picked up my videographer, Kefentse Johnson, and headed to Jamaica, Queens. There was a special program, “Remembering Sean Bell.” On the eve of his wedding day, Mr. Bell was killed by the police in a hail of 50 bullets. The program was held at the Christ Community Church, pastored by Bishop Lester Williams.

As we walked in, Mrs. Bell was recounting her anguish when she learned of her son’s death, and the various programs which the family and supporters have developed in his memory over the years. She thanked everyone for their unwavering support.

I made brief remarks, apologizing for my hasty departure, but I was duty bound to attend two more ceremonies. I emphasized how Mrs. Bell and Mr. Bell, who were to be the Keynote Speakers, have inspired people across the world by their examples of strength, courage, and wisdom. They have turned pain into power.

Leaving Jamaica, Queens, our next stop was Canarsie Park in Brooklyn, NY where the 6th Annual Brent Duncan Memorial Scholarship was being held. Brent was an 18-year-old college bound student when he was killed in 2010 by members of the community. After officiating at the funeral, a few days later, I suggested to his mother, Dionne Vincent, and father, Peter Duncan, to start a scholarship in his memory. I told her about Randolph Evans, a 15-year-old who had been killed by the police in 1976, and how we started a Scholarship Program in 1979. (In 1977, the jury acquitted the Officer.) We have been giving scholarships of at least $1000 to ten students ever since then.

Brent’s parents immediately agreed. Thus, as of today, we have given grants to 20 college-bound students. Again, speaking briefly, I sought to assuage the grief by pointing to what we had accomplished in keeping Brent’s memory alive. Rollet Hurry, one of our first students, is now in law school. Lechanti Bastian and Danielle Mindesir were the recipients of the 2016 Brent Duncan Memorial Scholarship.

We arrived back at the church at 2:15 p.m. just as the Afeni Shakur Memorial luncheon had begun which was scheduled from 2pm-3:30pm. It was prepared for those who were coming from out of town and special guests who would be participating in the celebration for Afeni.

Our Fellowship Hall was already a beehive of activity as those with responsibilities were scurrying about to their posts. There were smiles, greetings, handshakes, and embraces all over the Hall. The room seemed to vibrate, with joy and gratitude mingled with a hint of sadness. Indeed, it was a family reunion. I am sure Afeni was on everyone’s mind and heart.

… to be continued.