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My High Points at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor 12th Annual Conference

June 14, 2017 by Herbert Daughtry

Part Eleven

It is proper and right that I conclude this series with a hearty thank you – again, and again – ad infinitum to the Samuel DeWitt Proctor 12th Annual Conference for the “Beautiful Feet Award” and for all that transpired at the Conference in February 20-23, 2017; and, for inspiring this series which caused me to dig deep into my activist past and dig up precious memories of important events long buried and forgotten. The exercise has been immensely rewarding. From my present perspective, I have experienced clearer insight of people and events.

The journey backwards has not always been pleasant. I’ve made mistakes. Yes, I have many regrets, but I am profoundly grateful and pleased, but when all things are considered, I have put some scribbles on the pages of history. Robert Browning, the poet, has written, “What I aspired to be, and was not, comforts me.” I added to it, “What I aspired to do, and did not, comforts me.”
To quote an old preacher, who said, “Well, children, we are going to reach for the stars tonight. If we fall by the moon, we still reached high places.” Well, “I hitched my wagon to a star,” and I have gotten as far as the moon. If I don’t get any further, I still would have reached pretty high.

On my wall is a document that I wrote from Lewisburg Federal Correctional Facility in 1957 in which I spelled out how I was going to impact the world for Jesus Christ. I am eternally grateful to God, family, church, and thousands of people who have helped me to achieve much of what I wrote over 60 years ago.

During the Conference, those of us who had received the awards were likened to the Baobab tree. This tree is life-saving, fascinating, and enlightening. Baobab tree “symbolizes the spirit of our reverence for those we honor. It is considered to be a sacred tree of knowledge and life. It is alternatively known as ‘Mother’ by African people. Often mistaken for dead, this fascinating tree, whose life spans have been recorded from 1000-4000 years, is much alive and full of resources. People come to the Baobab tree to pray, to gather honey, to pick fruit, and to find medicinal herbs. The tree nourishes many small and large animals of the savannah. Even in times of drought, the Baobab tree has proven to be a source of water. The African proverb says, ‘Wisdom is like a Baobab tree, no one person can embrace it.’ And, so, it is with those we honor in this volume: their life and gifts of ministry will nourish many for generations yet to come.”

The Baobab tree calls to mind another tree recorded in the Holy Bible. This tree does not have a name, but it’s known by its characteristics. Psalm 1:1-3 says:

“Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.”

This tree is planted by rivers of water. It suggests purposefulness. It was planted. Someone put it there.

It also suggests permanency, growth, and stability. It is put by rivers of water.

This tree is fruitful in its season, which means that it is prompt in providing abundance and doing what it was created to do. Its leaves do not wither. There’s perpetuity about this tree.

And, this tree prospers. All of these are the characteristics of a person who does God’s will.

There’s another tree that pleases me. In 2016, at the Atlantic Yards/NETS/DBNA Community Foundation Grants Awards Ceremony, Ms. Wendy McClinton of the Black Veterans for Social Justice compared me to a tree that has given many different kinds of fruits or benefits for many people for many years.

Yes, I have received many, many awards and citations. I’ve been called many wonderful names by family, admirers, supporters, staff, parishioners, etc. If I were asked the name I’d prefer, and which I think best represents the ministry to which God has called me, I would say the “People’s Pastor.”

I don’t know, for sure, where it started and who started it. I think it was Mr. Jitu Weusi. If it were so, it would add to my being exceedingly pleased to be named by him, who was so highly regarded by people of African ancestry. Jitu was the hardest working and the most self-effacing creative organizer who loved and worked until his dying day for people of African ancestry – indeed, for a better world. I believe the name, “The People’s Pastor,” would have started around 1976 or 1977. Over the years, the name has gained popularity and endeared itself to me.

If, and when, I decide to write my life story, at least one chapter will have been practically completed: my attendance at, participation in, or helping to organize all of the abovementioned conferences for which, one last time, thanks to the Samuel DeWitt Proctor 12th Annual Conference.

… to be continued.