My Daughter, the Rev. Leah Daughtry CEO, 2008 & 2016 Democratic National Convention History Maker! Miracle Worker!
September 22, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry
She was poised, confident, eloquent, and articulate as she opened the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Her words were strong, persuasive, and mellifluous. Her decorum was steady and composed. It was hard to believe that this beautiful, powerful person “running the show” was the little baby I brought home to 1393 Pacific Street in Brooklyn, NY. She was so tiny, nestled smugly in the crook of my arm.
Her speech set the tone for the Convention. She said, “Welcome to Philadelphia! Our extraordinary team has worked tirelessly to make this week worthy of the history happening here at this, the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
We gather in Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy, to celebrate the most enduring of American values: that of ‘We The People.’ When we, as Democrats, say, ‘We The People,’ it has, perhaps, a different meaning than it does for our friends on the other side of the aisle.
When Democrats say, ‘We The People,’ we actually mean ‘ALL The People.’ This is the beauty of our party, that our tent is big enough for everyone. We understand that whether we live in cities, suburbs or Indian Country, urban, rural or indigenous communities, we all want the same thing: to feel safe, empowered, and heard, and to have the tools and support we need to achieve the American Dream.
We understand that we have a mission, a mandate, and a moral obligation to work, fight, and act on behalf of all people, especially those who cannot work, fight, or act for themselves. We have a mission to ensure our public leaders reflect the values of ‘ALL’ the people they serve.
We have a mandate to leave no one behind, because none of us succeed unless all of us succeed. We have a moral obligation, grounded in our common values, to live, not as islands unto ourselves, but in a beloved community with each other. And this beautiful idea requires that we recognize the intrinsic worth of every person, and starting right now to make an investment in their futures.
When the founding fathers wrote, ‘We The People,’ not even five miles from where we stand today, they set our country off on our ongoing journey toward a more perfect union. This week, we will move one huge step closer to that goal by nominating a candidate, Hillary Clinton, who not only believes that ‘We The People’ means ‘ALL The People,’ but that regardless of where you come from or what you look like, what you believe or who you love, we are always stronger together. Thank you.”
Looking down upon the tiny creature in her crib, which I had saturated with magazines and books, I wondered, as any parent, what she would become. As often as possible, I will let her see me reading – even when I was tired and half asleep. I wanted her to see me enjoy reading books and magazines.
I began to whisper the ABCs in her ear as I carried her to and fro. I counted as I climbed stairs, carrying her in my arms. I sung lullabies, told bedtime stories, adding my own words, of course, in addition to other authors and songwriters. We watched Sesame Street together.
She went off to P.S. 167 on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, with a book bag filled with pencils, paper, and books. The classes were not the 3 R’s. They were for kitchens, dolls corners, and playing games. This necessitated my daily visit to Mr. Weingarten, the principal, as increasingly Leah’s frustration was bordering on hysteria. After all, she came to school to do serious class work and not to play in the corner with dolls, stumbling around the little play kitchen and playing children’s games.
After insisting that tests be given to her, it was discovered that she was reading at a third grade level. I had to resist promotion to two grades. She was so tiny, and, surely, not emotionally prepared for the third grade. I suggested one grade acceleration was enough. Then, she went off to Meyer Levin Middle School for Gifted Children. As always, she excelled in her studies.
It was hard to believe that the person standing on the huge stage addressing the thousands scattered across the curvaceous arena was this little girl I used to take to the United Nations before she was six years old to expose her to people of color who were in the majority and exercising power. Even then, she was an instructor. She chided me on the correct pronunciation of some of the African names. One name, in particular, was Malinbeso. (I hope I am spelling his name right. He was the representative for the Pan-African Congress or the African National Congress.). One day, as we sat in the delegates’ lounge with Malinbeso, I tried ever so hard to pronounce his name correctly. Finally, Leah became exasperated with the whole affair, and angrily interjected, emphasizing every syllable, “Malinbiso, Daddy. Ma-Lin-BEEEE-SO.”
When I was in town, I kept her with or around me almost all of the time. Every outing, street walk, car ride, restaurant/park visit, or community/church meeting was an educational experience. When my wife and I were away, Leah became the mother of the house. She was in charge of her siblings – Sharon D’Boya, Dawn Dakeba, and Herbert Daniel. They were obedient children – most of the time. Leah would not allow them to watch a television program that was forbidden if we were home.
When I studied New Testament Greek (koine, not the classical Greek of Homer and other Greek scholars, but the Greek known throughout the Greco-Roman world) at the New York Theological Seminary, I taught her the Greek alphabet. The last time I checked, she could still recite them.
When they were yet in their pre-adolescent years, in addition to playing with dolls and other children’s game, they spent considerable time replaying or mimicking the adult meetings they had witnessed in the church.
Then it was time for high school. On her own, she accepted the challenge of honors classes against her Caucasian teachers’ advice. “Honors classes would be too hard for you,” they said. We learned later, a “B” in an Honors class counted for an “A,” plus it looked impressive on college applications.
The time for college came around so swiftly, it seemed. The years went by “swifter than a weaver’s shuttle.” College was non-negotiable. It was clear that everybody was going to college! Everybody was free to choose his or her college, but with this caveat: He or she must choose what was considered the top schools in the country. I didn’t pressure them to attend Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU’s). I accepted the responsibility of teaching our history, and throughout their lives, they were always around Black people, even renowned scholars and professors of African history who frequently lectured at our church. Doctors John Henrik Clarke, Josef Ben Jochannan, Ivan Van Sertima, Amos Wilson, Cornel West, etc.
Nor did I insist that they study in Africa in exchange programs nor even all go to the same country in the exchange programs. I wanted diversity. I wanted them to have a true picture and understanding of the world and its peoples.
… to be continued.
(Originally appeared in the Daily Challenge on September 22, 2016.)