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Passing of Giants of the Human Spirit: Ten Days When Death Came Calling, Part Two

May 11, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry

Before proceeding with the funeral of Mayor Lizette Phillip-Parker, there were three transitions within the 10-day period, which I had forgotten or weren’t made known to me. Now, there were ten transitions within the aforementioned period. I forgot to mention my gardener, Mr. Roderick Frazier. He was a skillful, sensitive, and generous man who cared deeply for all of God’s creations, particularly Mother Nature and humans. He had a competent staff, which I am sure will sustain the care and beauty to which he was committed.

I learned about the other persons through the press – Rev. Dr. Samuel Billy Kyles. He was a gallant participant in the Civil Rights Movement. He was instrumental in persuading Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Memphis, Tennessee. It was at his home where Dr. King, Jr. and others were scheduled to have dinner. In fact, he had come to Hotel Lorraine to take Dr. King back to his house for dinner. However, it was not to be. Dr. King, Jr. was assassinated.

Rev. Kyles and I had a mutual admiration, at least from my side. I admired him deeply. I have more to say about him later. I really owe three articles on Mr. Winston Hill, Ms. Afeni Shakur, and Rev. Dr. Samuel Billy Kyles.

Father Daniel Berrigan was a Roman Catholic priest and activist. He became famous as one of the foremost activists against the war in Vietnam. I participated with him in marches and rallies. In addition to his activism, he was the author of nearly 50 books. He was a university professor.

Mayor Parker was only 44. She was the first Black female mayor of Teaneck, NJ. She died suddenly of breathing problems. The funeral for Mayor Parker was held on Sat., April 30, 2016 at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Hackensack, NJ; Rev. Gregory J. Jackson is the Senior Pastor. The medium-sized church was standing room only. Chairs had to be put in the aisles. Elected officials from the surrounding towns were present.

The ceremony opened with a processional to the song, “Total Praise.” Rev. Jackson did the Invocation. There were Scriptural Readings from the Old Testament and New Testament – Psalm 121 and John 14:1-3, respectively. Those who offered reflections spoke of her qualities. She was a “unifier.” She was a “consensus builder.” She believed “in God, family, and her people.”

Her obituary read “Mayor Parker, who was elected Mayor in 2014, gained a reputation as an adept, fearless, and outspoken political activist. Her communal approach in advocacy, community building, and organizing, earned Mayor Parker the respect and confidence of her colleagues and constituents. Her achievements were countless and during her tenure, she received the following awards/honors to name a few: Girl Scouts of America; Greater Bergin Community Action Plan; NAACP; National Coalition of 100 Black Women; Teaneck Chamber of Commerce; Teaneck Rotary Club; and, the Urban League.”

In his eulogy, Rev. Jackson built his sermon from the Book of Esther. Esther was confronted with the dilemma of trying to save her people and trying to save her own life. She was told by Mordecai, her cousin/uncle, to put her people’s plight before the king which was not lawful unless the king extended an invitation to enter his presence. Then, Esther, uttering the famous words, “If I perish, I perish. I am going to see the king.” The king responded favorably to Esther’s appeal for her people.

Rev. Jackson brilliantly made relevant applications to Mayor Parker. He underscored that she had come to the office of Mayor because God wanted it to be so. She had come at a time when the disadvantaged, poor, and needy needed the goods and services from the City.

Leaving the funeral of Mayor Parker, I hastened to the funeral of Ms. Truly Washington, which was held at my church, The House of the Lord Church, in Brooklyn, NY at 2pm. When I arrived, the body had already been placed in the sanctuary. Family members and friends had already gathered.

The funeral commenced with a processional of clergy and family. The invocation was delivered by Minister Linwood Smith. The Anointed Voices of The House of the Lord Church rendered a musical selection. The Old Testament Scripture was from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11: “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven…”

The New Testament Scripture was from Revelations 21:1-4,6: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth…” The reflections by family and friends spoke in glowing terms of Ms. Washington’s love of family and humanity, her care for those in need, and her interests in travel, art, and the commitment to the Freedom Struggle. Brother Weusi, her younger brother, with deep emotion and eloquence, spoke of their closeness, how they travelled together; shared love of books and art; and, their struggle for freedom.

Her obituary stated, “Truly, along with her brothers, Yusef and Justice, joined the Nation of Islam, in which she became of the M.G.T. But in 1964, upon Min. Malcolm X leaving the NOW, Truly, along with her brothers followed Minister Malcolm in becoming members of the Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the organization, Afro-American Unity… After the premature death of Malcolm X, her hero, Truly became a member of the BLACK ARTS REPERTORY THEATRE led by Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal. ”

“Truly was a world traveler, journeying into the former Soviet Union as well as East Germany or German Democratic Republic. She traveled to Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and to Cuba at 1989 as the coordinator for the Youth delegation from the House of the Lord Church in which 15 students attended the International Pioneering Camp in Vara Daro, Cuba.”

In my eulogy, I reiterated the observations made by those who gave reflections. She was a pioneer, educator, painter – she was always there. She was loving. She was a star. She was an artist. She was a healer. She was a guru. She was a researcher. She was a lover of family and friends.

Before my message, Min. Peggy Washington sang “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” Her voice was melodious, and seemed so appropriate. Truly Washington had been the wind beneath many, many wings.

On Monday, May 2, 2016, we cremated Alexander Bethea, III in Jersey City, NJ. It was just the few of us – his mother, father, sister, and several relatives. I was asked to have a prayer before the cremation. Before the Invocation, I tried to provide words of comfort and hope. I used John 14 written, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

I emphasized that Jesus spoke these words as he, himself, was preparing for his transition. He wanted to reassure his disciples that death did not make a final end, but he was going to be resurrected, and that he would prepare a place for them – that they will be where He was. The words were meant for all of us – that we will see each other after death and recognize each other, and there would be no more death.

When the cremation was over, we returned to the chapel and sat for awhile, trying to deal with the excruciatingly painful reality that a young lad of 21 years somehow died in the river and would be gone from this physical world forever.

… to be continued.