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A Week in the Life of the People’s Pastor: From the Liberty Basketball Game to Awards Night, African Burial Ground, Pope Francis, Funeral for Carey Gabay, and Atlantic Antic

October 14, 2015 by Herbert Daughtry

Part One

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I waited at the “Will Call” window for Rev. Leah Daughtry, our firstborn daughter. She had secured a couple of tickets to the New York Liberty Basketball game. She was flying in from Washington, D.C., and returning after the game.

I was greeted by many well-wishers. I count it as one of my chief joys in my waning years that wherever I go, there are always people  – young and old – who approach me with awe, surprise, appreciation, etc. They want an autograph, take a picture, or shake my hand. Usually, it comes with, “I remember… You did… I met you… Do you remember me?”

Another greeting is: “You look great.”

I’d respond with, “Thank God! I have a lot of people praying for me.”

“May I take a picture with you?”

“I would be honored to do so.”

Sometimes, they want me to sign autographs. Among my favorites is this: “I appreciate all that you have done/are doing for our people.” I’d usually reply, “Thank you very much.”

When Leah arrived, we were guided to our seats,  about 8 rows back from mid-court – an ideal sitting arrangement. On my right sat Ms. Attallah Shabazz. Leah was on my left, and next to her sat Mr. Isaiah Thomas. Only the excitement of the game could keep me focused on the court. Sitting next to Attallah, Malcolm X’s firstborn, conjured up memories – painful, joyful memories. Someone tried to introduce us. We responded in unison, “Oh, we’ve known each other for many, many years.” I said, “I knew her before she ever saw the light of the day. I was thinking of Malcolm X and his wife Betty before Attallah was born.”

I remember Malcolm X: courageous, brilliant, defiant, militant – “our own Black shining prince.” Lord how we need his presence and his voice today, and his unmasking of white hypocrisy, chicanery, and cruelty; and, Black fears, self-aggrandizement, and self-hatred.

We need a spiritual and cultural revolution! We have gone from conked and hot-combed heads to natural hair or dreads to jheri curls to mohawks; from modesty to nudity; from Black pride to the idealization of Euro-American culture, values, and lifestyles; from pride of history and culture to ignorance and marginalization of the same; from Pan-Africanism/Nationalism to individualism; and, from a quest for love and unity to self-rejection and disunity. Yes, I repeat, we need a spiritual and cultural revolution! Spiritual: love of God and godly values. Culture: love of self, people, history.

I remember Betty’s frequent visits to our church, The House of the Lord Church, in Brooklyn, NY. Embarrassingly, deep in my memory is the time she told the congregation that our church looked awful. Our church was prestigious and influential, and people were coming from all over the world, and our church should make all of us feel proud.

I thanked Betty for her candor. We immediately went to work to beautify the church. I remember the days we spent in the hospital when she was suffering from being set afire by a relative.

There was an occasion when I did a TV interview. I was asked, “How was the family doing?” I said, “The Shabazz Family is strong and united.” The next day, at the hospital, Attallah corrected me on the pronunciation of her family name.

I was saying, “Shah-bass,” and she said it was “Shah-bAHz,” with a short “a” sound.

It reminded me of days I used to take Leah to the United Nations to meet African diplomats and leaders. I wanted her to see that the majority of people in charge were people of color. I especially wanted her to see Africans in charge and taking care of business throughout the United Nations.

On one occasion, we sat with one of the diplomats or an African National Congress (ANC) leader. I can’t remember which nor can I remember his name.  Whatever the name, I couldn’t pronounce it correctly. Finally, Leah, who was about 6 or 7 years old at the time, with frustration and a touch of anger, corrected me with the proper pronunciation of his name.

When we arrived, Liberty was 10 points behind. The old arena seemed to shake, scream, stomp, and cheer as Liberty began to catch up. My mind turned to Leah. I remember how I brought her home from the hospital. She was so small. She could fit into the crook of my arm. Now, she is a woman of extraordinary achievements.

-Leah was Chief of Staff of the Democratic National Convention Committee in Washington, D.C. Former Governor Howard Dean was the Chair.

-She was the Acting Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management at the U.S. Department of Labor.

-She was the Founder and Director of the Democratic Party’s Faith-in-Action  and Interfaith initiative.

-She was the CEO of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, CO. She was selected as the CEO for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. It was the first time that a person has been asked to repeat.

-She is the founding pastor of The House of the Lord Church in Washington, D.C.

-She coordinates most of the major events in Washington, D.C.

My great friend, Former Mayor David Dinkins, used to ask, “How are the girls?” (I have two other daughters besides Leah — Sharon D’Boya and Dawn Dakeba; and a son, Herbert, Jr. All are college graduates and successful in their chosen professions. All are in the church.) My response was, which I copied from another great friend, Mr. Gil Noble, the former TV host, “Expensive!” We would always get a big laugh out of that. Now, when Mayor Dinkins asks the girls, “How is your father?”; they answer, “He’s expensive!”

I remember when Leah was a baby. My wife and I didn’t have enough money to buy milk. We lacked one cent. I walked the streets looking for a penny. Finding none, I borrowed a quarter. In 2008, after the Democratic National Convention was over, Leah, as the CEO of the Convention, was given credit for “one of the best

Conventions the Party ever had.” Walking aimlessly through the streets of Denver where the Convention was held, and lost in memory, I spied a penny. I paused, stooped, picked it up, held it in my hands, and remembered….  I became transfixed and overwhelmed with gratitude. Indeed, as the old song we used to sing in our church, “He has brought me from a mighty long way!”

It was half-time and Liberty had gone ahead by six points. We went across the corridors to the suites of the owners. There was the usual refreshments, the mingling of crowds, greetings, and light talk. Now, it was time to return to the game.

Washington Mystics went ahead by five points. Isaiah sat nervously, shaking. I remember his great playing days as a Detroit Piston, and the snub he received by his own coach when they decided to choose professional players to represent the U.S.A. in the Olympics’ games. Before, they had relied on college players who were playing against professional players from other countries. Everyone knew he belonged, but Michael Jordan didn’t want him on the team.

Isaiah had tried to buy part ownership of Liberty. There was resistance from some women who brought up something he was alleged to have done in the past.  Why is it so hard for people to forgive if in fact forgiveness is in order? When I think of Isaiah, I think of other athletes – Michael Vick and Ray Rice – although they had evinced remorse and demonstrated repentance. Still, they were treated and being treated as unrepentant criminals. Perhaps, they should read the Scripture: “If we do not forgive others, neither will our heavenly Father forgive us.”

We were now in the closing minutes. The roaring crowd was on their feet. Liberty fell behind by one point with one minute and 46 seconds left to play. Then, Liberty went up 75-74, and Ms. Epiphanny Prince sank a 15 footer, putting Liberty ahead by three points. They went on to win 79-74, and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2010. The thunderous noise was deafening.

I am proud to say that Ms. Prince was coached by my son, Herbert, Jr. Sadly, Liberty was beaten two games to one and the best of three that determined the Eastern Conference Championships.

With a great basketball game, surrounded with people I love, and a flood of precious memories, it was an unforgettable evening.

… to be continued.