Journal of the People’s Pastor

“Writing The History I’ve Lived, Living The History I Write!”

DARFUR DIARY

Khiel Coppin
08/19/1989 – 11/12/2007

“Another Teenager Killed by the Police!”

The Heavens wept drizzling rain on Tuesday afternoon, November 20, 2007, when we drove up to the Nazarene Church. The TV trucks, cameras, police, and people coming to the church from different directions, conveyed a message that something special was happening in this house of God.

My assistant, Minister Omar Wilks, and I, enter the church through the side door. We climbed the two flights of stairs to the pastor’s office. We were greeted warmly by the Pastor, the Rev. Conrad B. Tillard, Sr. I still remember his Nation of Islam days. He was considered one of the more promising ministers of Minister Louis Farrakhan. I know his wife and children. His wife, now a doctor, was a brilliant student. She and my daughter, Sharon, were friends and classmates. Now, here he was welcoming me as a Pastor.

Along with other ministers, we headed back down the steps. We passed classrooms, where little children were playing. How strange. How irrepressible is life. Downstairs there is a dead body, upstairs children sing and dance, full of energy and life.

We marched down the sanctuary’s nave, following Rev. Tillard as he read scriptures. The church, with a seating capacity of 300 to 400 was packed. The balcony was crowded with news people, still and motion cameras. The black robed choir sang softly in the choir loft.

Bishop Eric Figueroa invoked the blessings of God upon the family. There was Scripture readings and speeches by Congressman Ed Towns, Councilman Al Vann, Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, Community Activist Shoronnie Perry, Community Activist Ateem Ferguson and family spokesperson W. Taharka Robinson. Taharka, the son of Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, recited people who had been killed by the police: Randy Evans, Louie Bias, Michael Stewart, Amadu Diallo, Patrick Darismond, and Timothy Stanberry.

Councilman Charles Barron and I looked at each other knowingly. While we were not invited to speak, the cases that he mentioned, we had been the leaders or played a dominate role. As he moved on to other subject matters, my mind kept conquering up names and faces. Clifford Glover, 11, Jamaica, New York; Ricky Borden, 11, Staten Island; Claude Reese, 14, Brooklyn, NY; Jay Parker, 15, Queens, NY; Nicholas Hayward, 14, Brooklyn, NY; these were representatives of the youths that had been killed by police. Then there were the men – Arthur Miller, Malcolm Ferguson, Diaz, on Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY; then there were – Marian Johnson, Brooklyn, NY; Elizabeth Magnum, Brooklyn, NY; Eleanor Bumper, Bronx, NY; Alberta Spruill, Harlem, New York; representative of the women killed by police. Then there were, Louie Bias, Kelvin Thorpe, Peter Funches, and now, Khiel Coppin. These were representatives of people killed by policemen, whose loved ones had called for help. There must be a better way to address the cry for help than to kill the loved one of the persons who are begging for help.

There was music by the choir, melancholy and vibrant. One of the most moving, comforting moments came when Schon Jomel sang, “A Change Gonna Come.” The song seemed so appropriate. We need to be reassured.
Then came the eulogy by Rev. Alfred Sharpton. He read from Ecclesiastics the third Chapter, where it is written, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the Heavens…” While he criticized the police, he also emphasized the negatives in our communities. He singled out the hip-hop generation, in particular the Rappers. Drawing on the heroes of yesteryear and their accomplishments, he rhetorically asked, “Where are the heroes to inspire our youth today? Everybody needs a purpose. God wants us to have a purpose. What is the purpose of young people today?”

Afterward, we walked from the pulpit and stood by the blue metallic casket. There lay an 18 year old, baby-faced black boy. He was clad in dark colors, pinstriped shirt, dark vest and trousers – so young! So cold! So still! So dead! Another notch on the police revolvers and another blotch on the police record.

Rev. Sharpton had said during the eulogy, “When Taharka called me and said, ‘they shot another one,’ I didn’t have to ask, who did the shooting and who was the victim. I knew it was the police and I knew it was a black person.”
They came to the coffin – crying, shaking their heads, staring down at the lifeless form. The family came, some members had to be gently, but firmly, removed from the casket. Then came the father. He looked long into the casket. He seemed transfixed in another time and place. Slowly, he moved away, paused and embraced Rev. Sharpton and me, shaking his head; he was lead to his sit by a friend on whose shoulders he leaned. And then it was time for the mother. They gathered around her, a sister on either side, slowly they brought her to the casket. Weeping and mourning, she bent over and kissed him. She stood over the casket, gently rubbing his chest with her hand. She turned, faltered, held up by the sisters standing next to her, she made her way back to her seat and continued to stare at the casket as the mortician went through the final painful exercise of closing it.

It was such a short life. In the obituary, I counted 26 lines – 18 if you leave out the loved ones at the end. It read, “Khiel Daniel Seon Coppin – God blessed this world with this angel on August 19, 1989, in the little Island of Tobago. He was the fifth child born to Denise Coppin and Walter Coppin.

Unlike so many of us on this earth, Khiel readily accepted his own personal purpose; using his words and wit to express himself, while bringing comfort to others.

Even as a toddler, this exceptional young man was highly intelligent, opinionated and strong-willed, if not stubborn – yet so sweet and funny. His view of the world and how it treated the “underdog” gave us a peep at how big Khiel’s heart was and showed his eagerness to make a way for all those who felt lost and unloved.

Khiel was a loner who loved music and loved writing poetry; but most of all; he loved all who he was closest to.
Khiel leaves to mourn his, parents; Denise and Walter, and his stepfather Reginald Owens. He also leaves to mourn, his brothers, Joel, Michael and Na’im; his sisters; Israel, Gabrielle, Khadijah and Jannah; his stepbrother; Starling; grandparents: Cynthia and Hassel Elliott; 13 uncles and aunts, 7 nieces and nephews and a host of many other relatives, family members and friends.”

November, the month of the Thanksgiving season, has brought the most excruciating agony to many families whose loved ones were killed by the police. Randy Evans, 15years old, was killed in November 1976. This past Friday night, November 23, 2007, I participated in the monthly vigil in remembrance of Sean Bell, killed November 25, 2006, and now 18-year-old, Khiel Coppin, killed by the police, Monday, November 12, 2007.

The cruel, incredible, unbelievable, irony is the people we pay to protect us, who are supposed to help us, are guilty of bringing indescribable grief to the families whose loved ones they are guilty of killing, in all most all of the instances, unnecessarily.

Upcoming Events

Attend the Timbuktu Learning Center’s weekly Thursday night forums 7pm to 9pm held at the House of the Lord Church. There will be a second workshop on MRSA or “The Super Bug,” this
Thursday, November 29, 2007, at 7pm.

Attend NRLAA’s monthly forum Focus on Africa the 2nd Saturday from 2pm to 4pm.
Organizing Meetings regarding Darfur every Thursday - 12noon @ the House of the Lord Church
Keep abreast of our Darfurian activities by checking our web page @ www.holnj.org.
For further Information on all events, contact The House of the Lord Church @ (718) 596-1991.