Journal of the People’s Pastor

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

DARFUR DIARY

The Bell Family Vigil


The Bell family and supporters gathered for another Prayer Vigil. About 30 participants braved the chilly weather to sing, read poems and offer reflections on the life and times of Sean Bell.

The ceremony was led by Mr. William & Valerie Bell, the father and mother of Sean. Standing on either side of a 4x10 banner with Sean’s picture against a black background, Mrs. Bell did most of the talking. Both parents thanked everyone for their love and support. Almost in unison they said, “We love you and we know Sean is looking down smiling on us.” Mrs. Bell, who in the past, always looked sad and heavy laden, this night she was smiling, talking and moving sprightly among the supporters. When my assistant, Omar Wilks, started handing out our flyers, which announced the Support Rally for the family on February 3rd, she jumped in, took some of the flyers and commenced energetically helping with the distribution, exchanging pleasantries as she weaved in and out of the crowd.

Sean Bell, 23, was killed in a fusillade of 50 bullets from police officers who claimed that they saw a gun. After thorough, extended search by the police no gun was found. Also, wounded in the hail of bullets were two of Sean’s closest friends, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman. Sean was killed on the morning (he was killed around 4am) of his wedding day.

When I was invited to speak, I said, “I know I speak on behalf of all people of goodwill when I express admiration for the Bell family. It would have been understandable if they had withdrawn from public activity after their son had been killed. But they choose to initiate action and corporate with action by others, in memory of and seeking justice for their son. They have acted on behalf of all people who have suffered a similar fate and they probably helped to prevent similar acts of police brutality and/or killings.”

As always, I try to find or extract meaning and purpose in these apparently senseless killings by the police. I recounted the conversation I used to have with Ms. Annie Brannon, the mother of 15 year old Randy Evans. Randy was killed November 1976 by a police officer named Robert Torsney. The following year, almost to the day, the jury sentenced Torsney to psychiatric treatment with weekend visits at home and two years probation. Added to the pain of this unjustified killing, it happened on Thanksgiving Day.

The community was furious. We decided that we would do something about it. We vowed we would perpetuate Randy’s memory, build a movement and empower the people. Since 1979, in memory of Randy, we have annually awarded at least 10 college bound students a minimum of $1,000, usually its $1,500. This is done at our Annual Randy Evans Memorial Luncheon. There were other things that we accomplished. We succeed in building a movement which eventuated into the New York Black United Front and then the National Black United Front; both of these organizations are still in existence. We helped to organize and enhance other organizations. We changed the political landscape. Our community became more politically powerful as we organized political conventions. We ran our own candidates, some of whom won elections. In addition, we supported other candidates with our help, they were generally victorious. We enhanced the economic viability of our community as we compelled the City and the business communities to provide more jobs, service contracts, increase the amount of deposits in black banks and advertising in the black press. So, Randy Evans still lives.

(For additional information on Randy Evans and chronicling the movements in Brooklyn, see my book – No Monopoly On Suffering, published by Africa World Press.)

I attempted to assuage the grief and encourage Mrs. Brannon and other parents who had/have experienced or are going through the same ordeal of youth killed by police. “We cannot bring your children back – not physically,” I said, “but we can keep them alive in our memory and actions. We can build monuments, institutions, movements, organizations and traditions in their memory. Thus, we keep them alive. I believe in immortality. I believe perpetuating our lives on the other side of the grave is God’s business. And surely God will take care of God’s business. But it is our responsibility to perpetuate the lives of our love ones on this side of the grave. As parents and supporters work, struggle and build, they give life to their love ones.

Moreover, they also wring purpose out of apparent purposelessness and power out of pain. Hence, they inspire others and save others from comparable hurt and loss. If the reason for our being is to partner with God, to perpetuate the highest quality of life for the human family, then our loved ones sometimes, even in their death, touch more people than they would have if they had lived. In other words, they, in their death, brought more good to the world than they might have had they lived. They are a part of that select group of whom the poets have written when they said, ‘Truth crushed to earth shall rise again.’ Or, as someone else has said, ‘It is the blood of martyrs that have saturated the soil out of which some of the best flowers of our civilization have grown.’

It is not how long we live but what we do, what contributions we make, what impact we have while we are alive that counts. So, Randy, Sean and many others, in their deaths and by the actions of their parents and supporters have inspired countless people across the world.”

There were loud yells of approval and handclapping when Mr. Bell, smiling broadly, reported that the court had ruled against change of venue as requested by the attorneys for the killer cops. (It has been reported that the defense attorneys will also seek a bench trial to begin February 25th.) Mr. Bell vowed to continue the vigils indefinitely. When I announced the Rally of Support for the Bell family and mobilization for court appearances to start in February, Mr. Bell said, in a booming voice, “And don’t stay home to watch the Super Bowl game, come out to the rally.”

The Rally will be held at the House of the Lord Church, this Sunday, February 3rd, at 5pm. The Church is located at 415 Atlantic Avenue, downtown Brooklyn, between Bond and Nevins Streets.

Upcoming Events

Attend the Timbuktu Learning Center’s weekly Thursday Night Community Forums. All Forums are held at the House of the Lord Church from 7pm to 9pm.

On Thursday, January 31, 2008, at 7pm, The Brotherhood Department of the House of the Lord Church, during the Timbuktu Learning Center’s Thursday Night Community Forum, will sponsor the screening of a documentary entitled, “Another Look at Egypt,” presented by Professor Clinton Crawford of Medgar Evers College.

On Thursday, February 7, 2007, at 7pm the Timbuktu Learning Center cosponsored by the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA) and the Alonzo Daughtry Family Life Services (ADFLS) will hosts it 4th Community Forum on Mortgage Foreclosures, Predatory Lending, Debt Restructuring and Money Management. At this Forum we will hear a response from the lending institutions/banks.

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.