Journal of the People’s Pastor

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

DARFUR DIARY

PART II: ONE YEAR LATER BELLS ARE STILL TOLLING

The second vigil, or continuation of the first, took place the following night. They started gathering around 10:30pm for the all-night vigil, which was scheduled to commence at 11pm. It was held at the site where policemen’s “shots were heard around the world.” Around 4am Sunday morning, 11/25/2006, “a day that will live in infamy” Sean Bell was killed on the eve of his wedding day. His two friends, Joe Guzman and Trent Benefield were wounded as the vehicle in which they were riding was riddled with police bullets.

During the night and in to the morning, the crowd continued to swell. There were songs, prayers and speeches. Around 4am, Mr. Les Paultre commenced striking a bell. 50 times, he struck the bell, symbolizing the 50 shots fired into the vehicle.

Simultaneously, with the family, the crowd moved toward the death site. There was a canvas with Sean’s picture hanging against the wall. Flowers, cards, and notes of endearment placed beneath the canvas, could be seen by the candles’ light on the ground and in the hands of supporters. Stillness was broken by the sobbing of Nicole. I was asked by Rev. Sharpton to conclude the ceremony with prayer. Nicole, with her mother and sister on one side and leaning on the arms of Rev. Sharpton on the other side, stumbled away from the death site. A few feet away stood Joe Guzman, Sean’s best friend and best man. Nicole, still sobbing, fell into his crest. He wrapped his big arms around her. Tears were in his eyes as he kept shaking his head.

When she had gathered strength, Rev. Sharpton organized the people for the march. It was near 5am when we started walking through the chilly morning. We walked along Sutphin Blvd. to 109th Street, turned left, for 1⁄2 block and went into the semi-circled shaped church, named Tabernacle of Praise.

It was warm in the church’s crowded basement. It was decided to start the service scheduled for 6am at 5:30am. By 6:30am, the sanctuary upstairs was filed to capacity, 300 to 400 people. The 11⁄2-hour ceremony began with everybody invited to sing, “Amen.” Followed with a prayer by Pastor Ruel Williams. After a musical selection, family members made remarks. First came Mr. Poultre, next Ms. Poultre and then Attorney Michael Hardy introduced Rev. Al Sharpton.

Rev. Sharpton, after making remarks, presided over the rest of the program. He extolled the courage and commitment of the family. He said, “We never saw the family commitment waver.” He invited Nicole to make remarks. Standing next to her sister, she thanked the family members and friends for their support. She said, “When they killed Sean, they killed two families. But Sean is still here. We cannot see him, but he is still here. He will always be in my heart.”

Another music selection by Mark Reddick and Universal Praise. After which, Rev. Sharpton called for remarks from the elected officials. Congressman Greg Meeks, State Senator Malcolm Smith, Councilman James Sanders, Councilman John Liu, all gave brief remarks. I was introduced by Rev. Sharpton and invited to speak. I commended the family’s determination and bravery. I recounted my fifty years of ministry, most of which was devoted to doing what I have been doing with the Bell family – supporting the families and calling for justice after police killings. I named many of the people who had been killed by police. I said, “The cruel, incredible, unbelievable irony is that the people we pay to protect are the people who are killing us.”

There were closing remarks by Rev. Cecil Cabiness. On the steps of the church, came the news people, some of whom had been with us from the beginning. One final group picture was taken with Rev. Sharpton and the family. Standing next to me, I put my arms around Nicole’s shoulders. There was a faint smile on her face, but tears were in her eyes. I whispered, “God bless you daughter, stay strong. We are proud of you and we are always praying for you.” She nodded and we moved away.

I arrived at my church at 8:05am, in time for our 8:00am worship service. The 4th Sunday in the month, at our 8am worship there is a special anointing service. I anoint the forehead of worshippers with oil, symbolizing the presence of God. In my mind, I kept repeating, “Oh God if we ever needed you, we need you now.” My subject for the morning was, “I am Determined To Be Grateful.” The Scripture reference was from Psalms 9th Chapter, 1-3 verses. My subject continued the theme I had started last week. “Can We Be Grateful?” was my subject then. My conclusion was, “All kinds of painful experiences shall enter the life of the human family. Most of which we can do nothing about. We can do something about the way we think about what is happening to us. And the way we think about what is happening to us will determine our physical and mental health, our worldview, our value system and our actions, which in turn will influence our future. There is a Bible verse that has become a part of my family’s history. My mother used to quote it often. It is taken from Romans 8th Chapter and the 28th verse. ‘For we know that in all things God works for good to them that love God and to them that are the called according to His purpose.’ A belief in that promise will surely sustain us and even empower us to face and overcome every situation.

Upcoming Events

Attend the Timbuktu Learning Center’s weekly Thursday night forums 7pm to 9pm held at the House of the Lord Church.

We will be hosting a Tribute to Brother Elombe Brath, on Sunday, December 9, 5pm, at the House of the Lord Church.

Rev. Daughtry will be making a report to the community on his trip to Sudan at the Timbuktu Learning Center on Thursday, December 13, 2007, 7pm at the House of the Lord Church.

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.