Journal of the People’s Pastor

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

DARFUR DIARY
Part I: Darfur Diary – My Journey to Juba, Sudan



On November 20, 2007, I received a telephone call from Yayha Qusman. I was relieved and joyfully surprised. Yayha is a Darfurian whose brother was killed by the Sudanese government and his family, who has large holdings in Sudan, is harassed. Yayha had to flee Sudan. He has moved from country to country always feeling threaten.

Eventually, he obtained political asylum in the United States (US). He has been very active in the Darfur crises in the US and abroad. He was Secretary General of the Darfur Rehabilitation Project, an advocacy and humanitarian organization in America. He is highly regarded by governmental, religious and resistant leaders in the US and abroad. He has played a major role, working ceaselessly, night and day, in Darfurian affairs, particularly, working for unity among Darfurian leadership.

We met in October 2006 at the House of the Lord Church during a Darfurian-organizing meeting. We became close friends, organizing and traveling partners. He joined our organization, the National Religious Leaders of African Ancestry Concerned About Darfur (NRLAA). On my two trips to Chad, Yayha did the advanced work, minus his help, our success could never have been achieved.

On our last trip to Chad, October 16 – 23, 2007, when we delivered over 500 boxes of supplies to refugees in Gaga, (We accumulated close to 700 boxes. However, because of broken boxes and other unknown reasons, the actual number of boxes counted at the refugee camp was over 500.), my daughter, Sharon, and I left Yayha in N’djamena, Chad. He was very ill. In fact, he went to the hospital. The last time I spoke to him was October 24, after I had returned to the USA. We became increasingly concerned as time progressed. There was no word from him. The absence of communication was out of character for him. Not knowing the extent of his illness and knowing his precarious situation, daily my anxiety level escalated.

Thus, when I heard his voice on Tuesday, I was overwhelmed. Then when I learned that he was all right and what had been accomplished, I almost went through the phone. He said, he went to Juba after we left N’djamena. (While we were there, we were invited to an emergency meeting of Darfurian leaders in Juba. The invitations had been extended by the President of South Sudan, Mr. Salva Kiir. The meeting was convened to discuss the coming conference, October 27, 2007, called by the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) in Tripoli. As it turned out, most of the Darfurian leaders did not attend, so the meeting was a failure. We could not get a flight from N’djamena to Juba. We missed the meeting. Needless to say, we were deeply disappointed.) So later, Yayha went to Juba as the meeting continued past October 27.

He had been in the bush with Darfurian leaders for the past 30 days. He had to cut off communication because of where he was and the nature of the meeting – but the good news – they had achieved unity. Ten of the twelve most important organizations had done their work and with some minor finishing touches, they will be making an announcement and having a celebration. There were other matters two sensitive to be discussed on the telephone. He wanted to discuss them with me in person. Also, they offered him a job. He told them he first wanted to talk to me and others.

My response to the invite was a resounding, yes! After the conversation, I immediately made plans to leave for Juba. I decided to leave via Ethiopian Airlines, Sunday December 2 and return December 12.

We would have departed sooner, but we had a weekend commitment in Ohio that I felt bound to fulfill. Also, my nephew, Larry James, was being honored Saturday December 1. I wanted to include that in my schedule.

Larry James was a member of the 1968 Relay Team that won gold medals at the Olympics in Mexico. In fact, they set a record that has not been surpassed. The 1968 Olympics is known as the Black Power Olympics. It was the Olympics where Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised black-gloved fists in the air while standing on the platform to receive the gold and bronze medals respectively.

In 1962, James Meredith, after a federal court ruling, became the first black man to integrate the University of Mississippi. On June 5, 1966, Meredith, now a Columbia University law student, and a few companions, began a 220-mile march from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi to encourage African Americas to register and vote. He called it a “March Against Fear.” The next day, on June 6, he was shot. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Floyd McKissick of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Stokely Carmichael (a/k/a Kwame Ture) Chairman of the Student Non-Violence Co-Ordinating Committee (SNCC), decided to finish Meredith’s “March Against Fear” to Jackson, Mississippi. As the marchers reached Jackson, Mississippi, Stokely thrust his fist in the air and shouted, “Black Power.” Black Power struck a responsive cord in the black community. Even black critics, while accepting the concept of Black Power, were more concerned about white reactions then black responses. Whites overwhelmingly disapproved of the slogan, but at bottom, the disapproval was related to black people actually achieving Black Power. In some quarters, white reaction bordered on hysteria.

Hence, Smith and Carlos fists in the air interpreted their endorsement of Black Power and a rejection of whites. They were vehemently denounced by the Olympic organizers and their ilk. For years, (even to some extend up to the present) Smith and Carlos have suffered immensely. Instead of accolades and opportunities given to them, they were stigmatized and economically deprived.

Larry is very ill now. Plans are being made for next year’s celebration, which will be the 40th anniversary. Because of James’ deteriorating health conditions, organizers thought it would be wise to pay him tribute this year.

I really wanted to be present for his celebration, however, sadly, I was unable to make it. I spoke with him over the phone. I told him my schedule and that the available transportation would prevent my attending. I wished him well. I said, “You have been an excellent husband, a wonderful father, a great athlete and a committed public servant. You deserve all the honors that you will receive.” He responded, “Thank you very much. I know that if at all possible you would be here. But there will be another time.” (In passing, it may be of interest to note that former Assemblyman Roger Green used to compete with Larry James in track and field.)

To be continued…

Upcoming Events

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

On this Thursday, December 20, 2007, at the House of the Lord Church, 7pm to 9pm, Rev. Daughtry will make a report to the community on his recent trip to Sudan.

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.