Journal of the People’s Pastor

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

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



Thursday, November 29, 2007 –

On Thursday, November 29, my journey to Juba began. First stop Cleveland, Ohio and then to Oberlin, Ohio.
My wife, Rev. Dr. Karen Daughtry, and I were met at Cleveland’s Airport by Dr. Albert G. Miller and his wife, Minister Brenda Grier-Miller. Dr. Miller is one of our churches oldest ministers, in point of service. He serves as our Midwest District Leader. Also, he is a Professor of Church History at Oberlin College. While we dined, he gave me my itinerary. Tomorrow, I will speak with Ministers in Akron, Ohio, at a breakfast meeting. At 12noon, I will address high school students at Ohio High School; and then in the evening, I would be speaking with students, professors, clergy and organizers. The talk was sponsored by The Mead-Swing Lectureship Committee and was held at Oberlin College's African Heritage House.  The title of the talk was "The Crisis in Darfur:  A Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid Response to the Refugees in Chad.  Colorful flyers and posters had been circulated.  One of the reasons I decided to add this trip before leaving for Juba, was because it was all about Darfur, a made to order prelude to Juba.

We were booked at the Oberlin Inn. A medium sized Inn, comfortable and clean. Across the street is a square-shaped park, and in walking distance are quaint buildings, stores, restaurants, bars, etc. As I unpacked and made ready for bed, I remembered the last time I was here. It was March 2003. I spoke on Iraq. I had recently returned from Iraq. I had led an interfaith, interracial delegation on a Prayer Pilgrimage to Iraq. It was about two weeks before the bombing started. We were on a mission, in a last desperate attempt to achieve peace. Of course, we did not succeed. Now, I was back in Oberlin on another international issue.

Friday, November 30, 2007 –

On Friday, November 30, starting from the hotel at 6:45am, we drove across Ohio’s scenic highways of valleys, plains and distant mountains. We arrived at the Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Akron, Ohio, at 8:15am. There was a sprawling complex of buildings, including the church, nursery, daycare, school, gym, offices and conference rooms, a cafeteria and a coming clinic. The church is pastored by Rev. Jeff Dennis.

After a breakfast of pastries, fruit, coffee, tea, orange juice and introduction, I spoke on the aforementioned subject and the importance of the leadership meeting in Juba. I played a DVD. It was footage from our delivery of material support to the refugees in Gaga, Chad Central Africa. The footage was well received. It was even suggested that we continue to show the raw footage. A title was suggested – “We Delivered on Our Promise.”

Questions and answers followed. Afterward, the Ministers pledged there support. Rev. Roderick Pound, Pastor of Second Baptist Church in Akron, after offering an immediate financial support, was inspired with a unique idea. He would use Darfur as his doctoral project. Plans for another visit in February was discussed. There were about 25 Ministers and church leaders. (Subsequently, I talked to Rev. Pound on Friday, 12/14/07, returning his call of 12/13/07.) He called to follow up on his promise and to get a date for my next visit.)

The next stop was a meeting with students and teachers at Oberlin High School. It is a forty-five minute drive from Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. About 50 wide-eyed students had waited patiently in the large library/classroom. A key organizer was Isoke Miller, a student and the daughter of Dr. & Minister Miller. I followed the same Mt. Calvary format. In my response to questions, what could they, the students, do? My answer, “Fundraising projects, organize forums, rallies and workshops, write political representatives, contribute material support, join other organizations and/or student groups.” It was a forty-five minute presentation.

Picking up lunch from a health food store, we ate and drove back across the highway to the hotel.
While waiting for dinner, I reflected on a conversation I had had with Dr. A.G. Miller recounting the history of Oberlin College and the African American Community. It was interesting to note the following:
 
“Oberlin College and the town of Oberlin were founded in 1833 by a Presbyterian minister, John Shippard, from Elyria, Ohio, who wanted to train young people in missions and evangelistic work in the style of the great Second Great Awakening preacher, Charles Grandison Finney (who later becomes Oberlin’s second president).  Soon after in 1835, in part, due to financial difficulties, Shippard recruited a group of abolitionist seminarians, former Lane Seminary student from Cincinnati who had been censored by that seminary for fraternizing with blacks and assisting runaway slaves from Kentucky and other parts in the south. (Lane Seminary's president was Lyman Beecher, father of . Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin).  Dr. Henry Ward Beecher, for 40 years pastured the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights. On our annual freedom walk visiting important sites during the Underground Railroad Movement, Plymouth Church is one of our stops. Rather than accept the censor, the students withdrew and shortly thereafter moved to Oberlin and established the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology.  Since that time, the Graduate School of Theology (until its closure in 1965) has graduated some of America’s notable black ministers, including Albert Cleaque, Jr. (founder of The Shrine of the Black Madonna in Detroit and the Black Christian National Movement), Gardner Taylor (Emeritus Pastor of Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn) and George McKinney (Bishop of Southern California Second Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ in Southern California).  The College also became a hotbed for radical abolitionist activity. 
 
Oberlin College was the first school in America to admit, on a regular bases, African American students “without regard to color,” with the first black student graduating in the early 1840’s.  In 1900, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois published a survey he conducted of the number of African Americans who had graduated from American colleges and universities.  Oberlin lead the list of historically predominately-white colleges by graduating over 220 graduates.  Harvard was next on the list with 11 graduates. Oberlin had produced about a third of the African Americans with degrees from predominately-white colleges and universities.  Among some of the notable alumni of Oberlin are John Mercer Langston (uncle of Langston Hughes); Fannie Jackson Coppin (famed principle of The Institute for Colored Youth, now Cheyney State University of Pennsylvania); Dr. Anna Julia Cooper (author of A Voice From the South); Edmonia Lewis (famous 19th century sculpture); Dr. Jeanetta Cole (the first African American woman president of Spellman College); Carl Rowan (syndicated writer); Avery Brooks (actor).” 
 
The town of Oberlin also has it connections to African American History as well.  It was a major stop on the Underground Railroad.  Radical abolitionist John Brown recruited several of his 21 men from Oberlin for his raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859.  The fourth Niagara Movement meeting (the precursor organization to the NAACP) was held in Oberlin under the leadership of W.E.B. Du Bois in 1908.  Du Bois picked Oberlin for the fourth meeting of the Niagara Movement because he felt it represented one of the sites of the struggle for black freedom.  The famed mystic African American preacher, Howard Thurman, served his first pastorate in Oberlin’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church from 1927 -29.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. met for the first time Rev. James Lawson (then a student in the Oberlin Graduate of Theology) on Oberlin’s campus, who was one of the architects of King’s Gandhian non-violent philosophy in 1957.  

Dinner was at the Weia Teia Restaurant. Eating dinner with us were – Patricia DeCoster (chair of Amnesty International) and four of Dr. Miller’s Pentecostalism Seminar students:  Dorothy Garretson, Shea Winsett, Christa Wagner, and Christine Lai.  They were also the co-sponsors of my visit.

The students were concerned about Darfur, but also, racism, world peace, religion and a host of other things. Primarily, they were interested in my conservative religious background and my progressive politics, global concerns and struggle for human rights and self-determination. By the time I responded to all their questions, dinner had been served, we had eaten and it was time for the next meeting at 7pm. The food was delicious.

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.

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 and (718) 797-2184.