Journal of the People’s Pastor

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

DARFUR DIARY

“The Passing Of Giants Of The Human Spirits”

BERNARD E. BROOKS
1935-2007


“A Black Mayor Ahead of His Times”


We were neighbors once upon a time. We were never close friends but we had a friendly mutually respectful relationship. I participated in his fundraising when he ran for mayor. He was Teaneck, New Jersey’s first black mayor – elected in 1983. He served to 1988. The only other Black mayor in Bergen County, New Jersey at the time was the Rev. Walter Taylor 1971. Rev. Taylor also was pastor of the Galilee Methodist Church in Englewood, New Jersey. He officiated my wedding to Ms. Karen Smith in 1962.

He was tall, dark with flashing eyes. He was brilliant and forward thinking. He was tough but always respectful to everybody.

Mr. Paul Astrow, former mayor of Teaneck, NJ said, “A true legend. Bernie was one of those people I tried to emulate in the way he treated people.” Councilwoman Jacqueline B. Kates, another former mayor, said, “He was stern at council meetings and disliked a lot of talk during public sessions. He always addressed residents as ‘Sir’ and ‘Madame.’” She continued, “He wanted to treat everybody the same way with dignity and respect. Bernie transcended race. He was our first black mayor that was a very proud achievement for him and a proud moment for Teaneck.”

His quest for dignity and respectful interaction among all people motivated him to start a Friendship Day Program. He encouraged black and white families to visit each other’s homes.

He was a true professional in his business and politics. He was a finance and management consultant. He tried to move Teaneck Council into the computer age. Another former mayor, Frank Hall, recalled, “When he joined the council he tried to make it more professional that’s where his management and expertise came in. He was a big help.” While his business and political responsibilities kept him busy, he still found time to voluntarily participate in many organizations and activities. He was a member of the Bergen County NAACP, the Urban League of Bergen County. He was active in the little league, senior housing and Bergen County Girl Scout Council. He was a trustee of Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, NJ. He served on the advisory Board at the School of Management at the New Jersey School of Technology and was a member of the New Jersey’s Supreme Court Ethics Committee.

On October 2003, Teaneck expressed gratitude for Mr. Brooks’ character and contributions. The township dedicated a park – the Bernard E. Brooks Park – in his honor. The Park is located on Intervale Road.

One evening as I passed his home, the ambulance was parked out front. I went inside. There was a heavy, sad silence. People spoke in hushed voices. I knew something strange and traumatic had happened. He was seated in the living room, his body, his aura, his face, especially his eyes, told me what I knew in my spirit. I had been in this place before many times. Death had entered the house. I sat beside him. He said, “My wife just died.”

We sat in silence for what seemed a long time. In times of staggering sorrow or trauma, I hesitate to speak. Always I remember Job and his friends. Job’s suffering and lost has become proverbial. His children were killed; he lost his wealth. His body was afflicted with a painful decease. His wife told him to curse God and die and it seemed that God had forsaken him. His friends came to comfort him. For three days, they sat in silence. And then they spoke. They said all the wrong things. Job angrily said to them, “Miserable comforters are ye all.”

After a while, I spoke to him about faith and hope. Then I prayed for him. We sat for a little while longer. Then I took my leave. Not long after he moved back to the South Carolina to Spartanburg. And now he has moved to his eternal home.

He is survived by his wife, Julia Lyons-Brooks of Spartanburg; four daughters, Sharon Brooks of Thousand Oaks, California; Karen Brooks of Gwynne Oak, Maryland, Susan Brooks of Newark, New Jersey and Theresa Brooks of Atlanta, Georgia. He is also survived by three sisters, Martha Brooks Ruth Webster both of the Bronx, New York and Vivian Bracey of Mt Vernon, New York.

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.