Journal of the People’s Pastor

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

DARFUR DIARY

Part II: The Passing of Giants of the Human Spirits

REV. JOE L. PARKER (10/16/1940 - 7/29/2007)
MR. DENNIS J. TINSLEY (9/19/1953 – 7/25/2007)



On July 28, 2007, I was first at the park for our weekly Saturday morning basketball game. Immediately, following me were four other players. One turned to me in a sad, emotional voice and asked, “Have you heard about Dennis?” “No, what happened?” I asked. “He dropped dead on the basketball court Wednesday.” I was stunned. “How old was he?” I asked. “53,” came the reply. Dennis and I had played together for almost 15 years. He always liked playing on the opposite side, not because he disliked me, no indeed, quite the contrary, we liked each other very much. But he liked matching up with me.

Dennis had once been a star athlete. Football and basketball were his main sport. With age came obesity and failing joints and bones. Dennis couldn’t move fast anymore. His quickness had gone. He still had strength, bulk, smarts and experience. He knew a lot of tricks – outside the rules, like pulling my shirt when I went past him or holding me to keep me from getting away or stepping on my foot or throwing his big body against me under the basket to keep me from rebounding the ball. I confess I knew all the tricks he knew, I was equally guilty of infractions. When we were caught or when the infractions became so obvious we would stare at each other in a mock, menacing way.
Dennis’ strategy was to keep me in front of him. He would move from side to side on the court, dragging his gimpy leg and portly body. He would not try to follow me all around the court. He had neither the speed nor the stamina. He was content to give me the outside shot. He was a ferocious competitor.

We had some great times on the court. Eagerly, I looked forward to playing against him. Most of the time, I won. Not necessarily because I outplayed him, but I was on the better team. While we fought hard on the court, in all the years we played together, we never had a serious argument. And that is exceptionally rare in playground basketball, or any contact sport.

At his funeral, held at the Community Baptist Church in Englewood, N.J., pastored by Rev. Lester Taylor, I said, “On behalf of my family, my church, the community, especially, the basketball players from the playground, I offer our prayers and condolences. Primarily, I knew Dennis from the basketball court. We played mostly against each other for 15 years.

I firmly believe, how a person conducts him or her self on the athletic field speaks volumes to or reveals a person’s character, mindset, values, and personality. So, I think I knew Dennis pretty well. He was tough with a tender heart. He was sensitive to the wounded and losers. He was always fair and fiercely determined. He was personable and likable. He had a great sense of humor. He was always fun, even on the court, when he was losing or winning
He was a great organizer and supervisor too. He managed and supervised night basketball games in the gym of a local school. To keep order, maintain respect and sustain adherence to the rules required extraordinary skills, toughness and discipline. What Dennis said was the rules – were the rules. No one, not even the toughest and the meanest, seriously challenged his authority. He gave respect and demanded respect, and he got it.

Now Dennis, I know you liked me and liked playing against me, but don’t try to pull any strings to get me to join you. I will see you many, many, many years from now.” (There was pervasive laughter – a little humor goes a long way in helping and or healing.) I concluded on a note of hope, reminding the family of the biblical promise of eternal life. I will miss Dennis very much. Playing basketball won’t be quite the same. Ever so often, I know I will long to match wits and skills with him and laughter at each other, whether we won or lost.

Upcoming Events
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.
BCAT Program every 2nd and 4th Sunday @ 2p.m.For further Information on all events, contact The House of the Lord Church @ (718) 596-1991

Our Annual Freedom Walk #4 – covering the Underground Railroad, the African Burial Ground in Manhattan, on to the landing site of Frederick Douglass, will take place this Saturday, 8/18/07 @ 9am. Each year we visit historic sites used by the Underground Railroad. Starting at the House of the Lord Church with a continental breakfast and a historical overview, after which, we visit many of the houses that were used by the Underground Railroad, along with the old Bridge Street Church, the Plymouth Church, etc. Downtown Brooklyn was the center of the anti-slavery movement.

Significantly, Mayor Bloomberg’s recent announcement of a six-member panel to assist in his efforts to develop a project to commemorate abolitionist activity that occurred in Brooklyn in the 1800s is very interesting. What the Mayor is now bringing attention to with his announcement is what we have been doing for years. Our church is in the downtown area. We have been calling for the revitalization of downtown Brooklyn for close to 40 years. Everybody knows we have protested, boycotted for revitalization with the inclusion of history and culture. Our church has continued the liberation or the human rights struggle started in Brooklyn by our courageous ancestors so many years ago.