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

Sinclair Bourne, Jr.
1943 – 12/16/2007


I was in Augusta, Georgia, when my wife, Rev. Dr. Karen S. Daughtry, informed me she had received an email from Ms. Terrie Williams, the well-known Executive Director of the Terrie Williams Agency that Sinclair Bourne, Jr. had died on Saturday, December 16, 2007 in New York Hospital after an operation to remove a brain tumor. He was 64 years old. On Friday, December 15, I was at the viewing of the husband of Rev. Elizabeth Butler, veteran activist and Pastor of the Church of New Beginnings. He was found dead, beaten to death, now it was Sinclair. If the old saying, “Death comes in three(s)” holds true, then the questions is, who is next?

I first met Sinclair in the 70’s, I knew his father primarily from his writings in the Amsterdam News. It was from Jitu Weusi, the innovative, educator and cultural crusader that I first learned about Sinclair. Jitu had the highest praise for Sinclair. Subsequently, I learned that the people for whom I had the highest esteem echoed Jitu’s thinking about Sinclair.

It was Jitu that Sinclair asked to bring us together. When I met him, I immediately liked him. I think the feelings were mutual. He talked about his filmmaking history. But there was a difference. He talked about filmmaking not from a so-called disinterested or impartial perspective; nor was he interested in making the usual standards his standards. He was unashamedly black. His experience was black. His father, who had a great influence on him, was very much black. While he would make all kinds of films, he would never forget or try to escape from his blackness.

During those years when we were just getting used to being black, too many bourgeois artists, professionals and civil rights leaders seemed to be unsure or ambivalent about being black and African in origin. Not so, with Sinclair, he was who he was, Black and proud. In an interview with Black Camera 2006, he talked about his growing up and the “incorrect filming” being done at the time. In addition, he discuss identifying with the black subjects in documentaries.

My most memorable experience is when he did a film entitled, “The Black and The Green in 1983.” In the film, he tried to show the paralysis between the Irish struggle in Belfast and the Black struggle in the United States of America. Along with other ministers, I had been invited to Belfast. It was during the time when imprisoned Irish strugglers were starving themselves to death in their quest for freedom. Bobby Sands was the first and foremost to die. Some of us, in the anti-apartheid movement, had formed an alliance with Irish strugglers. We had researched our history. We knew that the first black convention in the United States of America supported the Irish cause. Fred Douglass had been a supporter and Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, the young Irish leader, when given the keys to the city of Chicago; she gave the keys to the Black Panther Party. Irish had marched with us and gone to jail with us in support against apartheid.

While in Belfast, we visited the devastated communities of Turf Large and Bally Murphy, every bit comparable to the most deprived and deteriorated black communities in the USA. We met with Irish, political, civil rights and revolutionary leaders. We visited the cemetery where Irish heroes were buried. It was in the rain and occasionally, we would be stopped as we drove or walked the streets by British officers with rifles pointed at our heads, while several other officers stood nearby in combat readiness.

The house in which I stayed was the home of the McAllister’s. Ms. McAllister’s husband had been killed in this house. When it was time for us to leave, Sinclair asked me to stay with him and help him with the filmmaking of The Black and The Green. I really did not want to stay. I had completed my mission. But Sinclair insisted. “It would only be for a few days,” he argued. I, like many others, found it difficult to resist his request. I was glad I stayed.

We drove around Belfast, shooting scenes and interviewing all kinds of people. It was an educational, interesting, very pleasurable experience watching this genius at work and playing some small part in the production. While he was serious and intensive about his work, yet, there were light moments, moments of laughter and seeing the funny side of life.

The highlight of the trip was the filming inside an Irish Republican Army safe house. I do not remember how we got there. Even if I did, I would not say. It was a rather large room, maybe 15x15 or 20x20, steel plates lined the walls and windows. It reminded me of the steel enclosed room of Scarface in the old movie staring Paul Muni. There were a couple of things that caught our attention. There was a poem on the wall which said, “they, the Brits got…, - and they named their comrades who had been killed by the Brits (I do not remember their names) – but we got Mount Battern (this was in reference to the British Navy officer who along with his family was blown up in the sea.) It became clear to me as never before, the IRA, believed they were at war with the Brits as their soldiers had been killed they returned the compliment, when the innocents were killed, it is a collateral damage.

Sinclair’s attention, however, was riveted on several occupants in the room watching television. Sinclair thought it was such an unusual anomaly. He had to film it. He asked me to sit with my back to the window as I interviewed one of the occupants. Although the window was covered with steel, I resisted. One of the first lessons you learn in the struggle never sit with your back to windows or doors, but again, Sinclair insisted and I relented.

I shall never forget sitting there, talking to this young, brave Irish struggler, some of them, as I have stated, had decided to die for their belief, discussing global revolutions. I turned to one of the young men, I said, “You know in America, some of the most vicious, racists police officers are Irish. What do you have to say about them?” He looked me straight in the eye. He said, in a strong defiant voice, “If they don’t support the black struggle in the USA, we don’t want them to support our struggle.”

It has been a long time since I have seen The Black and The Green. I wonder if that young man’s quote is still in the film. The contrast of Irish behavior in Belfast and the USA toward blacks is startling. I met some of the nicest people in Belfast. On my way back to the USA, I sat next to a young Irish lad, maybe 14 to 16. He was going to live with his uncle in Staten Island. He was so mannerable. I wondered what he would become once he had been in the USA for a few years.

When the events of 911 happened, Sinclair called me. He was thinking about doing a documentary on 911. He wanted to know what I had to say, in particular, he wanted to film my sermon the Sunday after 911. I do not know what became of the film.

The last time I spoke with him, I had called him to engage his interest in doing a Trailer on me. (A Trailer is a short film designed to promote the accomplishment of a person or organization.) There were people who were interested in portraying my life and work.

He was eager to do the film. He even offered to help raise the money. For whatever reason, it never came to pass. Another major regret of my life.

We shall all miss him very much. He did his work and he did it well. And so he put his footprints on the sands of time.

Upcoming Events

Attend the Timbuktu Learning Center’s weekly Thursday Night Community Forums. All Forums are held at the House of the Lord Church from 7pm to 9pm.

The Timbuktu Learning Center presents A Community Forum on Mortgage Foreclosures, Predatory Lending Debt Restructuring, Thursday, January 10, 2008, at the House of the Lord Church from 7pm to 9pm.

On Thursday, January 31, 2008, at 7pm, The Brotherhood Department of the House of the Lord Church, during the Timbuktu Learning Center’s Thursday Night Community Forum, will sponsor The Screening of a Documentary entitled “Another Look at Egypt,” presented by Professor Clinton Crawford of Medgar Evers College.

Attend a Rally of Support for the Sean Bell Family, on Sunday, February 3, 2008, 5pm at the House of the Lord Church. We will also be mobilizing for the upcoming trail starting February 4th.

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.