Dr. Mary H.
Harden Umolu Sanders
11/24/27 – 9/25/07
She was always regal in her bearing – a brilliant woman. She was
proud to be of African origin. She had a fighting spirit. She was committed
to the advancement of people of African ancestry. Always, she emphasized
education. When I think of Dr. Umolu, I think of Dr. Betty Shabazz,
Sisters Ella Baker, Vicki Garvin, Fannie Lou Hammer – the qualities
that made these women great, Dr. Umolu had in abundance.
She caste a long shadow. I was glad to come within the pale. Whenever
I would see her, she was always encouraging and challenging. As she
did with all she met, she tried to inspire and motivate me.
Because of an unbreakable commitment, I could not attend the funeral
on September 24; I decided to attend the viewing at Medgar Ever College.
Her viewing was held in the Founder’s Auditorium. The large Auditorium
was packed. A long line of admires waited to take their turn to tell
the world how Dr. Umolu was the greatest and of their association with
The funeral was held at St. Paul Community Baptist Church. The Rev.
Johnny Ray Youngblood, Pastor, officiated. Reverends Lula Woods and
Richard Honeywell read from the Old and New Testaments, respectively.
Also appearing on the program offering brief remarks were Dr. Edison
O. Jackson, Pauline Canady, Gloria Chestnut, Iyafin Omosalewa, Amy Olatunji,
Anele Cannon, Mahasin Mais and Martha Sea. The acknowledgements were
read by Renee Riddick and the obituary was read by Asantewaa Harris.
Linda Humes did a poem. There were two songs sung during the program
– “Precious Lord” and “Then My Living Shall
Not Be In Vain.” In his eulogy, the Rev. Youngblood added his
voice to the chorus of tributes for Dr. Umolu. He rehearsed her commitment,
intellect, compassion and dedication.
The following is an excerpt of Dr. Umolu’s obituary:
There are not many people in New York City, especially in the Borough
of Brooklyn, who are not familiar with the name Dr. Mary Umolu and most
of them know that she has been a staple at Medgar Evers College of the
City University of New York since she joined the faculty in 1972. Born
in Virginia of Southern and Jamaican parentage, Mary Umolu’s family
migrated to New York when she was a young child. She grew up in Brooklyn
and received her bachelor and masters degree from Brooklyn College/CUNY
and a Ph.D. from Union University in Cincinnati, Ohio. After graduation,
Mary became a teacher in Haiti. In the 1950’s she traveled to
Nigeria, eventually working as a pioneer radio broadcaster in the Eastern
Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation (ENBC) and made such a tremendous impact
on the broadcasting industry in Nigeria that many there still remember
her. She married Minister John Umolu of the Bendel region of Nigeria.
This led to her involvement in the Biafran Wars where she rescued four
children and brought them back to the United States.
Upon her arrival at Medgar Evers in 1972, Dr. Umolu, using donated equipment
from the Model Cities Program, was awarded a grant to establish the
Medgar Evers College Radio Station, WNYE 91.5 FM. After its establishment,
Dr. Umolu spent long hours and showed unrelenting energy and dedication
in coaxing the fledgling radio station into existence, through its infancy,
and into its current state as a successful communications vehicle for
the students of the College, the Central Brooklyn Community and beyond.
In 1997, Dr. Umolu met internationally renowned musician Montego Joe,
a master percussionist and music teacher. “I had heard of Mary
Umolu years before, but the first time I laid eyes on her was at a Max
Roach celebration. She was flamboyant and exciting,” said Montego.
They married in June of 1999. Although born in the United States, Dr.
Mary Helen Umolu epitomized the traditions inherited from the ancestors,
including his gift of story telling, folklore, dance and drama. In fact,
she is renowned internationally as a master storyteller and thrilled
children of all ages with her tales of African folklore. Further, she
has been an ambassador of African American and African culture, serving
as a bridge between two continents. Dr. Umolu has been a pioneer in
many other areas that have allowed her to share her gifts and talents
locally, nationally and internationally as well as with Medgar Evers
College. Mary Umolu was a great lover of jazz music. Her favorite place
was “Jazz 966” at the Fort Green Senior Citizen’s
Center held every Friday night. She loved this atmosphere where the
community came together, dancing and enjoying first class music. She
told Torrie McCartney, “I want this for my people, my community.
I want them to experience these first class musicians too.” Dr.
Umolu founded the summer Jazzy Jazz Festival series at Medgar Evers
College, which runs every Friday night from mid-June to mid-August and
is now a Brooklyn tradition. In 2004, Dr. Mary Umolu became a Priestess
of SHANGO in the Yoruba tradition. She was also a member of Zeta Phi
Beta Sorority for over fifty-seven years. Mary leaves to cherish her
memory, her husband – Roger Sanders, A.K.A. Montego Joe, her brother
– Leevester Harden, (Maureen, wife); daughters – Juanita
Brown (Tom, husband), Mashasin Muhammad-Mais, Chinyelu Nwobu (Ogugua,
husband), Nanadenna Linton; sons – Madubuko Diakite, Chikonla
Ajuluchuku and Kehinde Sanni (Mary, wife); cousins – Corrine Jenkins
(Edward, husband), Louise Gary (Allen, husband); nephew – Sean
Harden; niece – Lynnette Harden; 25 grandchildren, numerous great
grandchildren, one grand nephew, and a host of other family and friends.
Dr. Umolu loved and cared for the entire universe and all its inhabitants.
She will forever be missed. However, we will always remember her wise
words that “everything is in divine order.”
So we say, so long again to a friend, a sister and to a fellow struggler.
On Saturday, November 10, 2007 from 2pm – 4pm, Rev. Daughtry will
report to the Community and show a film on his recent trip to the refugee
camp in Gaga, Chad.
Attend NRLAA’s monthly forum “Focus on Africa” –
2nd Saturday from 12pm to 2pm.
Attend the Timbuktu Learning Center’s weekly Thursday night forums
7pm to 9pm held at the House of the Lord Church.
Organizing Meetings regarding Darfur every Thursday, 12noon @ the House
of the Lord Church
Keep abreast of our Darfurian activities by checking our web page @
The First Lady’s Committee of the House of the Lord Church invites
you to celebrate with us on Sunday, November 11, 2007, 12noon as we
honor Rev. Dr. Karen Daughtry, wife of Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry, National
First Lady of the House of the Lord Churches and Chair of the National
Department of Women’s Work.
For further Information on all events, contact The House of the Lord
Church @ (718) 596-1991.