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”
Rev. Calvin O. Pressley
11/10/37 – 9/21/07
“The Quiet, Congenial, Efficient”


It came as a shock to me Thursday night, October 4, 2007, when I heard Rev. Calvin O. Pressley was dead. It was the same night I learned that Bishop Carl Williams had made his transition. It was like left right punches. Two long time friends, gone from the land of the living, all most at the same time. My mind raced from one to the other.

Somewhere a long time ago, I met Calvin. I think he was with Carl McCall. They were good friends for as long as I can remember. It might have been during the anti-poverty war in the early sixties or when Carl and others were organizing the Black Intellectual Political Movement. That year we supported Herman Badillo for mayor. I remember we met with Badillio in the Commodore Hotel in Manhattan. At that time, Mr. Badillo was expressing liberal views.
Reverend Pressley was swab, quiet, congenial with a ready smile. He was intelligent, compassionate and committed to our struggle. Two of the most memorable ways that he was immensely helpful to me:

The Association of Brooklyn Clergy for Community Development (ABCCD). With the election of David Dinkins as the 105th mayor or as the first black mayor of the City of New York, I knew I had a friend in City Hall. I decided to devote significant time to developing programs and services, particularly housing. Against the advice of family and friends, rather than create our own non-profit 501c3 corporation, I decided to join with an organization already in existence. A group of clergy had started an organization called the Association of Brooklyn Clergy for Community Development (ABCCD) to which I became a member. They had a small storefront office, a couple of part time staff persons. Their program was primarily referral services. They had a $20 to $30,000 budget.

It was understood that aborting my efforts to start a new organization, I would become chair of ABCCD and bring my considerable connections, credibility and influence to develop and promote programs for ABCCD. In my mind, I was thinking I would need five to six years to achieve the results that we had formulated. I never sought a permanent or long time leadership in any organization. The only place I’d ever felt committed for longevity was pastoral work at my church.

We got off to a good start. With Calvin’s help, we were able to secure funding for staff. In addition, he connected us to funding sources. He was influential in helping us to obtain a sizable grant from the Lilly Foundation.

With my connections to the city, we were able to reach a million dollar budget in one year and moved to a suite of offices. We were able to build 500 units of new and renovated housing in addition to other programs and services. The rapid enormous growth and an inexperience staff brought problems. When Rev. Pressley learned of our swiftly sinking situation, he dropped everything, flew in from Atlanta, Georgia, and took command. When he was finished, we were back to normal. Would to God, I could say we stayed that way. Due to staff incompetence and the lack of the Board of Director’s vigilance, we soon neared bankruptcy again. Aided by funders, friends and again Rev. Pressley, I was able to bring the agency back to solvency.

In time, dissention, which I believe was due to jealously and inordinate ambition among the Board of Directors, I decided to resign as chair. For reasons beyond my understanding, I found myself no longer a member of the Board of Directors. When, Elliot Spitzer was New York State Attorney General, I appealed to him for assistance in understanding why I was put off the Board and what was happening to the agency. At his direction, I met once with his office. I never heard another word. My primary reason for going to Spitzer, after much agonizing, was two fold.
I thought I owed the people, who had invested time, energy and money at my request, a report regarding the agency’s state of affairs. Similarly, the people for whom the resources were raised, deserved to know what was happening to what was due them, i.e. the services and programs. I should say here, before I appealed to Spitzer, I requested in writing from ABCCD Board of Directors answers as to my termination from the Board and a report on the state of the agency. I informed them that unless I heard from them I had no choice but to pursue a legal route. There was never a response.

Another reason for going to Mr. Spitzer, he had wrecked or shifted control of the Black United Fund (BUF) away from those who started it to his own handpicked Board of Directors. BUF was competing with philanthropies for payroll deductions, which some people said was the real reason Mr. Spitzer shifted control of BUF.
In addition, Mr. Kermit Eddy, the founder and executive director, was investing money in other ventures. I was a founding member; in fact, I was one of the first persons that Kermit talked to regarding his plan to start a BUF. He wanted to make sure there was no conflict between BUF and the Black United Front, which I chaired at that time. I stayed a member of Board of Directors until the Board was disbanded by Mr. Spitzer. Therefore, with that background, I wanted to see if Spitzers office was fair, impartial in its investigation or was there a political agenda or ulterior motive. I never received any feedback regarding ABCCD.

The second time Calvin was helpful in a major way is when he was Director of the Institute of Church Administration and Management, which was connected to and on the campus of the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC). For several consecutive years, he would invite me to be the Preacher in Residence at the Center. This entailed my staying several days, conducting workshops during my stay, for which I was substantially remunerated, plus provided room and board. It was near perfect for me. It gave me a chance to get away from the daily tensions of an activist pastor, be in an academic setting, which I loved, read, think, write and interact with clergy, scholars and community organizers. Plus, it was only 150 miles from Augusta, Georgia, where as National Minister of my church, I have to journey periodically. From ITC I would go to Augusta. And on top of all that, I could bring my wife along. It was a delightful, refreshing, reinvigorating experience. I looked forward to it each year. Calvin knew this. I always felt he really was doing this to help me. Surely, there were those far more qualified than I who would have jumped at the opportunity.

While I was there, he would take us to dinner, to meetings with friends and even to sporting events. He was a profoundly sensitive man.

I am certain my story could be repeated by many, many other people. He will be missed. But he earned his heavenly reward. So, like all the giants of the human spirit, we hate to see them go, but we want what is best for them. And God is faithful, who will meet them and reward them on the other side.

Upcoming Events

On Saturday, November 10, 2007 from 2pm – 4pm a Report to the Community and a film showing on our trip to refugee camp in Gaga Chad on
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 focusing on Africa the 2nd Saturday from 12pm to 2pm.
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.
The First Lady’s Committee of the House of the Lord Church invites you to celebrate with us On Sunday, November 11, 2007, at 12noon as we honor Rev. Dr. Karen Daughtry, wife of Rev. Daughtry, The National First Lady 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.