Passing Of Giants Of The Human Spirits”
Vicki Ama Garvin (12/18/1915 –
-- We did not know who you were… Memorial for a Warrior Woman)
Years ago, I started doing articles recounting the life and times of
deceased friends and/or fellow strugglers that I knew. In the last several
months, there have been an unusual number of persons who have made their
transition. Some of whom I have already recorded. There are others that
I wish to remember now. First, I want to remember Vicki Ama Garvin.
She requested that her Memorial Service be held at the House of the
Lord Church. She had said that while she was a member of Abyssinia Baptist
Church in Harlem, New York, since her childhood when Adam Clayton Powell
was pastor, and, in fact marched with him in the days he boycotted stores
on 125th Street in Harlem, but because the House of the Lord Church
was a church that preached and practiced a theology of Black Liberation,
she wanted her memorial Service at this church. My wife, Dr. Karen S.
Daughtry, has her hand-written letter with all the details of the ceremony,
the people she wanted on the program and the venue. How easy it would
be during these times of grief if the deceased would have left behind
directions regarding their wishes, including a will.
On the program – Dr. Karen Daughtry presided over the program
and gave words of welcome; Adelaide Simms read Vicki’s message
for her Memorial; Elombe Brath served as Master of Ceremonies. There
was a Video showing of Vicki’s life from 1977 up to age 81 done
by Shabazz Productions and a slide show presentation of her life and
travel. Judith Casselberry, Fred Ho and Peggy Iman Washington did musical
selections; there was a video message form Yuri Kochiyama along with
remarks from several individuals including Herman Ferguson, Brenda Stokely,
Viola Plummer, etc... Her stepson and daughter – Lincoln Bergman
and Miranda Bergman, gave special remarks. I gave the closing remarks
It was a reunion of veteran strugglers sharing memories of a gallant
warrior woman. There was a theme, which some of the speakers touched
upon. She was so little known, really known. Even the people with whom
she struggled confessed that they really did not know her. In my remarks,
I quoted W.E.B. Dubois from his book, “Souls of Black Folk.”
He discussed the life and times of Dr. Alexander Crummel, an Episcopal
priest. He said, upon meeting Dr. Crummel, “I instinctively bowed…
The tragedy is we know so little of men.”
I knew Vicki primarily from her membership in an organization my wife
started in 1986 named Sisters Against South African Apartheid (S.A.S.A.A.
ki-Swahili – Now). Then later after apartheid was abolished this
organization was renamed Sisters Assisting South Africans (S.A.S.A).
She was quiet and unassuming, never once did I hear her discuss her
accomplishments and the important people she knew. She was always friendly
and cooperative. But there were no questions she was sincere and dedicated.
Among my closing remarks, I said, “The ceremony has been so profoundly
moving, I am reluctant to speak. Sometimes in moments of solemnity,
silence is to be preferred to word noise. But, I am compelled to say
a few brief remarks.
I am glad and feel honored that she chose this church to have her memorial.
I have always prayed and struggled that our church might be the religious
place where the radicals, revolutionaries, nationalists, pan Africanists,
artists, athletics, grassroots would find a home, in addition of course,
to whosoever will, let them come. So, among her many contributions,
Vicki can claim an answer to my prayers.
Also, I am glad she came my way. I wish I had known her better. How
many times have we said that about other people? Our challenge is to
let her life inspire us to greater efforts to make a better world.
So, Vicki, you said, ‘You never say good-bye to friends, you say
good-bye to enemies. You say, so long to friends.’ We will say
bon voyage to you. We will always remember you.”
Let us conclude with a portion of her obituary that you might comprehend
the greatness of this warrior woman:
Victoria H. Garvin was born in Richmond, Virginia on December 18, 1915,
and grew up in Harlem.
In 1951, she was a founder of the National Negro Labor Council (NNLC),
and became a national Vice President and Executive Secretary of its
New York City chapter. With the NNLC, she worked with Coleman Young,
later Mayor of Detroit, and organized cultural programs featuring Paul
Robeson, then under persecution. He was a close friend until his death.
In 1955, under pressure from the House Un-American Activities Committee
and other repression, the NNLC disbanded.
In 1960, in the wake of McCarthyism, Vicki traveled to Africa. She lived
first in Nigeria and then in Ghana, where she worked with Dr. W.E.B.
Dubois and Shirley Graham Dubois, Alphaeus and Dorothy Hunton, and others
on the African Encyclopedia and anti-colonialist efforts. In Ghana,
she lived with Maya Angelou and Alice Windom. When Malcolm X, who Vicki
had known in Harlem, visited Ghana, she introduced him to the ambassadors
from China, Cuba, and Algeria and, using her French language skills,
interpreted for his meeting with the Algerians.
In 1964, Vicki was invited to China by the Chinese ambassador in Ghana.
She taught English for six years in Shanghai. She became friend with
many of her young students and kept in touch with them. She also became
close to then-political exiles Robert F. and Mabel Williams. When Mao
Tse-Tung issued a proclamation in support of the Afro-American movement
in 1968, Vicki made a speech to a rally of millions. In China, she met
and married Leibel Bergman and became a loving stepmother to his daughter
Miranda and two sons, Christopher and Lincoln.
On their return to the US, Vicki and Leibel first lived in Newark, where
she was Director of the Tri-City Citizen’s Union, a community
organization for children and teenagers. In Manhattan Vicki worked as
Area Leader for Community Interaction at the Center for Community Health
Systems of the Faculty of Medicine of Columbia University. Later they
moved to Chicago. When the marriage ended Vicki returned to her parent’s
home and cared for them until their deaths.
Vicki remained active in political and international circles, traveling
back to China several times and making many trips to Africa and the
Caribbean, often with her dear friend, Adelaide Simms. She was an active
supporter of many organizations, including Sisters Against South African
Apartheid (S.A.S.A.A. ki-Swahili – Now)/Sisters Assisting South
Africans (S.A.S.A) the Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African
People (CEMOTAP), Black Workers for Justice and the Center for Constitutional
Rights. She spoke at events honoring Malcolm and at rallies in support
of Mumia Abu Jamal and other political prisoners. Kwame Ture gave her
the African name of “Ama.” She was recognized as an “honored
elder” for her many contributions and unwavering commitment to
African liberation and internationalism as well as her shining example
of positive energy, dedication and self-discipline.
In speeches before her serious health decline, Vicki urged younger generations
onward. She said, “Of course there will be twists and turns, but
victory in the race belongs to the long distance runners, not sprinters…
Everywhere the just slogan is reverberating… no justice, no peace!”
She joined the ancestors on June 11, 2007 in New York City, at the age
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
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 @
The First Lady’s Committee of the House of the Lord Church invite
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.