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”
Vicki Ama Garvin (12/18/1915 – 6/11/2007)
(Vicki Garvin -- 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 and benediction.

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 of 91.

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 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.