Journal of the People’s Pastor

“Writing The History I’ve Lived, Living The History I Write!”

DARFUR DIARY

THE SEAN BELL NOTEBOOK

The Visit of Congressman John Conyers
By Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry




It was drizzling when I arrived at 1:15pm at Congressman Meeks' office in Jamaica, Queens. The media people had lined against the building. It seemed that every camera in the world was present. Upstairs on the second floor, Sharpton and the Bell family and supporters had already arrived. They were gathered in Congressman Meeks’ campaign office. We waited for Congressman John Conyers who was to fly in from Washington, DC. It was about 3:30pm before he finally arrived.

During the interval, there was conversation regarding the Judge’s decision, an action plan and analyses of the political climate. The climate moved from sadness to anger to moments of laughter. It is always interesting to me that people of African Ancestry in their saddest moments can still find humor. I’ve come to believe, it is an item in our survival kit. The Bible says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” We found humor in the lunch that was served. There were little wrapped sandwiches, green salad, water and soda. Rev. Sharpton was quick to point out that when we come to the National Action Network, we get chicken and greens and macaroni & cheese. He said he would talk to Congressman Meeks to see about increasing his budget so he can serve real food.

Congressman Charlie Rangel arrived, greeted the family. Also Congress Members
Towns, Serrano, Nadler and Clarke, all of them expressed their sympathy. When Congressman Conyers arrived, he was very relaxed. He was wearing a brown suede jacket, an opened collar blue shirt and tan trousers. He seemed in good health. Congressman Rangel gave the appearance of one who was gallantly striving to recuperate from ill health.

Congressman Conyers assured the family that he would do all that he could. In fact, he said he was just on the phone with the US Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The Attorney General told him that he would issue a statement.

As we arose to go to a larger conference room, Congressman Conyers’ staff person brought the Attorney General’s statement. Copies were made and disseminated to all. The statement read:

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TO REVIEW THE SHOOTING OF SEAN BELL AND OTHERS

WASHINGTON – The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York field Division, announced today that in light of the acquittals of three New York City police officers in State Supreme Court in Queens, N.Y., they will conduct an independent review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the Nov. 25, 2006, shooting of Sean Bell and two others that resulted in the death of Mr. Bell. The Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office have been monitoring the state’s prosecution of this case and, following the review of all the evidence, will take appropriate action if the evidence indicates a prosecutable violation of federal criminal civil rights statutes. The Department can make no further comment on this case at this time.

Sitting around the long conference table were Congress Members Rangel, Conyers, Towns, Meeks and Clarke. State senator Malcolm Smith, Borough Presidents Queens & Bronx and Rev. Sharpton and the bell family.

The meeting opened with Congressman Meeks introducing everybody and thanking Conyers for coming to New York. Rev. Sharpton then recited the incident of the shooting of Sean Bell, Joe Guzman and Trent Benefield. Point by point, he put forth the Judges’ reasoning for the not-guilty verdict and showed the weakness and the illogic of the Judge’s argument. He was persuasive in urging Congressman Conyers to use his influence with the US Attorney General for an investigation and hopefully a conviction on the violation of Sean Bell, Guzman and Benefields’ civil rights.

Congressman Conyers responded that he would do all that he could. He reiterated that he had already been in touch with the US Attorney General and would continue to monitor the case. Congressman Rangel expressed his outrage at the decision of the Judge. The attorneys, Michael Hardy & Neville Mitchell, argued the legalities that were violated or disregarded in the Judge’s decision.

During the meeting, Senator Hillary Clinton called in. She was put on speakerphone. She offered her sympathy to the family and said she would contact the US Justice Department regarding the violation of the Civil Rights of Sean Bell, Trent Benefield and Joe Guzman. She was prepared to do all that she could to be helpful.

The family members spoke briefly. All expressed gratitude to Congressman Conyers and to all of the people present.

In my remarks, I stated that, “As the old man of the movement,” I paused for effect, and then said, "I’m talking about me not you Congressman Conyers.” To which Congressman Rangel said, "That's why I kept quiet.” There was laughter around the room. I repeated my 50 years in the struggle. This was a unique time. We’ve got two chairpersons of the most powerful committees in Washington seated here. I reminded Congressman Conyers that he came to New York three (3) times in 1986. I expressed the hope that this would be the last time that we would be gathered around a table responding to a police killing of innocent people.

After the meeting, we went downstairs for a Press Conference. Congressman Meeks again opened the press meeting. Congressmen Conyers, Rangel and Nadler and Rev. Sharpton spoke to the press.
Leaving the Press Conference, we went to the Kalua Club. As we disembarked from our vehicles, the rain came down ferociously. Nevertheless, we completed the mission, which was to walk Congressman Conyers from the Kalua Club to the place where the police officers riddled the car with bullets. With Joe Guzman leading the way and explaining what happened that morning, we walked the block, turned the corner, cross the street where the car stopped and Sean Bell died.

Mrs. Bell who seemed to have faltered was asked by her husband did she want to go further? She nodded yes, gathered her strength, leaning on her husband’s arm, moved toward the site where her son was killed. Returning to our cars, we drove away from the scene, drenched from the torrential down pour.

The gall of the police department was exhibited in Detective Paladino who came to the death scene to confront Congressman Conyers about meeting with him. He is reported to have said, “I like to meet with you regarding the facts of this case.” Mr. Paladino could have used the usual channels of communication, i.e. telephone, email or mail to request a meeting. His utter disregard for decency and contempt of the Bell family were blatantly manifested. Here he was intruding upon the death scene where a grieving family was reenacting the death of their loved one, demanding a meeting. Is it any wonder why police officers treat black people with contempt and violence? But we shall continue to fight back until police violence ends.

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.

Join Operation Life Line if you need assistance or know someone who needs assistance with their mortgages as it relates to foreclosures, predatory lending and/or subprime lending.

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.

On Monday, May 12, 2008, 5pm – 7pm, join Rev. Daughtry and the members of NRLAA on a March & Rally in Support of Darfur. At 5:00pm, we will assemble at the Chinese Mission and march from there to the Sudan Mission.

NEED QUALITY CHILD CARE? – Call the Alonzo A. Daughtry Memorial Daycare Center Located at 333 Second Street, (Between 4th & 5th Avenues) downtown Brooklyn, NY (718) 499-2066. Immediate openings in a state of the arts center.