Rev. Daughtry's weekly article that appears in the NY Daily Challenge every Wednesday and Friday.

1-6-07
So long Home Boy – Part II

The street that is now named after James Brown was 9th Street or Campbell Street. During the Second World War, it was the main stem running across town to the Savannah River. We, kids shined shoes in front of a little restaurant, tasty shop on 9th Street where Perry Avenue comes to an end. My father started his first church on the corner of 10th Street and Perry Avenue. He is buried in the small church yard there.

9th Street also ran across Gwinnet Avenue (now Laney Walker), another main street. In addition, 9th Street passed another important site, the Lenox Theater. It was the Black show place. There were other movies on Broad Street in the downtown area. These theaters were for whites and Blacks were compelled to sit upstairs and endure other humiliations. This was the South of our youth.

Brown, along with other kids probably tried to sneak into the movies through the side doors, escaping the pursuit of a man we called “Horse.” I never knew if it was his real name or if it was because of his features or because he chased us down and threw us out of the movies when he caught us. And probably, after earning enough money from shining shoes, selling soda and/or milk bottles (this was before cartons containers), he probably went further down 9th Street, passed the theater, to a bakery where a bag of cake crumbs could be purchased for a nickel.

I am certain he must have been influenced by the music blaring loud from the juke box in the Savoy, a beer joint on Twig Street across the street from my father’s restaurant. I know he was influenced by church music, the Swanee Quintet and Wings Over Jordan. Twig Street ran into 9th Street, crossing Wrights Boro Road. It was one of Augusta’s longest streets, running all the way to Turpin Hill and beyond, where whites lived and Blacks were forbidden after dark, in fact, it was dangerous to be there anytime unless it could be shown that the reason was because of employment or some other reason that a white person could verify.

But in spite of it all, Mr. Brown fought his way to stardom. So, when all things are considered, art, resiliency and love, Mr. James Brown was a soul brother in the best and truest meaning of the term. Rev. Al Sharpton captured what I mean. He once said, “I don’t think he ever got his credit because people saw him just as a showman and not the music innovator and social innovator that he was. He changed the perception of regular Blacks. He wasn’t tall, he wasn’t light skinned and he wasn’t polished, he was us. It meant the rest of us could also make it.”

So, they brought him back to Harlem. It was 11:30 a.m. when Rev. Sharpton and the people who had traveled with him arrived at the new home of the House of Justice on 145th Street. The 24-carat gold coffin was placed in the white chariot with two white horses ready to move forward. The pushing to get near the coffin was ferocious. Rev. Sharpton kept pleading with the crowd to let the family come up front. It was noon when we started to move. Rev. Sharpton was in the middle, I was on the end and one of the Temptations was sandwiched between us. Behind us were members of the band and agents and managers.

The crowd was jammed along the sidewalk, from the streets to the building they screamed, “We love you, James Brown.” Occasionally the crowd yelled, “Thank you, Rev. Al.” The people were grateful that Rev. Sharpton had brought the superstar back to Harlem.

The expressions of gratitude were like simmering water in a partially closed hot kettle straining for the opportunity to burst forth. And He deserved every bit of gratitude and appreciation. So often, celebrities are taken to other places far removed from the identity, culture and lifestyle of the people – the very people who made them.

As we walked, acknowledging the greetings of the people we talked about arrangements at the Apollo and in Augusta, Georgia. I noticed three helicopters above. I thought they were police. I said to Rev. Sharpton, “When was the last time the police came to watch over us in a friendly way?” “I don’t ever remember,” was Rev. Al’s reply. We continued to discuss growing up in Augusta, Georgia and what it meant to James Brown.

The Temptations being one of my favorite groups, walking next to one of its members gave me an opportunity to ask questions about the two part television series on the Temptation. “Was it true?” I asked. “Somewhat,” was the reply. “Melvin didn’t die in his mama’s kitchen. He died in California.” He said, “Mama Rose was working on a book that would set the record straight.” I asked about Paul Williams who committed suicide, Ruffin was found dead, Eddie who died of cancer. He shook his head and mumbled, “What a tragedy. What a sad end to great talents.”

The whole scene reminded me of other street funeral processions. For Lionel Hampton, the famous musician, we walked from the Cotton Club in Harlem to the Riverside Church. Johnnie Cochran was alive then. And we walked and talked as we were doing today. For Mayor Glen Cunningham we walked through the streets of Jersey City and for Sonny Carson, the last procession I walked, was through the streets of Brooklyn.

We rounded the corner at 125th Street. The crowd was even larger. They had started arriving at the Apollo at 5:00 a.m. and now it was an estimated 10,000 which circled the Apollo Theater from the front and going uptown. When we arrived at the Apollo, pallbearers, managers, members of the band, Rev. Al and I went into the theater. Once inside the coffin was placed on the stage.

To be continued
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Organizing Meeting on Darfur
each Thursday, noon to two p.m.
at The House of the Lord Church 415 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
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I will be speaking
at the Monumental Baptist Church in Jersey City
January 15, 2007 at 10:00 a.m.
For future information call the church at 718-596-1991
The Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry is featured in The Daily Challenge’s Wednesday and Weekend Edition. Reverend Daughtry, known as the “People’s Pastor,” is the National Presiding Minister of the House of the Lord Churches (HOLC). He also pastors the Brooklyn Church. A prolific writer, his books include “No Monopoly on Suffering, Blacks and Jews in Crown Heights,” “My Beloved Community,” “Effectual Prayer,” and “Tupac, Letters to a Son.” HOLC has a weekly broadcast which airs on WWRL 1600 on Sunday from 10:30am-11:00am. He is also on BCAT the 2nd and 4 Sundays at 2pm. Website: www.holnj.org