Rev. Daughtry's weekly
article that appears in the NY Daily Challenge every Wednesday
So long Home Boy – Part
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
Organizing Meeting on Darfur
each Thursday, noon to two p.m.
at The House of the Lord Church 415 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
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