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The House of the Lord Church where Black Political Power and Culture was Born and Nurtured Part 2

In speaking to Errol Louis, he too was a frequent visitor to the Timbuktu Center at the House of the Lord Church. He used to come down from Boston as a student with a group of students headed by Reverend Eugene Rivers. Eugene is an interesting personality. I cannot write in which he is referenced without relating in a few lines his amazing story.

From the inner city of Philadelphia, he decided to travel up to Yale University and enroll in classes. Without officially matriculating he began to sit in on classes as a regular student. Eventually, it was discovered that he had not registered because he was doing such good work, and they searched him. When they had located him they questioned him and yes he had taken the classes without registering. They allowed him to continue and gave him financial consideration. In time he graduated. He began to organize students and he would bring them down to the church and within the group was Errol Louis.

Eugene became a member and a minister of our church and I ordained him. He has made a name for himself in the academic circle. When he read the article he called me and conveyed to me the wide exposure the article had gained.

And there were other young future news people and a little more well-established. Gill Noble the legendary Gill Noble was also a frequent visitor as a lecturer and as a member of what we called “the family”. As I have stated, there was such a feeling of togetherness that it was like a family.

Also, Andy Cooper has already been mentioned by Errol Louis. Earl Caldwell of Daily News and Gerald Fraser of New York Times, and of course Percy Sutton. He was like a godfather. His hand was in many ventures. He was a political guru and a businessman. In particular, he was the owner of WLIB and WBLS which was generous in allowing us the time to announce whatever was happening (at the house) as we called the church and the Timbuktu Learning Center. The terms were used interchangeably. Most people did not make a separation or a distinction. To them, it was the church or the house.

In addition to what Mr. Louis had written in September 1983 when the Reverend Jesse Jackson was trying to make up his mind to run for the presidency of the United States of America. He came to Assemblyman Al Vann and me and asked us to convene New York Black Leadership to discuss with him the decision to run or not to run. We proceeded to do so. The church was filled to capacity, and every black leader of any consequence was present.

The Reverend stated there were three things he needed, “the masses, the machinery, and the money” and if we could help him get those things he would throw his hat in the ring. Well, we did help him and so he ran. It was a phenomenal campaign. While he didn’t win the White House he won a whole lot of other things, including encouraging many ppl to run for office and get involved in the electoral process, and the President Barack Obama and many other elected officials who are now in power should thank the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

In 1989, David Dinkins decided to run for Mayor of New York City. We campaigned hard for Dinkins. There were three developments that played a significant role in his victory which emanated from the church. As Dinkins’ campaign was getting underway, there wasn’t much enthusiasm. He came to our church for a rally. It was a critical moment. Mr. Dinkins had not been drawing the crowds and the enthusiasm left much to be desired. The evening he came for the rally during the day we secured a sound truck and went up and down the street announcing the rally. We were able to get Harry Belafonte and Reverend Jackson to participate in the rally. That night the church was standing room only and the speakers, particularly Jackson and Belafonte poured fuel on the flickering flames of the campaign. When the rally was over, the people departed and you could feel the change. They were fired up.

Another incident occurred that helped to inject more fuel into the fire of the campaign. Yusuf Hawkins, a young Black man was shot to death by whites in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in August 1989. Anger was pervasive in the Black communities, especially young people. I was sitting in the church office with Chris Griffin whose younger brother Michael had been chased by a white mob to his death by oncoming traffic on a highway in Howard Beach.

I received a call from Bill Lynch, Dinkins’s campaign manager asking me if Dinkins should visit Yusuf Hawkins’s home in Brooklyn. I was uncertain and said to Bill Lynch, “what do you think?” and he said back to me, “that’s your call.” I pondered the question and realized the risk if Dinkins should be boo’d it would damage his campaign maybe irreparably. On the other hand, if he was accepted or even applauded it would help the campaign. I turned to Chris and asked what do you think. He said, “when my brother was killed we welcomed anyone who wanted to support the family.” I called Bill Lynch back and told him to let’s go to see the family of Yusuf Hawkins. Dinkins drove by the church. I got in the car and we went out to see the family. When we arrived and the crowd knew that Dinkins had arrived boisterous cheers went up that reverberated up and down the streets. When Dinkins alighted from the car the crowd surged forward. They patted him on the back, hugged and the family expressed overwhelming gratitude. Only God knows how relieved I was, more than that, how overjoyed I was.

In 1999, I received a call from the Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor. The prominent, internationally renowned pastor of Concord Baptist Church and also President of the Progressive Baptist Convention (PBC). He suggested that we convene clergy and elected officials for a support rally for David Dinkins.

He made a similar call to Al Vann. He suggested that the rally be held at the House of the Lord Church. This decision on his part spoke to the graciousness of his suggesting our church when everyone knew Concord Baptist is probably the largest church in New York City and surely the most well-known across the world. It is comparable to the Riverside Church in Manhattan.

Needless to say, the church was jam-packed seemingly with every Black elected official and clergy. We spoke of our support for Dave Dinkins and what we propose to do ie. raise money, organize our people, speak at rallies, etc.

Well, Dinkins won and I’m certain we played a major role in his victory. After the election was over we decided that since we had been so successful we should formalize the organization and continue working to advance the cause of our people. We named our group the African American Clergy and Elected Officials (AACEO). We drafted a constitution and bylaws. I was voted Chair. Congressman Ed Towns was voted vice-chair. I continued as chair until I resigned six years later and the Rev. Jacob Underwood of Grace Baptist Church became chair. The organization still exists chaired by Rev. Dr. Robert Waterman of Antioch Baptist Church.

Yes, the House of the Lord Church has been an incubator that has birthed so many men and women of African Ancestry who now occupy positions of power, influence, and prestige and making positive contributions to building a better world. He wrote about the Atlantic Yards project when it was trying to survive.

To be continued…

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