Remembering Afeni Shakur: Our Own Black Shining Princess (cont.)
After that, I heard and saw nothing as my mind took me on a ride down the corridors of history. Winston Hill was a great friend. We shared many memorable times together. For five years, I was the unofficial chaplain with the New York Jets, starting in 1970, after they had won the Super Bowl. I made many friends from that team, especially Winston. For twelve years, he was the all-pro offensive tackle. We maintained our friendship up until the time of his demise.
On Wednesday, April 27th at 6:30 p.m., this time it wasn't a call. It was word of mouth. Nick, the owner of Amarone restaurant (one of our favorite eating places), met me at the door. His face was contorted with grief. Sadly, shaking his head, as though it weighed a ton, The first words out of his mouth were: "Mayor Parker has died."
He then proceeded to extol her many admirable qualities. His voice grew weaker until it became inaudible. He was saved from incoherence when the door swung the door ajar, and other customers entered the restaurant. Mayor Parker was only 44. She was the first Black female mayor of Teaneck, NJ. She died suddenly of breathing problems.
On Friday, April 29th, 2016, I tried to make an effort to attend the funeral of Mr. Dwayne "Pearl" Washington, the great point guard of Syracuse University. Because of traffic, I knew I would be late. I decided to return to my office.
At 12:05 p.m., I returned the telephone call of Ms. Natasha Panell. She wanted to invite me to be the Keynote Speaker at her brother's “Philip Panell program of Remembrance.” There will also be a panel discussion. Eagerly, I said, “Yes.” Then, my wife reminded me that we had another commitment on that day. Regrettably, I had to call back and convey the sad news of the change.
Phillip was a fifteen-year-old lad who was shot in the back in Englewood, NJ by Officer Gary Spath on April 10th, 1990. There were many marches, rallies, and demonstrations in the towns of Teaneck and Englewood New Jersey, and even a march to Trenton – the capital of New Jersey (70 miles away). The jury found Officer Spath not guilty.
A little more than an hour later at 1:20 p.m., I received a call from Mr. Alexander Bethea. In a voice that trembled with sorrow, he said, “ Would you say a prayer for my son?”
"What?” I asked. “ Have they found your son?”
“Yes,” he replied. “ We found him in the river.” His body was so decomposed the family decided to cremate him. His son Alex, age 21, had emotional/physical challenges. He had been missing for two weeks. We had prayed that he would be found alive and unharmed. It was not to be.
It was 1978 when Mr. Bethea was a teenager, and I led a march through downtown Brooklyn, NY to secure jobs for the Youth. His daughter, Breanna, and son, Alex, III, had joined our church in Jersey City, NJ three years ago.
On Tuesday, May 3rd, at 12 noon, I was in Augusta, GA conducting church business when I received the call from my administrative assistant, informing me that she had just learned that Afeni Shakur, the mother of Tupac, had died the night before from cardiac arrest. Afeni joined our church around 1982, along with her sister, Gloria, and her two children, Tupac and Sekyiwa. Tupac was 11 years old at the time.
On Wednesday, May 4th at 10:00 a.m., I spoke to Sekyiwa, Afeni's daughter. I expressed my deep, deep sorrow and prayed for the family. She gave me the information regarding the funeral arrangements.
Within the same period, Mr. Roderick Frazier, our gardener, also made his transition. He was a skillful, sensitive, and generous man who cared deeply for all of God's creations, particularly Mother Nature and humans. He had a competent staff, which I am sure will sustain the care and beauty to which he was committed.
I learned through the press about Rev. Dr. Samuel Billy Kyles. He was a gallant participant in the Civil Rights Movement. He was instrumental in persuading Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Memphis Tennessee. It was at his home with Dr. King, Jr., and others were scheduled to have dinner. In fact, he had come to Hotel Lorraine to take Dr. King back to his house for dinner. However, it was not to be. Dr. King, Jr. was assassinated.
Rev. Kyles and I had mutual admiration, at least from my side. I admired him deeply. I have more to say about him later. I really owe three articles on Mr. Winston Hill, Ms. Afeni Shakur, and Rev Dr. Samuel Billy Kyles.
Father Daniel Berrigan was a Roman Catholic priest and activist. He became famous as one of the foremost activists against the war in Vietnam. I participated with him in marches and rallies. In addition to his activism, he was the author of nearly 50 books. He was a university professor.
On Thursday, May 12, 2016, I received a call from Ms. Joyce Layne that her sister, Darlene, had passed. Darlene was a member of our church, The House of the Lord Church. She grew up with our children. She was a beautiful young lady in physiognomy and character. She was also very intelligent.
On the same day, I received an email from my daughter, Sharon Daughtry, that Attorney Michael Ratner, the brother of Mr. Bruce Ratner, the President of Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), had made his transition at the age of 72. He had an extraordinary record of achievement on behalf of the world's poor, exploited, and oppressed. For over 40 years, Michael defended and advocated for victims of human rights abuses across the world. He joined the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in 1971.
I will always be grateful to Michael. Back in the early 1980s, he had been associated with Attorney William Kunstler, who succeeded in winning a character defamation case for me against a major television company. Riveted in my memory were my travels to Nicaragua in the early 1980s as part of a Peace Delegation to study the reports of human atrocities and meet with leaders of the Revolutionary Democratic Front and leaders from Nicaragua where U.S. intervention had sought to put down the rebellion led by the Sandinista Revolution. We had been informed that the U.S. - backed contra were wreaking havoc on the people.
To be continued…