Another observer of the happenings in our church and the important events of that time in which our church played a key role. The person in question is the Reverend Leah Daughtry. She is our firstborn. She was born on August 27, 1963. You will notice that it was the day before the March on Washington. It is a family joke that I tell, I had a dilemma. I was either going to the Washington event or to the hospital and being with my wife and baby. My wife tells a different story. She says that I was issued an ultimatum that I had better stay with her or when I get to Washington, “don’t come back home.” So, I decided to stay with the family. Hence, Leah was born, nurtured, and grew to maturity deeply involved in all the doings of that period of time. It is no wonder that among her achievements is the Chief of Staff of the National Democratic Party and twice as the CEO of the National Democratic Convention 2008 and 2016. The book, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics it writes the story of these four powerful Black women, Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry, and Minyon Moore. Leah recounts experiences she’s witnessed and was a part of at the House of the Lord Church:
“Reverend Daughtry believed in the importance of having one foot in both worlds -- and by that, he meant the world of the white power elite and that of the strong African American community in which Leah was raised. Leah and her siblings were all educated in predominantly white schools. When the time came to go to college, Leah didn’t feel pressured to consider a historically black college. When the time came to go to college, Leah’s father said, “You should go to the school you deem the best. Don’t worry about learning our culture; that should not be your primary consideration. Besides, you’ve got that already. And if I’m waiting until now to get your culture, it’s too late. So, if you want to go to a black school, fine. But if you decide to go to a white school, that’s fine too; go up there where the white folks are and learn what they’re giving out up there.”
Leah says, “My father always stressed the importance of having people who were your inside men and women, who worked within the traditional structures and the white-majority seats of power, and the outside people, who worked with and on behalf of the people first and foremost.” From her earliest days at Dartmouth, with her success and her ability to traverse worlds, Leah was marked as a classic inside a woman. Still, she says she couldn’t have done it without the love and support of the people at home. “My community was always supportive of me being on the inside,” she says. “They loved me and they nurtured me; they got it.” She was becoming a political interpreter: translating to the inside folks what was happening on the streets, and elucidating to the outside folks what was happening on the inside. She carried both worlds with ease because her intent was clear and her compass true: “I work on the inside, but I have never lost sight of where or who I’ve come from or where or who I represent.”
These are the stories of how we began. While we’re united in friendship and in our efforts to make a better world, we come from very different backgrounds and have very different styles of how to get the job done. The idea that black women are a monolith has always made Washington a tough place to navigate for black women some view as not fitting what their white colleagues consider to be ”the norm.”
In 1977, during her confirmation hearing for the post of secretary of housing and urban development, Patricia Roberts Harris was asked by Senator Wiliam Proxmire, the Democrat from Wisconsin, whether she had sympathy for the poor. “Senator, I am one of them,” she replied. “You do not seem to understand who I am. I am a black woman, the daughter of a dining car worker. I am a black woman who could not buy a house eight years ago in parts of the District of Columbia...If you think I have forgotten that, you are dead wrong.”
Each of us is old enough to remember when black folks couldn’t vote or live where they wanted; to remember the assassination of our heroes and the images of ordinary black people being beaten in the streets. The years went by, and we rose up the ladder. Today, you’ll find us to be well-dressed and well-coiffed, powerful black women who earned our place at the highest levels of government in the United States. But if you look at us and think for a second we have forgotten where we came from or who nurtured us, you are more than mistaken. You’re dead wrong.
Brooklyn, 1980: Before Black Lives Mattered
In the 1970s in New York, unchecked police brutality resulted in a string of high-profile murders of young black men. Leah remembers them vividly. Among the deaths was that of ten-year-old Clifford Glover, who was shot twice while running away from the officer. The bullets ripped through his back and emerged through his heart. The officer, Thomas Shea, was acquitted by the jury of eleven whites and one black citizen. After the trial, there were riots resulting in more than two dozen injuries, including among fourteen police officers.
Decades before the death of Trayvon Martin, Clifford Glover captured the imagination of a city that could not see the logic in shooting a weaponless child in cold blood. The Rolling Stones even sang about Glover in their song “Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker).”
Clifford Glover haunted the dreams of the great poet Audre Lorde, who wrote about the young boy in one of her most famous poems, “Power.” The poem throws down the gauntlet with a line about the centuries of African Americans, from slavery to the present day, who could not protect their children from injustice and harm. Lorde wrote:
The difference between poetry and rhetoric
Is being ready to kill
instead of your children.
Lorde goes on to use Glover’s killing and the one black woman in the jury as a parable about the abuse of power and about how power is stolen away:
A policeman who shot down a ten-year-old in Queens
Stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
And a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and
There are tapes to prove it. At his trial
This policeman said in his own defense
“I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else
only the color.” And
there are tapes to prove that, too.
Today that 37-year-old white man
with 13 years of police forcing
was set free
by eleven white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one Black Woman who said
“They convinced me” meaning
they had dragged her 4’10” black Woman’s frame
over the hot coals
of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go
the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.
Because of these events, again, NAACP and Allies in Labor, Social Justice Kick-Off Multiracial Voting Rights Campaign, it is relevant to what we’re writing about and just happened on August 12, 2021, where Rev. Leah Daughtry has been appointed Campaign Manager of Fighting for Our Vote Coalition.
To be continued…