Remembering Albert Vann
We have come here this evening to say so long, not goodbye. Goodbyes are for our adversaries, but so long are for our loved ones and friends or as we say sometimes, “I'll see you again, somewhere sometime in the near future.” In the meanwhile, we know that their presence will never leave us. Goodbyes have a finality to the word. There is no finality, but so long for a while to the person, we’ve come to honor.
To the husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, a faithful friend, a freedom fighter, a cultural crusader, an institution builder, a Pan-Africanist, a political guru, a superlative organizer, a consummate educator, a compassionate humanitarian who loved his people and the people who loved him back.
Don’t be surprised if some well-meaning misinformed person tries to convince us that Al Vann is dead. But we shall answer, perish the thought. Have you not read or heard of General Douglas MacArthur’s speech at West Point Military Academy when he was relieved of his Pacific command by President Truman? In the speech, General MacArthur said, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” But I would go one up on the General. Old Freedom Fighters never die, they live on, and on, and on in the hearts and minds and memories of the people who loved them.
No, Al Vann is not dead.
He yet lives; I saw him in the African-American Teachers Association meeting and also in the community fighting for quality education in our community. And I saw him in Ocean Hill Brownsville, still fighting for quality education and community control of schools. I was with him at Medgar Evers College celebrating the work he had done in winning a college for our community. I saw him in Albany, NY at the City Council passing legislation to enhance our community. I saw him with the Redistricting Committee convincing them that the political line should be more fairly drawn so that Black and Puerto Ricans would have creative participation in the electoral process. As a result of his effort, the state of New York can boast one of the most pervasive Blacks in leadership or in powerful positions in America.
I saw him sitting around the table of the New York Just Coalition meetings as Chairman. The Coalition convened the most powerful Black leaders in New York. By the way, a couple of the most powerful political districts that Al’s efforts created was one that paved the way for Shirley Chisholm to become the first Black woman to win a Congressional seat in New York and the first woman to run for President of the United States. I saw him around the breakfast table in our homes, Jitu Weusi, Sam Pinn, and my home. Analyzing, and interpreting our condition in Brooklyn, New York, US, and the world. It was there that we drew the plans that would have an impact locally and globally. I saw him in the meetings with Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA) Community Empowerment Coalition. He was expressing how to achieve political power and more programs. I saw him lead the New York Delegation in the historic Presidential run of Reverend Jesse Jackson and I saw him play a key role in the election of Mayor David Dinkins, the first Black Mayor in the city of New York. I saw him at the Restoration Corporation a couple of weeks ago. He was with Vice President Kamala Harris who spoke of him and told us all about the work he had done in helping the Restoration, which she said was the first Black community and governmental organization in America in which they had done massive rebuilding in Brooklyn.
Tell me not that Al Vann is dead.
Has anyone here seen my old friend Al? Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I know he lives in our minds, in our memory, and in our hearts.
Marcus Garvey knew what I was talking about, he said, “Look for me in the whirlwind”, and that’s one of the places we will look for Al.
We will look for him in the whirlwind wherever social change is taking place.
We will look for him in every march, rally, and civil disobedience for freedom.
We will look for him at the House of the Lord Church, planning and strategizing.
We will look for him in the East, in all of the creative, cultural, and economic planning.
We will look for him in the offices of VIDA and the Community Empowerment Coalition.
We will look for him every day and every night in every meeting strategy session to enhance the community and build a better world.
And when God, the Sovereign King calls, and the time comes that he changes places, he will still be with us, always in Spirit, in our minds, in our hearts, and in our memory.
Fancy I hear God saying to him, “You fought a good fight; you've finished your course and you've kept the faith. Now I am going to give you an eternal reward. Well done, thy good and faithful servant.”
Go tell it in the streets of Brooklyn- Al Vann lives!
Go tell it in Albany- Al Vann Lives!
Go tell it at the City Council!
Go tell it everywhere – Al Vann lives!
To be continued...