Remembering Al Vann Series
In March-April 1977, I took the church on an educational trip to Albany and while there I did the prayer at the Assembly. The Assemblyman Al Vann helped me coordinate the trip with the assistance of others. One of which was Assemblyman Arthur Eve. It was at this meeting that Arthur Eve told me that he was running for Mayor of Buffalo and would I support him. I responded affirmatively, when he ran I organized two busloads to help him win the Democratic Primary. But, due to the racism in Buffalo he lost the general election to the former Mayor who ran as an independent. At the Assembly, we visited our individual Assembly and Senate members representing a particular district. In addition, we had group meetings with elected officials who chaired the various committees of the issues which we were concerned about. I was asked to do the general invocation prayer of the Assembly and Senate. Following is the prayer:
The Lord Visits Albany…
We gather here today, not to apprise thee of our predicament, for thou, oh Lord, know all too well that we have created institutions that serve the few and not the many.
Our traditions and mores are still freighted with derogatory content. We have fragmented ourselves into battle camps of religion and race, class and color. In the words of the ancient prophet, “The whole nation is sick.”
But it is this sickness that drives us, individually and collectively; both publicly and privately to Thee, oh lord. And it is this sickness – acknowledgement of the same – that gives us hope. For the worst sickness after all is to be conscious of none.
We confess to God, not only our illness, but our ignorance and weakness of will. There is so much we do not know. In spite of our pretensions of omniscience (for which we seek thou forgiveness too) there is so much we do not know.
It is our conviction that behind the seen world is a spiritual dimension which fervent consistent, collective prayer can petition to work on personalities who influence the course of events in the material world.
It is to Thy spirit, oh Lord, to Thou whose concern encompasses the whole of creation, Black and White, Muslims and Jews, Protestants and Catholics, that we have come hither today to implore Thy divine intervention for our city and state, our nation and world and more especially for those legislators whose labor in this place will influence to some extent the whole of life.
As they deliberate and debate, in caucuses and committees, and as they legislate, move them to think and act from the purest motives, and the noblest aspirations. KEEP THEM AWARE, OH Lord, of the so easily forgotten in our society, the orphans and widows, the weak, the voiceless and the ailing.
Attune their ears to the cries of children bitten by rats and gnawed by hunger pains. Let them hear the despairing cries of strong men for whom there is no work at worse, or meaningless drudgery, at best. Yes, let them hear the curses of young men who have given up hope and who vindictively desecrate, attack and destroy persons and property and prey upon the most defenseless.
Let them hear the sighs of the aged to whom the last years was more burdensome with the passing of each day. Grant them the empathy to identify with the community where rodents run wild, garbage is piled high, and gutted houses proliferate, where education is a farce, where human beings live in unheated, unpainted shacks; while a few minutes’ travel would transport them to communities where dogs dress better, ear better and fare better and cars have more space for shelter than human beings. It all gives rise to hopelessness, despair and frustration for one group and contempt and snobbery in the other.
Heighten their consciousness to the awesome responsibility is theirs to be just decision makers of the goods and services of this, Thy earth, and that ultimately, it is unto thee that they must give an account of the deeds done in their day for as thy love is pure, thy judgment is sure.
To further enhance the weight of their responsibility, remind them that, at last, Thou hast brought us to this bend in history, where we have the resources and the technology to alleviate our ills, as never before, heaven and earth are in our hands.. The decisions that are made here will nudge us in one or the other direction and we shall reap the reward or retribution.
Lest they accommodate themselves to the safety and stagnation of what is, let them feel acutely, the urgency and constraints of what ought to be. Fire them then, the vision to see communities wherein the sick is cared for, the young are educated, the able bodied are meaningfully employed, the handicapped are aided, the old are remembered and the quality of opportunity is extended to all. Inspire them with the audacity of faith which dares to believe that with thy help, it can be done. We ask it in the name of Jesus, the Christ.
Photo: Assemblyman Al Vann, House of the Lord Church members including our Political Action Committee
Photo: Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry, Assemblyman Arthur Eve and Rev. Dr. Karen Daughtyr
To be continued.