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The House of the Lord Church where Black Political Power and Culture was Born, Nurtured Part 8

Having concluded the articles by Mr. Errol Louis, Mr. Earl Caldwell, and Rev. Leah Daughtry. I have at least one other person who wrote an article about our church during the time in question. His name is Gerald Fraser an eminent journalist. The article entitled Feisty Preacher in Vanguard of Rights Issues in Brooklyn appeared in the NY Times in 1978. I confess that I am enjoying reading what others observed. I'd hope that my readers will find the articles equally enjoyable, interesting, and educational.

Sunday service at the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church in Brooklyn is in its last half-hour, and the Rev. Herbert D. Daughtry is roaring to the finish of his 45-minute sermon on “Power, Politics, and Religion.”

“The only thing I’m guilty of is battling for my people,” he says. He wheels to his left and says he is guilty of wanting an education for his people. He spins right and says he is guilty of wanting to see “our men” working.

His full black clerical robe and a long Ghanaian kente-cloth stole he wears swing back and forth as he wheels and spins, his eyes ranging over the semicircle of pews in which the congregation of a few hundred sits and fans and nods approval.

Mr. Daughtry has become a kind of ecclesiastical point man, his name appearing frequently in newspaper articles and his face on television newscasts as he challenges Brooklyn’s businessmen and political and police organizations to end what he perceives as a racial injustice.

Organized Store Boycott

Last fall, he and others founded the Coalition of Concerned Leaders to Save Our Youth, and, in March, he joined with others to create the Black Congress of Central Brooklyn. Both groups are active in the cases of Arthur Miller, a black Brooklyn businessman active in civic affairs who was killed in a scuffle with the police on June 14, and Clyde King, another Brooklyn businessman who was allegedly beaten by a police officer on June 22.

Mr. Daughtry is also involved in community organizations in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn to deal with the Hasidic Jews who live on and near Eastern Parkway there, and who, through their Federally financed community patrols, have been involved in confrontations with black residents.

Last Christmas, he organized and led a picket line and boycott against some Brooklyn department stores. Contending that Abraham & Straus, Martin’s, and Mays receive major downtown Brooklyn patronage from black residents, Mr. Daughtry asked the stores to support his demand for a federal investigation into the alleged violation of the civil rights of Randolph Evans, a black youth who was killed last Thanksgiving by a white police officer. (The officer, Robert H. Torsney, was acquitted after claiming temporary insanity.)

Mr. Daughtry also wanted the stores to allot 3,000 jobs for blacks and contracts for black companies in the construction of a downtown Brooklyn mall, allocate 40 percent of their advertising budgets to black media outlets, and set up a Randolph-Evans scholarship fund and a community-crisis fund – “sort of a black United way,” as he put it.

‘A Sincere, Dedicated Person’

Aware of threats against him and attempts to provoke disorderly incidents where he is speaking, Mr. Daughtry usually travels with two aides -- Michael Amon-Ra, an assistant pastor, and Orondo Takuma, an associate minister. Outside of the pulpit and before the cameras and microphones, where he is usually surrounded by followers, Mr. Daughtry castigates and exhorts in a hard-edged strident voice.

Not everyone is enamored of his style, but one Bedford-Stuyvesant pastor explained that he was unwilling to publicly criticize Mr. Daughtry because “we are arriving at a unity among black people that we have never had in Brooklyn before.”

An executive of a Brooklyn department store who has negotiated with Mr. Daughtry has characterized him as “a very sincere, dedicated person who basically wants to help black people achieve many of the things that white people want to achieve.:

“I found him honorable,” said the executive, who asked not to be identified. “I found him highly interested in media coverage. He’s interested in power, but I personally believe he’s not interested in power for his own personal gain.”

‘Realistic About the Problems’

William Nielson, the 84th Precinct’s community-relations officer, said he had been dealing with Mr. Daughtry for four years and had found him to be “a gentleman.”

“During demonstrations,” Officer Nielson said, “I could always come and talk to him and he was realistic about the problem. He has his cause, and our job is to protect life and property, and he relates our situation.

“When I call him, he gets back to me. We have rapport.”

In his sermon, woven with threads of theology, social activism, and current events, Mr. Daughtry answers by implication charge that he is anti-Semitic because he has condemned Hasidim for allegedly attacking blacks. Black people, he says, have developed a morality about injustice, oppression, and discrimination, but it is “not in the black soul to be against anybody.”

Known What Jail Means

Mr. Daughtry is about 5 feet, 8 inches tall, and although there are a few grey strands in his hair and his goatee, his slender build and youthful good looks belie his 47 years.

He pats the perspiration on his face with a handkerchief and begins to ease up oratorically. He tells his parishioners he is not sure that there is a supernatural devil “somewhere in the clouds,” but that he is sure the devil is right here on earth, that the devil uses people, and that exploitation, segregation, and oppression are “of the devil.” And the church says, “Amen.”

Twenty-five years ago, no one imagined Herbert D. Daughtry in a leadership role, especially leading a church. “I grew up in the midst of gang wars,” he said. “I know what it is to raise havoc in a classroom. When everybody was graduating, they gave me a certificate for my softball and told me to go to Automotive Trades High School. I went for two weeks and then,” and his voice trailed off.

“I know what it is to be in the dope jungle -- I’ve lived it. I know what it is to be in jail. I was wrecked when I went to jail in February 1963. I had been using dope. I’d been in the street hustling and manipulating.” Mr. Daughtry was arrested for armed robbery and for forging government checks.

Started in Father’s Church

His turnaround came, he said, in a jail cell in a Jersey City police station. “I started praying,” he said, “getting down in that stinking jail cell. I said, ‘Lord, I want to commit my life absolutely to you.’ ”

During his subsequent imprisonment in Trenton and in the Federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pa., on the forgery conviction, Mr. Daughtry said that he read a good deal and that this constituted his “academic preparation.” He went to work as a presser upon his release from prison and began his clerical career in his father’s church.

Now, Mr. Daughtry says, “we’re not a large church – we don’t have any trappings.” But he sees himself in a “kind of spiritual role in which people can bring their hurt and their pain” to him. He also hopes that he can be trusted enough to bring some unity among Brooklyn’s black residents and that people might come to a spiritual awakening, that they might come to God.

“I would like also,” he said, “to enhance my own power to move persons and institutions to be more responsive to people in the boondocks.”

Cites the Need for Power

The congregation that supports Mr. Daughtry worships in an old church building at 415 Atlantic Avenue, a block and a half from the Brooklyn Y.W.C.A, where the church operates a day-care center named for Mr. Daughtry’s father and directed by Karen Daughtry, the pastor’s wife.

He is a third-generation clergyman: William Van Daughtry was a Methodist Episcopal minister, and his father, Alonzo A. Daughtry, founded the House of the Lord Church in 1930 with seven or eight” elderly women in a storefront on Fulton Street.

Rhetorically questioning a visitor at his church office recently, he asked, “Why do people from (Crown Heights) over may church, going over community planning boards, going over elected officials, call us?” Acknowledging, he said: “Our prominence has gone over some contracts we can use. We try to help people with the bureaucracy.”

Asked what he saw as major issues for Brooklyn’s black residents, Mr. Daughtry replied: “Jobs -- jobs is what I think is the surface issue, but I think the major issue is the imbalance of power. Jobs go to the powerful. We are powerless, for instance, against the police. We don’t have any impact.”

“And even deeper than powerlessness,” he added, “is person lessness – lack of identity. There is no feeling of self-worth,” he said, among many black people. “High self-esteem moves one to power, but you can’t make a man powerful -- something has to happen to the mind.”

To be continued…

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