Remembering Al Vann Series
On Friday September 9, 2022, my grandson, Minister Lorenzo Daughtry-Chambers and I attended the African American Clergy & Elected Officials (AACEO) monthly meeting. The first meeting after the summer hiatus. The AACEO is chaired by Dr. Robert Waterman, Pastor of Antioch Baptist Church. Ms. Dee Bailey is the Chief of Operations.
The meeting was held under a huge tent where we had been meeting not long after Covid-19’s appearance. It was a crowded affair, large in quantity but also in quality. Primarily religious, political, educators, representatives of the legal profession (lawyers, judges and police) and community activists, etc.
The main speaker was Chancellor David Banks. He was very impressive. Listening to him, you cannot help feeling that there are going to be changes in the educational system. This means the struggle for quality education for all students is going to be tense and tough. Additionally, there will be special consideration for various students in certain categories with physical and mental challenges.
Among many aspects of the school system that Dr. Banks discussed, there were two which stood out in my mind and touched me deeply:
Superintendent over the Superintendents
Dr. Banks pointed out that one of the changes that he plans to make in a bloated school budget was the eradication of the Deputy Chancellor Superintendents over the Superintendents at the district levels. This structure was totally unnecessary. Thus, eliminating this unnecessary piece of structure would save huge amounts of money. There were other changes he mentioned which really had nothing to do with educating the children, it was just a piece of unnecessary structure to provide jobs for some people.
Teaching children subjects that relate to their experience
He mentioned that he met with some youngsters in Rikers Island. These were the antisocial youths that some people thought were uneducable. But according to Dr. Banks, these youngsters were hard at work at various projects and seemingly loving every minute as he engaged in conversation with them. One student told him if he would’ve known that school was this interesting, he would’ve never left.
History of African American Clergy and Elected Officials (AACEO)
The AACEO was founded by Reverend Dr. Gardener Taylor, Al Vann and I. But it was really Dr. Taylor who got the ball rolling. Dr. Taylor was one of the most prominent ministers at that time. He was known globally. A preacher sought after all over the world. He was Pastor of one of America’s most influential churches and President of the Progressive Baptist Convention. When he spoke, everybody listened.
As the democratic race for Mayor heated up in 1989, Dr. Taylor called Al Vann and I and said “We have to help David Dinkins get elected the first Black Mayor in the city of New York”. Dr. Taylor suggested that we call a meeting of clergy and elected officials and we meet at the House of the Lord church, where I was the Pastor (wise man that he was).
Our church at the time was the center of political, cultural, economic activity. In fact, all pressing issues ended up being discussed at the House of the Lord church — our church. But not only so, he thought that to be at his church would be self-serving and he didn’t need that. I should point out that one of the most significant rallies we held was on Thursday, November 2, 1989 a few days before the election. It was held at Concord Baptist Church where Dr. Taylor pastored. When we issued the call the church was packed with the most prominent ministers and elected officials in New York.
We continued to meet after the campaign which Dinkins won:
We wrote up the Constitution and Bylaws.
I was voted the first Chairman.
Congressman Ed Towns was voted Vice Chairman; Assemblyman Clarence Norman Jr., at that time head of the Democratic Party in Brooklyn was elected Secretary. I served for six years and resigned. The AACEO was unique in that it brought together clergy and elected officials which heretofore had been distant and suspicious of each other. Under my administration we addressed the important issues of the time. We maintained its racial makeup – we were the African American Clergy and Elected Officials.
3. The sharing of information.
Our church was a place where elected officials and clergy can share vital information about the legislative halls and with the churches and communities. Thus, our meetings were of super importance for information, knowledge is power. The Bible says, “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”. There was no lack of sharing information in our meetings.
4. It was a place of camaraderie.
It was a gathering of kindred spirits especially as we grew to trust one another more and more.
After six years I resigned. Reverend Jacob Underwood of Grace Baptist Church became the chair and the meetings moved to his church. After which Reverend Joe E. Parker of Wayside Baptist Church became Chair. He moved the organization toward a more programmatic approach. He was a great implementer of programs and projects.
After the passing of Rev. Parker, Rev. Waterman became the Chair, which office he still holds. In the process of time somewhere and somehow Dee Bailey became Chief of Operations, and we’ve never had this office before, this was a new office. The organization changed dramatically. It was more whosoever will, let them come to the meeting. Their police became a major part of the organization, their presence was conspicuous, one of the officers was a speaker at every meeting.
In other words, the organization has completely changed. I don’t know that Dr. Taylor would recognize the organization today. I did mention Al Vann because he just recently passed. Therefore, he knew what was happening.
I do not want to imply that the changes over the years were either good or bad. I am only pointing out the history of the organization that was started by Dr. Taylor, Al Vann and myself.
The African American Clergy and Elected Officials with Chancellor David Banks.
To be continued…