As we gathered near 770 Eastern Parkway across the street from the Hasidic Headquarters there were many speeches including my speech. Then we marched from Eastern Parkway down Utica to Empire Blvd approximately 10 blocks. We made a turn for a block to New York Avenue not far from the 71st Precinct. The Community Patrol joining their hands together encircled us. We were an impressive and intimidating group of marchers.
When we arrived there were more speeches. I made another controversial statement. I said, “the next time the Hasid’s touch one of our youth, we’re going
to tear this community up.” It was a headline making statement. There was pervasive press coverage. I knew that it would be controversial but I had two
reasons in mind: 1. I wanted to deliver a message to the community, to the nation and to the world. We were not an organization that initiated violence.
However, I do not believe that serious social change can happen without violence. Either done by the enemies of non violence wherein non violence
advocates accept it without returning violence. The so-called non violent movement was very violent. Think of all the people who were murdered, homes bombed, hospitalized, even the prince of peace Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
I do not believe that you should telegraph to your enemies what you plan to do unless it is a tactic which you have devised intentionally. So if it is violence, or non violence or non response to violence, if it is announced it is because of your
own reasons. I do not believe anyone is absolutely non violent. It is how much or when or to what are the circumstances one becomes violent.
If someone attacked your spouse, or children any self respecting person is going to what he/she can do to protect them.
The second reason why I made the statement was, paradoxically, to keep from being violent. With all the emphasis I can command the community was
extremely angry and about to explode. There were those who were ready to do just what I said.
My statement was to buy time and express what our people felt and wanted to do. By verbalizing I postponed the day from actualizing. And it worked! To the eternal credit of our people, they were content with my verbalization and New Yorkers and maybe the whole nation should’ve been grateful that our people were satisfied for a moment with my words. If our people had actualized the rage they felt it would have sent Brooklyn up in smoke. The violent actions would have initiated another nationwide rebellion comparable to or surpassing
the rebellion in 1967-68.
There was no violence, no one was hurt, and no buildings or properties were damaged, not even a window pane was broken.
The verbal tactic worked throughout my leadership. No one can ever accuse me of leading or initiating violence. My language, most of the time was heated,
angry, threatening, and intimidating. And it was deliberate! What was happening to us, people of African Ancestry at the time was infuriating.
Someone has said, “even a worm will turn if you step on it.” While there were those who wanted to treat us like we were worms, but with every breath of our
bodies were determined to demonstrate, we were no worms. We were self respecting human beings and prepared to retaliate. How we would retaliate
remained our secret. Unless we wanted it revealed for tactical or strategic reasons. Our motto or slogan, “We’re fired up and ain’t gonna take no more!”. It was a promise of response to violence. When and how we would respond was a
secret we kept to ourselves, but when we would act or our non action would be according to our tactical strategic advantage.
To repeat, these were violent times and we were the recipients of violence in many different forms.
And here was I, a Pentecostal minister deeply believing in the teachings and traditions of Pentecostalism. Constant prayer and fasting, observance of holidays, frequent church attendance, moral and ethical disciplined lifestyles ,
believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and his teaching among which was this statement, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” In fact, our family tradition is, “Love God, put God first; love the family, one for all and all for one; love the people and work with and for the people and God will bless every generation.”
The times in which we were living in New York required an angry, and when necessary a message of possible retaliation. I and those who were leaders, if we were going to be effective, had to relate in a special way who knows brother and sisters were angriest. We had to relate culturally, historically, empathetically and pedagogically. Because I had come up in the “mean streets” of Brooklyn, New
York and Jersey City, NJ and had had my criminal experiences; at the same time I was born into a family of religious leaders as far back as we can go. There have always been religious leaders. I am the fourth generation of Pastors, two of my
daughters are the fifth generation, and my grandson is a minister.
So I am a synthesis of spiritual/religious and street rebellion - a synthesis of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X). In 1957, God gave me a vision of what to do and to write it down. I wrote a 10-page document spelling out the vision that I keep on my bedside table. That is day and night and times in between. I am perpetually reminded abou my purpose in life. The introduction
in my book, My Beloved Community, published by Africa World Press I describe out the Biblical, theological, philosophical, eschatological, revolutionary
approach to life.