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Jan 9th 2018

AT&T gives $200k to support McDowell student graduation

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Nov 22nd 2016

Tears for Prayers

11/17/16. Nine days since Election Day,

I hadn’t really been able to pray. Words eluded me.

A preacher unable to pray.

Well, now.  What to do with that?  How to understand that?  I’m supposed to go to God in prayer, aren’t I?  Cast all my cares, right?  So on top of being angry, sad, and depressed, I was now also confused and ashamed that I wasn’t able to go to my “prayer closet” when, in sane moments, I knew that was where I needed to be most.

Instead, I cried. Not right away though.  At first, there was just a steely reserve.  A depressed acceptance.  A cool detachment.  And fatigue.  Bone deep weariness.  I didn’t even cry on Election Night.  It was probably the next day when I felt tears bubbling, but I was in the company of someone I did not wish to console me, so I stuffed those tears down, willed them away, and looked to the sky, to the ground, to my phone, anything to distract myself.  Over the next few days, I lay in my bed and sat on my couch and paced my apartment and stood in my shower and sighed and moped.  But I did not cry.

Sunday came and social media suggested that I watch the cold open of Saturday Night Live. And there was “Hillary Clinton” singing an abridged version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

They say there was a secret chord
David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well, it goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall and the major lift
crying-tearsThe baffled king composing hallelujah …

Baby, I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
But love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though, it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah 

 I was in rapt attention at the bareness and rawness of the performance. And by the end of the third stanza, I was in a complete meltdown.  Stuffed down tears burst through my hastily made seams and roared to the surface.  I cried and cried and cried.

I couldn’t pray, but I could cry.

I cried for lost hopes and dreams. I cried for destroyed vision.  I cried for impeded plans.  I cried for hurting people and lost souls.  I cried for all those who felt unsafe, for all those who would face attacks, whose realities were jolted, who would have to rethink their entire lives.

I cried because I was angry, because I was sad, because I was hurt, because I was frustrated. I cried because of the idiotic social media posts, the ignorance, the stupidity, the insensitivity, especially that coming from armchair quarterbacks and others purporting to be experts but who had no experience or context.

I cried because there was no food in my house, because the laundry was piled up, because the pizza delivery was two hours late. I cried because I was alone in my house crying, because I woke up in the morning alone crying, because I lay down alone at night crying.  I cried because the one I wanted to cry with didn’t want to cry with me, and because the one who wanted to cry with me wasn’t the one I wanted.

Then I cried because I was crying and I hate crying, and there didn’t seem to be anything I could do to stop the crying.

I had lots of tears, lots and lots of tears, but I had no prayers.

And yet, I knew that I was not alone. Of course there were, I believed, millions of people who were also crying, but that’s not what I mean.  I mean that, through all my crying and all my aloneness, I never felt abandoned in my spirit or bereft of friendship.  I had a miles-deep knowing that God, my faithful and ever present companion, was with me.  In my space.  In my apartment.  Watching over me.  Minding me.  Surrounding me.  Tending to me.  Being the kind of friend I’ve always valued:  one with whom I can be quiet, with whom I can rest in the silences, with whom I can be, in whatever state I am being.

There was comfort in that. That even though I wasn’t talking, my Friend was still listening.  That though I spoke no words, He heard my heart and was at work tending and mending my wounds, even the ones only He could see.  That though I fretted about colleagues and friends, including Hillary, I had not a single worry about myself, somehow completely, deeply certain that God would take care of me.  That though my waking hours were full of confusion and dismay and questions, my sleep was unaided and uninterrupted, sustaining and refreshing.  I understood now, deeply and personally, a passage that I’d preached dozens of times before:

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed;
We are perplexed but not in despair;
Persecuted but not forsaken;
Cast down but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

Comforted by the embracing Spirit of God, I’ve stopped crying now. I’m not over it, but I’m at peace.  I’ve started planning … and writing … and praying with words.  Oh, I’m still disappointed and I’m still angry … but this anger is motivating me and compelling me to work harder, to push further, and to love more … there is much to do to move our people forward, to empower women and girls, and to protect our progress.

Now I realize that my tears were prayers. And God heard every one.

I stand before the Lord of song with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah …

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Debbie - Apr 2nd @ 04:17pm

Leah, I thank you for sharing this awesome word. I had my melt down on this past Friday . This word confirmed everything that I felt inside of me when I erupted like a volcano . So glad to see I'm not alone on this journey called life. Even though I felt so alone and discouraged on Friday . This word gives me hope to keep pressing on toward the high calling of God .

Carla Sorey-Reed - Jan 13th @ 01:25pm

Dearest Leah, Thank you for these words, for sharing your deeply personal journey in the wake of the election. What you have written is powerful and healing. I feel blessed that God placed us on each other's path, so that I could bear witness and benefit to his grace and love, through you. I, like you, through all of the chaos, have no worries for myself. God is in charge and all things are a part of the plan. As mere mortals, we just can't see the whole plan. Peace, my Sister. I love you. Carla

Tom Keefe - Dec 6th @ 09:11am

Leah. Thanks for writing about your experience after the election. I know many of the emotions you experienced are identical to what I am feeling. I thought after the theft of the 2000 election nothing could surprise me anymore, but 16 years later again the results have me questioning God's plan for our country. Please keep me in your prayers. Thank you. Tom

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Schedule

Nov 22nd 2016

Presiding: Mayor Marion Barry Monument Dedication & Unveiling

Wednesday, November 23, 2016 >< Congressional Cemetary >< 10:00am

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Oct 8th 2016

Keynote Speaker: NYS NAACP 80th Convention

Saturday, October 8, 2016 ... 12 Noon ... New York Sheraton, NY, NY

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Sep 13th 2016

Peacemaker

Dartmouth Alumni Magazine

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Sep 13th 2016

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Jun 13th 2016

Appreciating Ali

I was in Denver, serving as CEO of the Democratic National Convention and as I was working on final preparations, my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number and almost didn’t answer, but answer I did, rather absentmindedly, as I reviewed the stack of documents that were on my desk.

The voice on the other end introduced himself as a member of Muhammad Ali’s staff. That got my attention. Mr. Ali was interested in attending the Convention; could I help them make the appropriate arrangements? I immediately stood up. It just seemed like it was the right thing to do when talking to Mr. Ali, albeit through a staff person.

Of course I would help. I would be delighted to help. When we finished talking, I immediately called David Craig, the General Manager at Hotel Teatro, my favorite hotel in Denver. I knew that Craig and Teatro would take perfect and precise care of The Champ. Hotel accommodations arranged, I called in my team, gave them the news, and we turned attention to how we would ensure that Mr. Ali would have a stellar Convention experience.

The next couple of weeks flew by and the Convention began. I was sitting in my designated seat on the podium when my staff called. “Muhammad Ali is in the building and on his way to the box.” I could barely contain myself, and as I was reviewing program changes, all I could think was that Muhammad Ali was sitting in MY box. As soon as I could get away, I hightailed it up there. I opened the door and, instantly, I knew he had arrived because my other guests, celebrities in their own right, were mouths agape, my father was grinning from ear to ear, and my brother – who gets excited about nothing – was nearly jumping out of his skin.

I walked to the first row where Mr. Ali was seated with his wife, Lonnie. I knelt beside him and introduced myself to both of them. Lonnie was warm and kind and gracious. And Ali, he looked me in the eye, and moved his hand toward me – which I took in my own. Lonnie said, move closer. I did, and Mr. Ali kissed me on the cheek.

Well. The Convention could have ended right then. I was undone. And completely flustered. I babbled something about being a big fan and hoping that he was having a good experience at the Convention and how honored I was to host him in my box and that I hoped the hotel was okay and if there was anything he needed, just let me know and that I’d bought my dad a pair of his boxing gloves a couple of years earlier and, and, and, and … I’m sure he thought I was a complete idiot. But his eyes twinkled at me as I jabbered on and I was totally lost in his orbit.

I stayed with him as long as could … until duty called and my staff dragged me back to the podium.

The news of Ali’s passing took me back to that night. Ironically, I’m in Philadelphia now, serving as CEO of the 2016 Democratic Convention. Both Conventions are now forever marked by a memory of Ali. I’d hoped to have him as my guest again this year, and as I reflect on his life and legacy, I’ve pondered the impact he has had on me – especially since I’ve never been a boxing fan.

I was raised in a faith-filled, activist household. My dad, Reverend Herbert Daughtry, was the founding Chairman of the National Black United Front. I was surrounded and nurtured by a community that was unashamedly, unabashedly Black. Everything Black was beautiful in my world. That’s what I was taught, that’s what I was shown, and that’s what I believed. To be confident in one’s Blackness was no mean feat in a time when all the Barbies were white and all the villains wore black. The antidote was Muhammad Ali, unapologetically Black and totally defiant in his demand that you accept him, all of him. On his terms. By his definition. And that included his Blackness. Not quietly or meekly did he demand. No, he was in your face, challenging you, daring you, cajoling you. He wasn’t asking you; he was telling you. And his boldness emboldened the rest of us. Here, for all to see, was the heavyweight champion of the world saying loud, “I’m Black and I’m proud.” How could we not agree?

He used his well-earned platform to spotlight causes he believed in. It wasn’t just about fancy cars, flashy jewelry, and beautiful women – the trappings that usually consumed and silenced celebrity. There he was, the same man Black and proud, standing on principle and denouncing the Vietnam War even though his stance would put his career on hold during the prime of his life. Now I don’t confess to understand all his politics – after all, he did endorse Ronald Reagan in 1980 – but he had track record enough for me to accept and believe that his political positions were based on principle and not political expediency.

Mostly though, I appreciate Ali’s unwavering confidence, his bold defense of his personhood, his shameless promotion of his own talent and gifts, and his challenge to the world to accept him. I love that he knew he was the best, and more, I love that he put in the work to make his claim manifest. It wasn’t swagger for swagger’s sake. It wasn’t baseless braggadocio. It was truth. He had the audacity to declare himself The Greatest. And we believed him. Not because he said it, but because he proved it. In this, he challenges all of us, even today, to claim our gifts, to know our strengths, to walk in our power. To put in the work required to fulfill our dreams and our destiny. To never be confined or constrained by another person’s definition of us. And to demand that the world accept us just as God created us: full of vitality, life, purpose … and, of course, very, very pretty.

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Mar 30th 2016

This Woman Is Changing the Face of Democracy, One Female Hire at a Time

Women's Health Magazine

This Woman Is Changing the Face of Democracy, One Female Hire at a Time

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Mar 3rd 2016

This Presidential Campaign

Can I be pastoral for a moment?

I’ve been watching this presidential campaign unfold and I have been, at turns, amused, mystified, and mortified by the regularity with which folks (on both sides of the aisle and representing all candidates) continually reference Candidates’ A, B, C, X, Y, Z decisions, actions, or inactions of 20, 30, 40, 1001 years ago … and use that as a factor in whether they will vote for that candidate today.

This is all problematic because it implies that people can’t grow, change, think differently, or do better. And it holds people to one place in time and one moment in their lives.

Sure I’d like to be aware of what their past decisions were. But it’s more important to me to know what they think NOW. And if they made bad decisions, I’d like to know that they recognize this, that they’ve apologized, and that they are ready to make amends. Frankly, I’m not interested in ANYBODY, candidate or friend, who has not experienced any change or growth in their lifetime. They are stagnant. And nothing of value grows in stagnant water.

Now for the pastoral moment. May I ask about the decisions YOU made 10, 20, 30, 1001 years ago? Shall I judge you and base our friendship on those decisions alone — and give no weight to your evolution, to who you are TODAY and what you think TODAY?

And what if God did that? What if God held us to who we were and what we thought and what we did before we came to know and love Him. How would you like that? Where would we be?

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Alexia Azogu - May 18th @ 02:36pm

I really loved this message. I believe part of what makes a leader great is not their personal successes, but how they've helped someone else excel in life. Even for myself one of my quotes is "success is measured by what you've helped someone else accomplish". I also agree it's crucial to share "war stories"; it helps to know what someone has been through and can share lessons learned.

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Feb 14th 2016

Preacher: NYS Black & Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus

Sunday, February 14 ... 10:00am ... Wilborn Temple First COGIC ... Albany, NY

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