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Street Sanctuary, Solid Ground

by Bernice Elizabeth Green

Brooklyn’s House of The Lord Church on Atlantic and Nevins was filled to capacity when we arrived last Saturday evening to witness leader Viola Plummer’s homegoing. So, we joined the long, orderly line outside.
Inside, there was an ecumenical revolution of sorts happening. The church rocked with great words, poetry, praise litanies, condolences, music, drumming, and the great communal spirit of Viola Plummer. We could only imagine that the humble space had transformed into Sista’s space.

Covering for OTP were the tireless Nayaba Arinde, scribe (and a great friend of Viola); Gary Williams, in from Philadelphia, our community connector; Geraldine and Audrey Baker, friends since childhood; and photographer Althea Smith.
Outside, we were warmed by the extension of Viola’s spirit wending through and owning that block.
We also observed the “evidence” of the leader’s nearly life-long skill and genius in creating leaders focused and charged with purpose, warriors from Man Up! Inc., who were organized to stand guard, to usher, to attend to the needs of and serve the queue of mourners outside and inside the church.
They stood godly and on guard. We were honored to be in their presence as much, as according to Man Up! Inc. founder A.T. Mitchell, the focused team, itself, was honored to be the “evidence of (Viola Plummer’s instruction and example).”
When team members silently distributed programs to the grateful waiting crowd, even that action spoke to Viola Plummer’s regard, respect and “love for her people.” It also spoke to her constant “imperative” — when she lived — that precision planning be “carried out on all levels” including having enough programs and handouts. Knowledge for the People!
The program read, “When receiving plaudits for her work, she would always firmly state that it was a collective effort which produced the victory and (it was) not the work of one person.”
About his personal regard for Plummer’s legacy and how the community should remember it, Mitchell said, “We (should) honor Viola’s legacy by continuing on the path she created and being ready. Viola created leaders by being one. I am grateful to be doing this work as a steward in the community and doing it unapologetically.

“The spirit of Mama Viola, Mama Tubman and others, resonates beyond walls, beyond this city, beyond borders, beyond boundaries,” Mitchell told Our Time Press in the phone interview. His comments are an apt description of our feelings that night.
We left the street sanctuary filled with Viola’s all-pervasive spirit, proud to have had the experience of observing it in human action, up close. It was like being in church.