By Christopher Griffith
The African American Clergy and Elected Officials organization held its first monthly meeting after the summer break under a tent in the spacious backyard of the Antioch Baptist Church where Dr. Robert Waterman is senior pastor.
The keynote speaker was Tania Kinsella, the 45th First Deputy Commissioner of the NYPD and the first woman of color in that position. The 34-year-old AACEO was founded in 1989 by Reverend Dr. Gardener Taylor, Al Vann, and Reverend Herbert Daughtry, the last surviving member of that dynamic leadership trio.
I spoke briefly with Reverend Daughtry about the history of the organization and how it came into existence. Rev. Daughtry said 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 Concord Baptist Church of Christ, 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 me and said ‘We have to help Dave 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.
“Our church at that time was the center of political, cultural, and economic activity. In fact, all pressing issues ended up being discussed at the House of the Lord church. Dr. Taylor thought that to be at his church would be self-serving and he didn’t need 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 a call, the church was packed with the most prominent ministers and elected officials in New York City.
“We continued to meet after the campaign which Dinkins won.
“The AACEO was unique in that it brought together clergy and elected officials which 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.”
The House of the Lord Church became central to the sharing of vital information about legislation, churches, and communities. “The Bible says, ‘‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge’’. There was no lack of sharing information in our meetings.”
Rev. Daughtry resigned after serving six years and “Reverend Jacob Underwood of Grace Baptist Church became the chair and the meeting moved to his church. After which Reverend Joe E. Parker of Wayside Baptist Church became Chair. He moved the organization towards a more programmatic approach. He was a great implementer of programs and projects.
In the ensuing years, Dee Bailey became Chief of Operations, and the organization opened up to bring in members of the community and local law enforcement.
“In other words, the organization has completely changed. I don’t know that Dr. Taylor would recognize the organization today. 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.”