A Brooklyn-based church that organized a discussion about race relations over the weekend in southeast Queens plans to continue its ministry in the borough by opening a house of worship in the Jamaica theater where the event was held.
Leaders of House of the Lord Churches said the new Pentecostal congregation would meet for the first service Sept. 22 in the Afrikan Poetry Theatre, at 176-03 Jamaica Ave. The announcement was made before a lecture on slavery, segregation and the shooting death of an unarmed black teen in Florida last year.
“It is time that the killing of our young children stop,“ church minister Zakiya Russ told the crowd of about 20 inside the theater’s ground floor. “We could not allow the spirit of Trayvon Martin to just fizzle out without addressing the injustice.”
Russ then introduced the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a Savannah, Ga.-born preacher who is a fourth generation minister, longtime civil rights activist and former unofficial chaplain for the New York Jets.
“I think we were all very angry, indignant and furious in relation to the verdict,” Daughtry said.
George Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter in Martin’s death last month.
“One of the things about that trial was nobody wanted to talk about was race,” said Daughtry, who is black.
But, he said, the color of people’s skin has been important in how blacks have been treated throughout human history — from the start of slavery through the time of the Jim Crow laws in the South and into present-day.
“It was determined for you where you sit, where you rode, even where you go to the toilet,” Daughtry said of the 1950s.
Over time, civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. helped pave the way for Barack Obama to be elected president of the United States and for Nelson Mandela to lead South Africa.
“You see changes come that you never thought you would see,” he said, before describing a young boy in Africa who asked a member of former President Bill Clinton’s team recently if a white man could be president after knowing only Obama in the White House.
Still, there is work to be done for equality, the minister told the crowd, saying that he hoped the youth would be the ones to bring about reforms.
“Maybe this injustice might be a catalyst for a movement,” he said of Martin’s death. “So often the mightiest of movements are begun with the most minute incidents.”
Russ pointed to the violence snuffing out young lives and stop-and-frisk as continuing issues in the community.
“Our young boys of color are not comfortable walking the streets,” she said, explaining that adults try to teach young men how to best respond and what to say when stopped by police.
Russ said the event Saturday was organized “to allow the community to be able to voice their concerns, articulate their frustrations and come up with some solutions.”
As part of the churches’ belief that political and social learning should not be separated from spiritual fulfillment, the religious organization, which has locations in Brooklyn and New Jersey, plans to connect with southeast Queens homeless shelters and host events like free haircuts before school starts.
Russ said she hopes the new church will draw new members, as well as members of the congregation who would otherwise commute to the location in downtown Brooklyn.
“We believe in God that this is the beginning of a lot of good works in Queens, in the Jamaica area in particular,” she said.
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