Left: Harlem On My Mind exhibition catalogue, The Metropolitan
Museum of Art, 1969. Right: Three Oaks Baptist Church, 8109 S.Hoover
Street, Los Angeles, CA 90044, 2013.
Since 1967, when I proposed the Harlem On My Mind exhibition to Thomas Hoving, then director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harlem has played a significant role in my life.
I was last there a little over a year ago when I attended a show at the Apollo, Harlem's
famous entertainment venue.
Earlier that day, I had visited the Corinthian Baptist Church which occupies the former Regent Theatre in an attempt to interest the church in the 100th anniversary of the structure which was originally built as America's first motion picture palace.
I get " Harlem Happenings, weekly notices from the 125th Street Business Improvement District.
Since arriving in Los Angeles almost five years ago, I have had limited contact with the African-American community. Last week, I received an invitation from Lamont Bradley of my Alzheimer's support group to attend his "Mother's Memorial Musical" at the Three Oaks Baptist Church, 8109 South Hoover Street, in the heart of "South Central Los Angeles."
Above: Looking toward Downtown Los Angeles.
Below: Watts Towers, the most notable structure in
Lamont is a Baptist minister who produces church musical events. From my perspective, I would describe this memorial as a three-hour spectacle with a non-stop procession of
talented musicians, choirs and speakers. The decibel level was extremely high.
I have attended other Baptist Church events so I am familiar with some routine characteristics: the band to the right of the pulpit, the choirs, the offering, and the enthusiastic participation of parishioners. I had never attended a memorial service for a recently deceased person.
A typical African-American Baptist Church interior
Over the years, I have attended many funerals and memorial services, both Jewish
and Christian. Each has its own form of mourning which tends to focus on sorrow.
Overriding everything else, the death of Betty Bradley was the theme; there were
testimonials from friends and family. However, I sensed the joy of life, everyone's
life, as all pervading. Love of God, Jesus in particular, was affirmed by parishioners
and guests. Sincerity and dedication were omnipresent.
I regret that I never knew Betty Bradley. She was a person of considerable stature in her
church, family and community. Rather than a participant in the celebration of her life,
I was an observer accompanied by another member of our support group and her
partner. The three of us were the only Caucasians. I believe that I can speak for them
in saying we were honored to have been invited.
Living in a continuing care community, where death notices are published regularly,
Lamont's memorial service for his mother stands apart as a vibrant celebration
commemorating the rich life of a significant person.